Understanding our dogs needs and motivations as well as how those things work in a group dynamic is the key to living successfully with multiple dogs. Dogs that are allowed to create their own structure and rules are not going to set up a nice little democracy where sharing and fair play will be the standard because it doesn’t naturally work that way with a group of dogs. You see, it doesn’t always work that way in human groups either or at least not without someone being in charge. Domestic dogs will covet resources which are food, toys, you and space.
You can establish routines of living together and maintaining the peace in your tribe if you have the knowledge of what is important to your dogs. Below are a few thoughts on the types of routines to fall into.
Always make sure that your dogs get enough exercise in the form of structured walks or jogs on leash with you. It is often assumed that having one or more dogs will mean the dogs will entertain one another by playing the back yard. Well, while this may be true to some, it does not replace the responsibility and value of walking the dog.
Almost all fights start around the food bowl and during feeding time. Make sure you feed each of your dogs from their own bowl rather than expecting them to share. Feed the calmest dog first and remain in the room to make sure that no one is attempting to steal someone else’s ration. Consider separating the dogs by using crates or different rooms if this is not possible. Your dogs should be able to eat without feeling that they need to defend or guard their meal.
Dogs are very spatial oriented. Territories such as the couch, the bed or access to the front door should be something you control rather than your dog. Be aware of the potential problems if you want to allow your dog on the furniture and watch for dogs who begin to defend that space. Baring teeth, lip lifting and growling should be nipped in the bud at the first sign. These kinds of behaviors indicate that your dog believes that he has the right to warn off others. It can escalate into fights down the road if you mistakenly excuse the behavior.
Often interpreted as “jealousy”, dogs can also begin to become very possessive of you and it is not uncommon for one dog to growl when another comes near you. Jealousy isn’t really the right emotion to describe this type of behavior. Just imagine if your dog could speak! Rather than growling, you will probably hear him say “hey dog, back off, that human is mine!”. Does that sentence change your perception of what’s going on here? The right response to such behavior is “quiet fido” I can pet and play with whichever dog I chose in this house because I love all of you.
It is absolutely normal for many dogs to play by wrestling, grabbing each other’s neck, play biting and tugging with their toys. Supervising these kinds of activities will allow you to intervene if you fee that it is getting out of hand. As you learn to calm their energy down when it gets too high, you will be teaching them to develop better self-control when playing with each other. Wild and high energy behavior can escalate until someone gets hurt without supervision.
It can be delightful living with a group of dogs. But it also comes with big responsibility. There will be days when it’s easy, and then there will be days when it will be more challenging. The dynamics will depend on the individuals that make up your group. Choose wisely as you add new members to your household and make sure you establish boundaries and rules early on and find professional help if you are struggling with one or more of your canine companions.