For many of us, dogs are like potato chips, you can’t just have one. Living with multiple dogs can be joyous and chaotic. For 3 years, I had 3 dogs. The dogs, Dale, Jesse and Rio, got along fine for the most part. Dale was firmly in charge of our household. She was the play police, making sure canine activities didn’t get too wild. That is, until it was time to run out the door to bark at our neighbors dogs. Then she led the charge. Quite the queen, the two boy dogs were subordinate to Dale. In turn, she kept the peace between the younger lads.
Dale left this earth in July. It became evident she was a stabilizing factor between our boys. Jesse and Rio, quite different in size and personality, seem to be matched in status. There are some things for each dog that are non-negotiable. Jesse owns the back seat of the car. Rio understands clearly not to mess with Jess when he is reclining there. Equally, Rio will not be disturbed when chewing a cow ear. And Jesse gets that message loud and clear.
But, in many other areas, there is no clear delineation. This has lead to skirmishes and tussles. It is clear to me there is no such thing as an alpha dog. This is not the much talked about pack. These are two dogs having regular contact and not in agreement about how to handle resources.
I know similar situations exist in many households. I have counseled many clients dealing with this identical issue. When there is a change in the home, one dog dies or moves away, it affects the relationships between the remaining pets. It is up to the dog owners to create calm from the chaos.
I started crating at least one of the dogs when no one is home. Jesse and Rio would get over aroused when the pool cleaner, lawn service or delivery person arrived. Crating stopped the redirected aggression in moments of over excitement. This also enabled me to greet one dog at a time when I came home. That made everyone calmer, myself included.
I increased their exercise. I didn’t realize I was walking them less. A glance at my schedule told me I was spending less time with my own dogs. We started having more fun outings in new places to increase our enjoyment of each other’s company. I might have been subconsciously avoiding interacting because the dogs were not as enjoyable. All that squabbling was punishing to me.
And I went back to practicing relaxation exercises with them. When I first brought Rio home, we did lots of relaxing on mats. Once he was integrated into the family, I let that training slip away. Jesse and Rio love their mats and they like that calm attention I give when they are relaxed.
Peace has been restored to our household. I continue to monitor their behavior. I am maintaining our new routine of regular crating, exercise and training. It remains effective and in place. Having dogs is a lifelong commitment to their physical, mental and emotional well being. I enjoyed every moment of Dale’s life and love Jesse and Rio’s days too. Dogs are like potato chips, the more the merrier!