There was a long period in my life when I lived with three dogs – two lab mixes and a German shepherd – and I was single. On top of that, I maintained my household and had a full time job. I don’t think that’s particularly special, it’s just what I did. If you fast forward the movie of my life to the present day, however, you will see a decidedly different picture. I now share my home with two dogs, a cat and a husband. The major difference is that I now have help caring for our pack. In fact, the truth is that I help my husband take care of our pack; an objective observer would probably deem him the primary caregiver for our four-legged friends.
The point is, I’ve had it both ways. I’ve been solely responsible for taking care of multiple dogs and I’ve shared the responsibility with another pack leader. Obviously, it takes more work to care for multiple dogs by yourself, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. During my tenure as the single caregiver, I learned some tricks for maintaining a calm, stable household for myself and my canine companions.
Maintain Pack Leader Status
When there are multiple dogs living together, there’s a risk that canine pack mentality can take hold. If you’re not careful, your dogs may begin to view you as lower on the hierarchy scale. So regardless of the number of dogs in your home or the number of hours you spend there, you must maintain your role as the pack leader. You can prevent dominance shifts by teaching all of the dogs in your home basic obedience skills.
Maintain a high level of expectation that all of your dogs will listen and respond quickly and correctly to your commands. I have successfully used the “Nothing in Life is Free” technique for maintaining alpha status with a menagerie of dogs. Two articles that may help you in this area are What Makes a Polite Dog and How to Get Your Dog to Respond Quicker to Commands. If your dogs’ responsiveness starts to taper off, it’s time to get serious. To maintain household harmony, return to the basics and run drills whenever needed so your dogs always remember that you are the leader of the pack.
Dogs thrive on routine, and it’s even more important to maintain a routine when you have multiple dogs in your home. What’s more, a well-established routine makes it easier to manage multiple dogs alone. Be as consistent as possible with walks, bed-times, wake-up times, go-out times, etc. Likewise, it’s important to be consistent with when and what you feed your pets. Choosing a healthy, high quality dog food like CANIDAE All Life Stages allows you to feed all your dogs, regardless of their age, from the same bag. This will make things easier on you. In my experience, everything runs more smoothly and the dogs thrive when I work hard to respect routines.
Provide Physical and Mental Stimulation
Physical activity and mental stimulation are important to pets, and even more so in a multi-pet household. If your dogs don’t get enough of these two things, they will typically find undesirable outlets for their physical and mental energy, resulting in behavioral problems. These disruptions are not only unfortunate for the dog(s) involved, but they also drain your time and, often, your wallet.
My hat is off to all you solo flyers who manage a household with multiple animals. I understand the amount of time and commitment it takes to provide your pets with a warm and loving home. Bravo.
If you have advice for single people caring for multiple dogs, please add it in the comment section. Let’s all help each other out.
Top photo by Wonderlane
Middle photo by OtterBox
Bottom photo by Emery Way
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell