I have a lot of dogs in my house. Four dogs to be exact, plus a cat who probably thinks he is a dog. We also sometimes have a house guest or two. As I sit here writing this I actually have six dogs total in my house, all sleeping peacefully.
I get a lot of questions about how I manage such a full house, and to be honest I actually have a fairly small household compared to a lot of dog trainers! I know quite a few trainers who have up to 20 dogs, who all live in the house! I also get a lot of people who ask me how to add a dog to their house, and if they should get another dog. I may have a successful multi-dog situation now, but I haven't always been as successful in the past. Over the next couple of months we will share a series of blog posts where we will go over mistakes that I have made, things to think about when adding a dog to your household, some do’s and don’ts, and other tips and tricks to help make your multi-dog household as successful as possible.
Should I Get A Second Dog
Usually the hardest transition is going from one dog to two. Once you have two it’s usually hard to stop adding, and less of a question on how as you have done it before. But taking that first step and taking
your dog from being an only child to having to share, can be really tricky. So, how do you decide?
The first question to answer is do you want a second dog? A lot of people start with the idea to get a second dog in order to help their current dog feel less lonely, or so that they can play and tire each other out so that we have to do less work. The truth is that a second dog is definitely twice the work. (Littermates, or two puppies, is about four times the work. But that topic is really it’s own blog post.) Each dog will still need exercise, training, and individual attention. It is very important to make sure that you are adding another dog to your home because you want another dog, not a dog for your dog.
Then you need to ask does your dog want to live with another dog? They don’t always. Sometimes it’s in a pretty overt dog aggressive way, and sometimes it’s much more subtle. Some dogs are perfectly dog friendly in public, but really don’t want to share their home and private space with another dog. With these dogs it is harder to tell if they want to or not. A great way to figure out if your dog really wants to live in a multi-dog household is to offer to pet sit for a friend or a dog your pup knows well. You can also try fostering, even a short term weekend foster to help figure out how much your dog will enjoy sharing their space. This can also help you figure out if you are really ready for a multi-dog household.
Once you have answered those two questions, you will pretty much have your answer. Ideally you want the answer to both to be yes! However, if your answer is yes, but your dogs answer is no, you then have another decision to make. The question then is, how badly do you want another dog?
It is important for us to be aware of what we are really asking our dogs to do when we ask them to live with another dog. For the first little while it is like when you move in with a new roommate. You suddenly have a lot less privacy, and are sharing your space with a complete stranger. If we don’t structure things right it can be a recipe for disaster, and can be very similar to living with a college
roommate in a tiny dorm. They suddenly lose all privacy and space. It’s not just about living in the same house, but living on top of each other. So it is important to be sure.
One of my dogs doesn’t really want to share his home with other dogs. He is not a big fan of dogs in general (I have written about him a lot in previous blog posts), but I am a multi-dog person. He loves his sister, and tolerates the other two very well. Since he joined our family we have been very particular about what kinds of dogs he shares his home with (he has very particular requirements), and we have been very careful about managing his environment to keep everyone comfortable and safe.
It is something that we can manage, and is worth it for me, but it is a lot of work. It’s not necessarily something everyone is up for, and that is perfectly okay. If you aren’t up for your house constantly being separated by baby gates, crating and rotating dogs throughout your house, and having to follow a schedule to make sure everyone gets even time out, then it might be best to follow what your dog is comfortable with, instead of what you want.
To give you an example, I will tell you a little about my household. In order to coexist with a dog, Oliver has very specific requirements. The dog must be his size or smaller (about 30lbs), ideally female, and low energy. He really doesn’t like dogs who get in his face, and really doesn’t enjoy playing with other dogs in general, so he shares his space best with dogs who don’t really want to play. This works well with our two older girls, but when we added our most recent dog this was one guideline I couldn’t follow.
I wanted an active dog to do sports and demo’s with and I needed a dog who was very social and friendly for these things. When we started to look for our next dog I stuck to what guidelines of Oliver’s I could, but we were prepared to work through and manage him living with a dog that wasn’t his ideal
housemate. We ended up with a very active and social border collie. We took about nine months to integrate them together, and still have a semi separate household 2 years later due to her energy levels.
In the next segment of this series I will go into more detail on integrating a household. First, it is very important for you to know what you, and your dog are up to handling. If you aren’t up for running separate households, and your dog isn’t up for sharing, then maybe you aren’t set up for a multi-dog household for a little while.
Think your dog would be up for sharing, but aren’t sure what kind of dog they would enjoy sharing their space with or aren’t sure how to start looking? Reach out! We love offering matchmaking services to make sure that adding a member to your family goes as smoothly as possible. And keep an eye on our blog for the next three posts where we will be going into more fun details about successful multi-dog households!