Mulitple Dogs? Rember Each Member Of Your "Pack" Is An Individual


We live with three dogs, Claude, Dune, and Hugo, and two cats, Uggs and Mayhem. Most activities are fairly routine and deviate very little from day to day. For example, each mealtime is a well-rehearsed three-dog, two-cat, three-human performance.

Similarly, the dogs' morning walks usually follow a prescribed schedule — but with one big difference. The dogs are sometimes walked together, but my wife Kelly tries her best to also walk each of the three dogs individually at least once a day. After all, each dog walks differently. The dogs walk at different speeds, for different distances, and have very different interests and abilities while walking.

American Bulldog Dune yearns for really long power walks with occasional short breaks for heavy-duty peeing. For Dune, the purpose of the walk is physical exercise — to move and to move quickly – and to leave reminders for those who come after that he was there first.

Hugo would really like to be described as a power-walker, but with his French Bulldog legs and non-existent muzzle, the pace is slower and the distances shorter. Hugo is much younger than Dune and so, as yet, scent marking is not an all-encompassing passion. Instead, Hugo has developed the habit of stopping and staring for minutes on end. For Hugo, so much of the walk is about varying visual input.

For Claude, the world comprises one glorious, uninterrupted sniff. Claude likes to amble and sniff — everything ... thoroughly ... and for a considerable time. When we adopted Claude over eight years ago, the SF/SPCA estimated his age at a little over four years, so now he could be as old as 12. Claude weighed in at 110 pounds and was described as a Rottie cross, which he most certainly is, but another big part of him is hound. Despite the uncertainty about his age and pedigree, we know for certain that Claude lives to sniff. So his daily walks are usually punctuated with, "Claude, come along" and "Claude, hurry up."

A few weeks ago, Kelly took off to Los Angeles for a week-long Nose Work workshop with Dune and little Hugo, leaving the two old boys (Claude and myself) alone with the cats. The four of us effortlessly slipped into a nocturnal routine — with very late nights, very late mornings, and very different walks for Claude.

I decided to take him on a day trip to a place he hadn't visited for ages and drove to Inspiration Point in Tilden Park for a sniff-athon. My plan was to walk at Claude's pace, stop whenever he stopped, and wait patiently until he was ready to walk on. Naturally, it took us over two hours to walk less than a mile. I think 10 was the greatest number of steps I ever took without stopping, and on several occasions Claude sniffed the same spot for well over a minute. Everybody on the trail overtook us.

He moved a little faster on the way back, as we were covering already-sniffed ground, but we were still behind everybody else, except for one victorious moment when we overtook several people who had stopped to protect an Alameda Whip Snake that was crossing the trail. Our moment of glory was short-lived, however, as Claude's next sniff ran to three minutes plus and the others walked past us again.

It became perfectly clear that Claude doesn't want to walk from A to B; he wants to wander and sniff. For Claude, moving is actually an impediment to the all-important pleasure at hand — sniffing.

Group walks and dog-dog pack time at home are certainly wonderful and have many benefits, but one-on-one dog-to-person time is so important, too. Individual activities build confidence and personality, in addition to fostering independence for the dog(s) left at home alone. One-on-one activities enhance each unique relationship by allowing you to cater to each individual dog's special needs, interests, and whims.

Today we took Hugo to Muir Beach so he could meet waves. I have never seen a dog jump so high or run backwards so quickly from a two-inch surge of foam. We sat outside the Pelican Inn so Hugo could take pleasure in watching the world go by.

Next week, it's Dune's turn for a special outing.

This article first appeared in Bay Woof.

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