multi-dog households

Photo by Devon Dogs

Multi-Dog Households by Kelly Murrell

Do you own more than one dog? This week we are sharing our tips for creating a harmonious multi-dog household!

Tip 1: Boundary Games and Gated Communities

  • We do talk about boundary games often but that’s because they solve a multitude of training struggles! There are simply too many to list!!
  • If you own more than one dog, boundary games are an absolute must! Having multiple dogs who are all well versed in boundary games elevates so many challenges and helps with so many day to day activities and interactions.
  • Boundaries provide a safe area for each of your dogs, allowing them some independence from one another.
  • Your dogs don’t have to be together in the same room all of the time, so as well as boundary games we love gated communities. Using gates, pens, crates etc is an excellent way to help to manage certain situations. Remember; management is training!

Tip 2: Fair Doesn’t Mean Equal

  1. Guilt is the driving force that tells us our dogs all have to enjoy the same activities all together at the same time. That goes for walks, enjoying a chew, enjoying a kong/food puzzle, scatter feeding, training sessions etc. Let go of that guilt and ditch any kind of ‘the dogs do everything together’ routine!
  2. Sometimes you may be in a situation where if you were to treat your dogs equally it could lead to a negative event taking place. For example; when out on a walk, you might be in an environment where one of your dog’s recall skills aren’t quite dependable, they are a work in progress!
  3. Rather than feeling guilty and taking a chance by letting them off lead to enjoy some freedom with your other dog/s, let go of that guilt and say to yourself that it is far better to keep them on lead to eliminate any rehearsal of what you don’t want, i.e; them running off!
  4. Added to this, keeping them on lead while your other dog/s are off lead is a great opportunity to get some 121 training in and you can play some proximity and relationship building games! In our book, that’s a win-win!

Tip 3: Train the Dog in Front of You

Each and every dog has a different personality, we get that, right?! Even within the same breed, personalities can vary greatly. As you all know, we love to train concepts and we know that each individual dog will need help with concepts that are personal to them.

One dog may be a natural optimist, while the other dog struggles with this. One dog may be a thinker, while the other dog may be a doer…and so on… What we mean by this is when it comes to thinking about your training sessions, look at each dog you own and work out what concepts need enhancing and go from there to create your training plan.

A one size fits all approach to your training sessions will only get you so far and we suggest that you look at each dog you own as an individual so that you can not only get the most from your training sessions, but actually create real life changes and results.

Tip 4: Acknowledge Individual and Household Stress Buckets

Did you see our tips series all about the stress bucket? Here’s the very important thing to know when it comes to a multi dog household. When it comes to stress buckets, we must also consider the communal bucket. By that we mean that within your household each of your dogs have a shared stress bucket. One thing to always be working on with your dogs is…….


We really can’t express the importance of this enough and ensuring you are working through the calmness triad with each of your dogs is crucial. When it comes to the calmness triad, your dogs could be working on different areas at one time. So for example; one dog could be enjoying a passive calming activity, while your other dog enjoys some active rest.

Tip 5: First Impressions

We get a lot of questions as to how to introduce a puppy into the mix when there is already an older dog in the household. So in today’s tip we are going to give you our top things to consider:

⭐️Boundaries – Does your older dog have strong boundary games? This is a game changer! For your puppy, this would be one of the very first games to teach them.

⭐️Gated communities – Using x-pens, baby gates, crates etc to manage your new multi dog environment is a must. Puppies don’t always know what’s best for them and quite often they find it hard to disengage from greeting/being around another dog. Added to this, older dogs sometimes find this a nuisance! Make the environment safe and comfortable for all by utilising a gated community.

⭐️Disengagement Games – as well as boundary games, our top games for a new puppy is playing lots of disengagement games.

⭐️Joint Training Sessions – With your new puppy in a crate and your older dog on a boundary, slowly introduce them to some joint training sessions. When its your puppy’s turn, your older dog can get rewarded for staying on a boundary and when it is your older dog’s turn, your puppy can go in their crate and you can start by rewarding calmness while they watch, then grow it to having the door open, then onto a boundary when they are ready. We’d suggest all training sessions that are shared should be low arousal to be begin with so you are setting everyone up for success.

⭐️Continually Grow Calmness with Your Older Dog & Puppy – we don’t need to really explain this one, but worth mentioning again!

⭐️Have No Expectations – By this we mean don’t assume your older dog will like your new puppy at first. Growing their relationship carefully with what we mentioned above takes all the pressure off on both sides.

Read more of our Thursday Training Tips HERE. And check out the Devon Dogs Schedule of Events HERE.

Do you have a training issue you want to tackle? Come and stay with us in our cottage style apartments, right in the heart of Dartmoor, and make the most of our fantastic training facilities onsite.

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