Living With Multiple Dogs 101: Part 1 Be a Friend

Living among my multiple dog family is a joy for me.  I can watch them playing and communicating with each other for hours and never tire.  My five furry companions are funny, fascinating and even wonderful teachers, but they are also a ton of hard work!  Thankfully, I have a husband who is equally devoted to our multiple doggie home and works with me to do all the things that need to be done in a day. 


My clients often tell me that they are thinking of getting another dog to ‘keep their dog company’. This statement is usually mentioned about midway through an 8-week course, when dogs are in the throes of adolescence and owners are starting to realize how much work is involved. I always laugh (mostly to myself so as not to offend them) because I know that the exact translation of this statement is: “I want to get him a friend so that they will tire each other out and I won’t have to work so hard.” This is sort of like saying, “I’m thinking about having a baby so that my son/daughter will have some company, and then parenting will be easier!”  This type of an arrangement can be loaded with problems, as I’m sure you can imagine!


Aside from the fact that adding another dog will increase the workload exponentially (i.e., exercise, training, grooming, mental stimulation, relationship building and cleanup!), the biggest problem with this thinking is that a dog needs to bond with their human first.  Yes, we want them to enjoy and be comfortable with their own species, but the human animal bond should be primary since we are, for the most part, in charge of the house.  They need to want to be with us and truly enjoy us, so that they will pay attention to us when there are other more enticing things to do, come when we call and do what we ask them to do.  Those are the wonderful fruits of a relationship that is carefully built on trust, love and mutual respect. 


Relinquishing your relationship with your dog to another dog will create a bond that is stronger between the two dogs than between you and either of them. You will always be fighting for attention. Makes me feel kind of lonely just to think about it. When push comes to shove, the dogs will look to each other for direction.  This makes reliable training impossible.   For instance, we call the dogs to come inside.  Dog Number One says, “I think I’d rather stay outside”.  Dog Number Two decides this is a good plan, and stays outside too.  Now neither dog is responding and both are getting rewarded by the presence of the other! 


Perhaps, one dog is more reliable than the other.  We count on the fact that Dog Number Two will always follow ‘Old Reliable’ Dog Number 1.  But what about when Dog Number Two has to go it alone?  Maybe Old Reliable is at the Vet.  Will Dog Number 2 be able to perform without the encouragement of his best friend?  In my book, this is no better than holding out a cookie (i.e., bribe) to entice him to come.  If this is the solution, training isn’t complete or reliable. 


So, when SHOULD you get another dog? You can safely add to your doggie family when you have trained ‘Old Reliable’ to be your version of the perfect dog.  When you no longer find, that training him or playing with him requires too much of your time or is too difficult.  When living with him has become easy and YOU are up for another challenge and ready to devote even more of yourself with another living being.  Your new dog will need to spend time with you, independent of his doggie friend.  He will need to be trained and he’ll need special time with you so he can find how much fun you are to be around.  Wait, don’t forget ‘Old Reliable’, he needs to know that you are still his friend too, you will need to find time to spend with him doing all the things that you used to together. 


If you feel up to this, then go ahead!  Get another dog!  And let the fun begin!

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