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Tips to live in harmony in a multi-dog household

Hershey and Pre - Julie PHaving multiple dogs can be a bundle of joy, but it’s also just as big a responsibility. Some people may initially think that getting one or two more dogs after their first one will “keep it company,” or provide playmates. While this can be true, it’s important to consider dogs’ ages, physical conditions, overall personalities – and sometimes even breeds – before turning your house into a multi-dog one.

There are behavioral tools and approaches that can help to keep your house as orderly, clean, playful and secure as possible as one with two or more dogs.

1. Don’t bring the new dogs home to stay before an initial introduction elsewhere.

This is especially important if you have no idea how your first dog will react to other pets in the house. Try taking your dog to visit the newcomer dogs before bringing them into the house. If all goes well and you decide to bring the dogs in, re-introduce them to each other in a fairly neutral territory. Don’t let the new dogs come racing in on during their introduction and do a happy dance all over your first dog’s favorite chair.

2. Feeding tips

First, allow enough space between the dogs at feeding time. Even dogs who normally get along well all other times can get aggressive or try to nudge in on another dog’s food. Secondly, be sure to remove food bowls immediately after they’ve eaten, so they don’t wander over to another bowl and try to check it out. If problems do arise during feeding times, try feeding them in separate rooms.

3. Bathe dogs in a location that facilitates washing multiple dogs at once –not in your bathtub.

If the grooming bill is a bit too steep to get multiple dogs bathed, use a self-serve dog wash station. This will save your floors, walls and furniture from becoming a runway for a wet dog race after bath time – especially if you have dogs that run around dragging themselves on the carpet to dry off, like mine does.

4. Give each dog equal attention and time with you.

Dogs have their own hierarchy that they will work out – while you shouldn’t really interfere with this process, show no favoritism, regardless of who the dominant dog is among them. Don’t favor the most submissive or the most dominant. Give each dog equal one-on-one quality time, affection and attention. This is one of the most important factors in keeping all of them happy.

There are plenty more recommendations for multiple dog care and maintenance. Learning and knowing your dogs’ body language, what it means and how it represents their emotional state – will greatly assist you in maintaining your dogs’ interaction with each other as well as the relationship you have with each of your dogs.

Leah Rutherford is a freelance writer based in Chicago who grew up in a household with five dogs and two cats.

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