by Anne-Marie Mayes
I wanted to share some tips for dealing with multiple dog situations, whether they are housemates or just visiting.
Just like dogs who live together, it is a good idea to teach your dog new skills one-on-one and gradually add distraction (such as another dog) before trying to use those skills as part of a group. Just because your dog can respond well to a cue at home, or walk well on a leash when you’re alone, does not mean they can do those same skills when other dogs are around without practice and lots of reinforcement. When you are with a group of dogs, it is important to remember that each dog has their own personality with likes and dislikes. Remember to have patience and an open mind. Many dogs are not used to being in groups and can find it overwhelming. Here are a few guidelines that I suggest for keeping a calm, happy environment while having multiple dogs around.
Some dogs need more frequent breaks, so watch the dogs body language and give quiet time when needed.
Don’t allow dogs to compete over resources (food, treats, toys or attention). If you know one dog tends to guard or protect their things, pick up anything that could be a problem and teach the dogs to wait their turn when giving out treats. Don’t allow them to steal a toy or treat from another dog or this can create stress and anxiety for the group.
Having different obedience behaviours can be helpful to manage situations with multiple dogs. For example, each dog can go to their own mat for quiet time; we can ask the dogs to ‘leave it’ if something becomes an issue; and we can call each of the dogs back to us with a recall cue.
Well-socialized dogs are less likely to have issues in groups because they have more experience navigating different situations and reading other dogs’ communication signals.