There are many reasons we live in multi-dog households…
Hopefully, the first and foremost reason that you have a small pack of canines is that that you just love dogs. But it is not always easy being pack leader, and you must not let your self become so overwhelmed with dogs that you have become a small rescue of sorts. Your first commitment to your dogs is happiness, and this means cohesiveness. Believe me when I say you do not want to have dogs that do not like each other, or that you have to keep separated, kenneled or in a pen… someone is getting the short end of that deal.. actually everyone is… you and your dogs.. If you have a dog that you know would be better in a different situation, then seek out options.. do your research, ask lots of questions… and do what is right for you and your pack..
If your small pack is stressing you out all the time, then it is time for you to reassess your pack members and figure out who is causing the stress. Is your time spent just caring for your pack with no time to enjoy each member? You may want to reconsider your options. You do not want to become a rescue.. Becoming a rescue. means besides spending a lot of time just caring for your dogs, you will be obligated to spend much time promoting , advertising, and researching potential adopters. This requires a huge commitment and will cut into all the time you spend with your own dogs. It is often the personal dogs that belong to the rescuers that suffer the most and become neglected in terms of time spent with their favorite people. Yes, it is very important that we all do our part to help with the dog overpopulation, and when your pack is comfortable and ready, perhaps you can take on a foster dog and help him on the path to find his for-ever home.
Lower Your Expectations
With all the things that take us away from home and our dogs, be it work, family, or what ever your outside obligations are, it is important to be patient with your dogs and think in terms of months and years when training, not days and weeks. There are a lot of chances with a pack to turn everything into a fun game in which your dogs learn that being patient and polite really pays off. With a pack of dogs it is super easy to let them turn even the simplest task into a crazy free for all! For example.. My fenced in yard around my house has a ramp off the deck where we go out for our daily walks… I would open the gate, all 7 dogs would run in different directions.. as fast as they could.. small dogs being run over by the big ones.. a couple tussles.. quite a mess… they think its fun…I think its dangerous and someone is going to get hurt.. So a handful of “cookies” waved in front of the noses as I open the gate with a simultaneous “sit” (they all know sit).. Now I’ve got the attention of at least 4 of them… not perfect.. but I have put a big dent in the madness and the dogs that stayed, of course, get the “cookies”, and then are released to run.. The others.. they will get there…” cookies” are not quite as important to them.. but that’s ok.. its progress in the right direction.. Do not expect perfection.. All our dogs are on different levels of training, and learning, some are just not the sharpest tool in the shed..
Set them up for success…
Lots of positive reinforcement will create effortless good behavior, and as much fun as it is to live with a small pack, you need to build a relationship with each one of your dogs, that you can’t get by always working with them as a group. Each dog you acquire deserves a foundation building in communication and obedience and even-though you may have done a basic obedience class with another dog and feel you have the skills to train this new one, seeking out and attending a class is never a bad idea. In a group class environment you get to see how your dog reacts to strange dogs, strange people and new situations.. You can learn what level of distraction your dog can handle and, you get the opportunity to have a new set of eyes look at your training practices, give you advice on timing or skill sets, that you may need for this new dog, and you get to learn more about what excites this new dog. Of course one of the greatest benefits about attending classes with your dog is the people you meet and the new friends with common interest you can make .
Give Yourself a Break
Dogs prefer a peaceful, loving existence, they may get into fights on occasion, but their simple battles are for basic survival or protecting their small territory called home, and the people in it. We are everything to our dogs, and just like kids, they love getting even tiny amounts of one-on-one attention from you. Find ways that you can include one of your dogs for different mundane household tasks.. Maybe take one out with you to get the mail. You can practice healing, sitting, stay.. all sorts of things can be accomplished in just a few minutes. Don’t worry if you can’t play one on one every day with each of your dogs.. sometimes all it takes is letting one of them sit on your lap while you watch the evening news.. there is a myriad of things we do in our daily routine just around the house where we can close a door with just one dog and have a mini training session.
Bottom Line here: my dogs make me smile daily and all the time.. If yours are not giving you extreme happiness, then your dogs are probably not happy either.. Please reach out for some guidance from a professional behaviorist or trainer.
Dogs bring comfort and peace to our lives, help when we are ill or emotionally down, and celebrate joyfully with us when the situation merits it. Don’t forget to return the favor.