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Living with multiple dogs

- Posted by in Dog Health & Wellbeing News
Living with multiple dogs

If you are any kind of dog lover, the likelihood is that you will at some point have thought about adding more of the animals to your home. One dog will be a wonderful companion to you for many years, but having multiple pets can be even more fulfilling. However, that is not to say it is easy to live with more than one canine chum.

That said, living with a single dog is hard. Adding one or two isn't actually that much harder. You can feed and walk them all together, as well as potentially training them all at the same time (although you will usually need a few helping hands for this). However, there are a few different considerations you must bear in mind.

Your dogs will interact with each other, which can lead to them becoming firm friends but it can also potentially cause conflict. Dogs are naturally social creatures, so they will probably try to get on, but there will always be reasons for them to squabble. It is your job as their owner to predict these and prevent them.

This might seem like an insurmountable task, but actually it is mostly about remaining in consistent control of your household. Being assertive and calm with your pets can make all the difference, helping you get through the day without them misbehaving or fighting with each other.

Introducing a new dog to your home

If you adopt multiple dogs at the same time, when they are puppies, you will have fewer problems. However, if you introduce a new pet to a home that already has an older dog it can cause tension. The older dog might feel the need to assert itself, while the younger one could end up challenging them.

If the older dog seems a little bad tempered at first, you can afford to let this happen. It is probably just them asserting their dominance and putting the puppy in its place, and the younger pet should accept this. However, problems can occur if both dogs show aggression.

If this is the case, it will not be easily resolved, but separating them can help. Using gates the dogs can see, hear and smell through, you can divide the house between them. That way, they can become used to each others' presence without coming into contact.

Next, get them to relax around each other with treats. Get your dogs to a point where they are close enough to each other to be alert and a bit uneasy, but not outwardly aggressive, then give them some treats. Repeat this process, getting them closer and closer to each other, until they are conditioned into being fine with the other dog's company.

Feeding time

Typically, dogs become aggressive because of certain stressors. A common one of these is food. Dogs can become a bit tense when eating near other canines, as they will worry their food is going to get stolen. They can even become aggressive towards you in this situation due to their nerves.

The first step towards solving this is to exercise them before each meal. Nervous and aggressive energy is just like any other kind of energy, therefore it can be largely burnt off with a good long walk or play session. If your dogs are tired, they will be less stressed and more tolerant towards each other.

Meanwhile, you will need to train your dogs to be calm at mealtimes. Food is an exciting prospect for dogs, so they can get agitated easily. This positive energy can easily be transformed into aggression if you do not get into the habit of getting your dogs to calm down before meals.

If they know how to sit, it is a good idea to get them to do so before meals. Withhold their food until they are calm and patient - if this means you have to feed one dog at a time, do so. Eventually, they will learn to be sensible at mealtimes.

Jealousy

Can dogs get jealous of each other? Recent research suggest they can, especially when it comes to your affection. Californian scientists conducted an experiment where a dog was put in a room with its owner and several objects, one of which was a realistic toy dog that moved and made noise.

When the owners interacted with the other objects, such as a book, most of the dogs showed no real response. However, when they interacted with the stuffed toy, the dogs reacted in several ways. Around 75 per cent pushed or touched their owners, a third got between their owner and the toy and around a quarter snapped at the false dog.

This shows that dogs are indeed capable of jealousy. This is something you must be careful to deter. If you are giving one dog attention, the other might react negatively, which can cause both of them to lash out.

The key thing to remember when dealing with this behaviour is to reward good behaviour, not each individual dog. Try and get them to perform a simple trick before you show them affection, such as sitting. This will make it clear to the other dog that they are being rewarded for being calm and obedient, so they will probably imitate this behaviour.

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