It takes time and effort to manage a pack of dogs in the home. If you’ve never encountered issues, you are either lucky, own harmonious dogs or you have a good understanding of dog behaviour and did all the right things.
Some breeds are genetically wired for pack harmony, such as labradors, golden retrievers, beagles, bassets, foxhounds etc. whilst other breeds have a lower tolerance, for example feisty terriers and herding types such as border collies.
If you incur issues with your pack, it’s important to identify the areas of conflict and put a management plan in place.
Examples of areas of conflict and how to manage them:
Feeding time: Give each dog their own space for their meals, so they can eat their meals in peace without the threat of another dog approaching them while they’re eating. Use child gates, pens or have dogs in different rooms or outside to help separate them.
Playing: all dogs have different play styles. Some play rougher than others, so it’s important to calmly interrupt play between two dogs before their rough play gets out of hand and triggers a fight.
Going out into the garden: A group can jostle to get out the door. Train the dogs individually to “wait” and also train a release word so you can let them out one at a time. This will keep things calm, avoiding any overexcitement that can lead to issues.
Arriving home from work: The dogs will be super excited to see you when you arrive home. Greet them calmly. If they are overexcited, turn your back and calmly walk away. Leave the room if necessary.
Watching TV: If you tend to have your meal while watching TV, teach your dogs to settle on their beds to avoid any fighting over a dropped crumb.
Bedtime: Make sure they have their own beds or crates and/or use a child gate to keep the dogs out of your room to avoid any possible conflict. If you allow certain dogs on your bed, that’s fine, but not if they are guarding the space.
Tips for a harmonious multi-dog home
- Manage behaviour (use child gates, pens, etc.)
- Basic training. The more dogs you have, the more important training is.
- Stay calm. If you’re calm, so will the dogs be.
- Speak with your vet if a dog is starting to behave differently (they may have an undiagnosed illness or injury which can cause stress and can lead to aggression).
- Exercise and mental stimulation are very important. Excess energy can lead to stress and frustration.
- Protect vulnerable dogs in your pack (old, small, young, ill, injured). They need to be separated from the pack.
- Spend some quality one-to-one time with each dog. This is especially important for training.
- Try herbal remedies to reduce stress, such as valerian, rescue remedy, St. John’s wort, lavender or Adaptil (available in spray, tablet or collar form).
- Be realistic. If a dog is not settling in and is causing you, your family and the pack stress, look at rehoming. It can benefit you, your pack and that dog could thrive in a different environment.
By Diane Lowe
Diane Lowe has been living in the Algarve 23 years. It’s not where she was born but it’s where she belongs. She is passionate about dogs, hiking and being out in nature.