The Benefits of Having Multiple Dogs
Beyond more puppy love and snuggle time.
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Having two dogs can be more than twice as much work as having one, and having three can require way more than three times as much effort. That pattern continues as the number of dogs increases. There’s no doubt that having a multi-dog household is a big undertaking, and yet many people can barely imagine having just one dog in their heart and home. They would miss scenes like an adorable dog pile, having their dogs do zoomies together after a bath, or just rolling around in sync.
My family recently hosted three dogs from two different households. It was a good experience for all of us. The dogs live on the same street and their humans are friends, so they know each other. Luckily, they all get along.
The companionship they gave one another during their stay with us made me happy, and not just because it took some pressure off of me to make sure that they were having fun. When I observed the dogs together, there was a comfort in the company they provided one another that was lovely to see.
The Benefits of Having More Than One Dog
Sure, it can be extra work to have a multi-dog household. But there are also many benefits:
You have multiple dogs to comfort you when you’re feeling down
You’re more likely to have a couch companion
And you’re more likely to have an adventure companion, too
You get welcomed home with multiple wagging tails
Your dogs will each have a playmate
You dogs will never be alone
Of course, having multiple dogs can provide training challenges, but it also offers opportunities to help dogs learn to pay attention to a person despite big distractions. While these dogs were visiting us, I made a point of doing some training sessions with them.
Performing any skill in a distracting environment is a challenge, and the presence of other dogs is often particularly hard for social dogs. With three dogs in the house, it was easy to set up situations where one dog worked on a skill while one or both of the other dogs were there. Rosie worked on her “spin” trick a lot during her visit. At first they practiced it while the other dogs weren’t around. That work was to lay the groundwork for them to spin when the other two dogs were there.
Walking two (or more) dogs at the same time is not always easy, but it offers training opportunities, too. Each time one dog stops to sniff or for a potty break, the other dogs need to exercise patience.
It’s hard standing around when you want to keep going, but being required to do so brings benefits. Handling frustration and exhibiting self-control in such situations is beneficial to dogs. Similarly, waiting your turn when it comes to treats or dinner also gives dogs practice with emotional self-control, and that is an important part of maturing into a pleasant adult.
My main concern before the shared visit was making sure that Marley, who is 10 years old, had some peace and quiet from both their regular housemate Saylor, who is about a year old, and their neighbor Rosie, who is about eight months old. Marley likes both dogs and often plays with them, but Marley needs more rest and snoozy time than the young pups. They opted out of some play sessions, as many older dogs often do. He would take a rest, hang out with us, or chew on something while the other two played.
We also helped Marley get away if they wanted to by letting them up on our couch, but not allowing the younger dogs to bother them when they were there.
The only time it ever felt overwhelming to have three dogs was when we had bad weather. It rained all day in the middle of the visit, which meant that every time the dogs came inside, we had a dozen wet, muddy paws to deal with. I’m not going to lie — that was a big hassle. Other than that, we had a glorious time while these three little angels were visiting us.
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Karen B. London, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA
Karen B. London, Ph.D., is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression, and has also trained other animals including cats, birds, snakes, and insects. She writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life.