Americans love our dogs. We love our dogs so much that 41% of us have more than one dog in the household.
People often introduce a second dog to the household because they think it will make the first dog happy. Having multiple dogs can be beneficial, but in order for you and your dogs to enjoy those benefits, the dogs have to get along. Sometimes they don’t.
When that happens, some people are quick to blame one or both of the dogs. In the vast majority of cases, that’s not fair. The responsibility lies with the you, the leader of the pack, to keep the peace. You make and enforce the rules. But enforcing the rules requires training and understanding what causes the problems in the first place.
We searched the Web and compiled a list of the most common reasons why some dogs don’t get along, and what dog owners can do to solve those problems.
When problems arise
- Initial introduction
- Failure to control your home
- Feeding time
- Returning from work/proximity to owner
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
- If possible, make introductions before bringing the new dog home. Choose a neutral spot for the introduction and see if your initial dog and the potential new dog get along. If they don’t, you might want to choose a different dog. If that’s not possible, allow the new dog to explore the house while keeping the existing dog outside. Even if the dogs get along during the initial meeting, you should still let the new dog explore the house on her own when you bring her home.
- Your home is your territory, not your dogs’. Don’t allow one dog to dominate a certain part of the house or piece of furniture. That will feed her territorial instinct.
- There are three options when it comes to feeding time.
- Feed them in separate rooms.
- Feed them near each other, but in crates.
- Feed them at the same time, but position yourself in between them to supervise. Make sure their bowls are far apart.
- Play sessions can quickly turn into fighting sessions. Closely supervise your dogs when they’re playing. Look for signs of aggression, such as growling and real biting as opposed to playful “open-mouth” biting. If your dogs are fighting and won’t listen to verbal commands, here are some techniques to help control the situation:
- Stay calm.
- Don’t yell at your dogs; it will escalate the fight.
- Never put your arm in between the dogs or try to pull on their collars, because you might get bitten.
- Distract them with a squirt bottle, a water hose, an air horn or shake a can that has coins inside—anything that makes a loud, sudden noise.
- If you’re alone, use the wheelbarrow technique on the more aggressive dog. Grab one of the dogs by her rear legs and lift up as you walk backward. NOTE: This technique works best when there’s another person to grab the other dog’s back legs. Be very careful when using this technique.
- Toss a towel over them.
- Once you’ve stopped the fight, get them out of each other’s’ eyesight.
- Dogs get excited when their owner(s) come home. The exuberance can lead to overstimulation, which can lead to bad behavior or even a fight. One technique is to crate them. Greet them calmly. Let one dog out, and then the second dog. You can also ignore them until they calm down. Remember: Adult dogs shouldn’t be crated for more than eight hours.
- Do not let your dogs sleep on your bed if they are aggressive toward one another—you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a fight. If they can’t get along, crate them. Then, experiment with letting one out, and then the other. If they behave, you can consider different types of sleeping arrangements.
- Just as people get cranky when they haven’t had enough sleep, dogs get ornery, too. Dogs need 17 to 20 hours of sleep per 24-hour period. If your household is busy and noisy, create a kid-free special “comfort zone” where your dog or dogs can rest peacefully. To make the comfort zone more inviting, include a doggy bed, fresh bowl of water, and toys. Calming music can help, too. Finally, the fewer windows in the room, the better; it reduces potential distractions.
- Too often it’s assumed that dog play equals exercise, but each dog should get regular walks.
- One way or another, aggression is caused by stress. Stress can be caused by many factors. Figure out what causes your dog stress and then address the issue. If you can’t figure out what’s triggering your dog’s stress, consider doing the following:
- Visit the veterinarian. Your dog might have an injury that’s causing her distress, or an illness.
- Use some herbal remedies, which some say help reduce stress, such as valerian, kava-kava and St. John’s Wort. If that doesn’t work, talk to your veterinarian about using pharmaceuticals.
Owning multiple dogs has many benefits. Your dogs will have each other, thus reducing “home-alone anxiety.” It’s easier to train the second (or third, or fourth) dogs. Dogs that can cuddle together feel more content. And, it’s fun to watch them play, and they enjoy it, too!
Do you have a multiple dog household? If so, please share your experiences.