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How To Manage Your Multi-Dog Home

Keep Your Sanity By Keeping Order

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One little, two little, three little Shih-Tzus ...
Sometimes one just isn't enough. Having one dog is great, but having more than one is fantastic! Full of doubled rewards and triple the challenges, a multi-dog home can have you pulling your hair out over the simplest of things. Many dog owners find that having more than one dog in the home makes their life complete, and certainly interesting.

1. The Meet and Greet

Photo courtesy of and Neal
That first meeting between your established dog and the newcomer could set the tone for their entire relationship; good or bad. If it is at all possible, try to have them meet in a neutral setting, away from home. If you ae adopting from a shelter, see if you can bring your dog in to meet the potential new dog before signing for the adoption to see if they will accept each other.

2. Two Puppies At Once

Photo courtesy of and Cathy
I did this once, and I solemnly swear that I will never do it again unless I take leave of my senses completely. If you're ready for the challenge though, here's a few tips to help:
  • Crate train. Crate them together when you aren't available, but the crate is invaluable for getting one-on-one training time with each puppy. Crate one while you work with the other.
  • Buy two of everything! Two Kongs, two leashes, and especially two beds/blankets. They may be amenable to sharing now, but that could change as they grow older and bigger.
  • Use different colors for everything, even if they are different in looks and there's no mistaking them for each other. Bruno gets the Yellow things, and Banana gets the brown things. It's not for them; it's for you.

3. One on One Time

Photo courtesy of and Allison
For training, for affection. Every dog in your home needs to feel special, every day. Make the time to spend some one-on-one time with each of your dogs. They need the individual training sessions in order for it to take hold in their heads, and they need the attention from you without competition in order for you to establish yourself in their affections. Otherwise your two (or more) dogs will come to rely upon on each other, and you might be relegated to mere background noise. If you have two adults (or older kids), have one take the one dog out for a walk, while you train or play with the other, and then switch. Take turns with training, so that your dogs learn to listen to all the humans in your home, not just the head of the family.

4. Dog Fights

Photo Krista Mifflin
It's a fact: if you have more than one dog, you will have dogs fighting. Most of the fights between household dogs will not be serious fights, and over shortly after starting. The most common cause of these tussles is rank: the dogs will need to work out who comes first between them. Unless both dogs are uncommonly submissive, these types of dog fights are going to be inevitable.

Keep Them From Becoming Serious
  • Neuter them. Rampaging hormones are a huge factor in dog aggressiveness, especially towards each other.
  • Do your part to reinforce pack order: you first, then the other humans, then the dogs, in whichever order they have established.
Other Common Causes of Dog Fights
  • Food
  • Toys (have plenty!)
  • "He looked at me funny!"
  • Just for fun.

5. Reinforcing Pack Order

Once they've sorted themselves out, you'll need to pay attention to which dog came out on top. Even if your favorite isn't the leader, you'll still need to do your part by putting the other dog first (after you and the other people in your home). Feed your dogs in order of rank, by setting the top dog's bowl of food down first. Let him out the door first, and don't quibble if he seems to monopolize your affections.

6. Feeding Times

You should feed both dogs at the same time of day, but still cater to the alpha dog of the two (or three), by putting his food down first. As long as both dogs eat the same the same food, and will finish their meal all at once, there shouldn't be any problems. Dogs should always have their own food dish, but a communal water bucket is usually fine.

It may be necessary to feed the dogs in different areas of the home if:
  • One dog finishes first and tries to eat the other dog's food. This can lead to an overweight pooch rather quickly.
  • They fight over the food.
  • They eat different foods (ie: one eats an adult diet food, the other a puppy food).

7. Getting In The Door - Order Out of Chaos

Anybody that has more than one dog knows that most chaotic time is when you, the human, finally come home from wherever you have been the last ten years. Well, the way your dogs act sure make it seem like ten years. Bouncing, maybe barking, butt-wiggles, excited yipping noises and maybe even excited puddles. If you can get in the door and get your shoes off, it takes forever to settle the dogs down again.

Don't reward the craziness. Walk in the door after an absence and ignore your dog until he or she has calmed down enough to sit properly and lavish praise upon her for doing so. If you can ignore the chaos when you come in, and refuse to acknowledge anything but a sitting dog, your dog will catch on very quickly.

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