I recently took an informal survey of the questions I get asked most often. One theme emerged: How do you handle multiple dogs?
There are variations on that theme, of course. How do you walk 3 dogs? Do they get along? How did they adjust to each other? And, even more often, how do I know if I should add a third dog?
I definitely don’t think I have the “right” answers, but I’m happy to share how it’s gone for us. The funny thing is, a lot of people have asked how we manage it all “successfully.” HA! Well, I’m not gonna lie… we’re not
usually always successful. In fact, some days are downright difficult. So, for the sake of complete honest, here are a handful of my multiple-dog-home confessions…
Confession: Adding a second dog was much harder for us than adding a third.
Emmett had been a spoiled “only child” for a long time, and when Lucas came into our lives, it was a huge transition for me and John. Emmett, too, but… mostly us. Our attention was divided. Emmett’s behavior changed a bit, which we weren’t prepared for. Lucas was such a challenge, which we weren’t prepared for. All in all, it was a difficult transition. However, the two never got into a fight – not even a skirmish. They were two peas in a pod from the get-go, which really helped John and I find our way through the transition.
Tip: Try to maintain all your regular routines with the existing pup during the transition. If he’s used to a walk every morning at 6, walk him every morning at 6. Slowly make adjustments. For instance, take him with the new dog for your 6 am walk a couple times a week, then slowly build to every day. Your goal: No jarring changes in routine.
Confession: Adding a puppy was probably a mistake.
Obviously, it was worth it because Cooper is my itty bitty little puppy love, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. However… as I discussed when I originally wrote about our transition of adding a third dog, adding a new dog has its inherent challenges. As does bringing home a puppy. Combine those, and it’s a recipe for some tense moments. Maintaining routine for Emmett and Lucas became impossible as we worked on puppy stuff like potty training and chewing. It was stressful for John and I, of course, but it was stressful for the big boys, too. And as Cooper got older, he tested his limits with them regularly, which resulted in some fights,
Confession: You can’t predict what you’re going to “get” in a new dog, but there will definitely be surprises!
Whether it’s dog 2, 3, or 7, you have no idea what’s going to happen. Even if you buy your pup from a reputable breeder who has a good sense of the health and behavior off the line, you still can’t control and predict everything. We had no idea the depth of Lucas’ reactivity. We had no idea how many weird health issues Cooper would face. When adding a new dog, you need to be prepared to tackle a host of health or behavior issues… that means emotionally and financially!
Tip: Calculate how much you’re spending on your existing dog and double it. Then pad that number. Adding a third? Take what you’re spending on your two dogs and double it! Three dogs = more vet bills, more monthly meds, more food, more treats, more toys, more beds, more Nature’s Miracle, more, more, more!
Confession: I can’t walk all three dogs at once.
I’ve talked about the challenges of a three dog herd before, one of which is the amount of time it takes me to exercise them all since I can’t take the three of them together. Someone once said that she wouldn’t have multiple dogs if she couldn’t walk them all together. That comment bummed me out a bit – what’s wrong with me that I can’t exercise my 3 together? – but then I realized that walking them individually (or, even sometimes, in 2s) is better for them in the long run because I can focus all my attention on that one pup and work on his unique behavioral challenges. For Emmett, he likes to meander, to (literally) stop and smell the roses. Cooper needs to MOVE. And Lucas, well, he takes a whole other set of strategies for a successful walk. If I take Emmett and Lucas, Emmett gets cheated out of his walk-time enjoyment, and Lucas is more likely to react to something if I can’t pour my energy into managing his behavior. To me, it’s more important that they get what they need to out of their walk… and it’s just extra exercise for me!
Confession: Three dogs are CHAOS. Like, all the time. Seriously.
Someone is always barking. Right now, for example, the neighbor is mowing his lawn. Lucas is barking at the man; Cooper is barking at the mower. There is major wrestling that goes on. Furniture gets rearranged daily as they slam each other into the couch and coffee table. There is a lot of poop to pick up. We blow through bags of dog food. Now there’s the whole cat training situation with Lucas. They occasionally get into fights, which usually end without intervention on our part, but sometimes not. There’s fur everywhere. You can’t find a square inch of our house without fur on it.
But it’s worth it. Oh, so worth it!
Do you have multiple dogs? Anything you want to confess? No judging here, that’s for sure!!