Tips For Multi-dog Household

January 27, 2012  

It could be said that pit bulls are like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one. So we asked our Facebook fans, ’If you have more than one dog in your family, we’d like to know: What’s your best tip for keeping multiple dogs in the household safe and happy?’

Knowing your dogs, reading their signals, supervised playtime and plenty one-on-one time with each were all in the recipe for success with multi-dog households.

Thanks everyone for sharing.

(photo by Tami D’Errico)

Supervise their together time, but also give them individual time. Walking separately is so much easier and the dogs seem happier!

~ Alicia Willis Gambell

The biggest thing is LOTS of structured exercise and never leaving anyone together unsupervised.

~ Dawn Marshall

I always crate my dogs when I am not home – it only takes one kibble or a sock to spark a resource-guarding fight.

~ Becky Britz

I don’t interfere in my dogs’ relationship with each other by trying to enforce my idea of the pecking order. They sort things out peacefully and if I were to interfere, it would introduce an unnecessary element of tension among them. (three dogs, three cats, no fights, ever)

~ Portia Scott Palko

I have a pit and German Shepherd, and the biggest hurdle was making sure their personalities are a good match. We had the German Shepherd and wanted to adopt a pit, but we didn’t pick him out. We let her pick her sibling. I know it isn’t a fool proof plan, but it worked perfectly for us.

~ Cameron Stevens Insurance Agency

We have a very well balanced group of four right now: Tiggs, our 8-year-old easy going Zen master, Honey: The Dog’s Life, our 6-year-old pit bull terrier, Captain Cowpants, our youngster of the bunch at 2 years old, and Olive, our resident Diva, a rescued French Bulldog who likes to rule the roost. We have found that fostering was the key to success here, we open our homes to help many, and some manage to fit perfectly and squeak their way in permanently. We have found the key to harmony is a good training foundation, we feed everyone separately (though none of them with the exception of Olive seem to have any food guarding issues), and we crate train everyone. Olive and Captain go in their crates when no one is home. When we are all together, we enjoy playing, snuggling, group walks, and we allow the dogs to communicate while playing (we only step in to referee if things are too rowdy). We don’t ever leave high value items out, and we do our best to spend some one on one time with each dog.
Multiple dog households can be work, but they can also be such a blast!

~ Woof Slc, (photo above)

Consistency, Exercise, Individual time and supervised playtime together! All of these things help keep my household happy and safe.

~ Angela Wood

Making sure that every one knows the rules, enforcing a no stealing rule, positive crate training, and no free lunch. My younger girl is a resource-guarder, so we manage her closely, we feed and give food chews only in the crate or if we are watching closely, with a leash on her. She’s made huge progress over the last six years, but she will never be trustworthy in that regard. Listening and watching for trouble have become second nature. Making sure no one is allowed to pester/molest anyone else and keeping calm when chaos begins!

~ Juli Goodrich

I think the main thread in all these answers is to know your dogs. We follow many of the same guidelines and tailor them to what works for our dogs.

~ Sarah Richards

Exercise! Hike ’em ‘til they’re done. Also, if you’re considering adopting another, go for an old geezer. I find the geezers settle well once they’ve been out for exercise!

~ CharlieDog and Friends LLC

(photo by Sahmantha Guffey)

We have two wise senior dogs (pit bull and a lab) and two teenage dogs (a pit and pit/Boxer). The seniors don’t have a problem hanging out together, but the younger ones are constantly supervised or kenneled when we are away. All food sources, feeding, and chew treats are given separately and supervised. And if playing turns into a spat, it’s time out for them. It’s been a learn as you go lesson on having a peaceful household. But so well worth it.

~ Michelle Ramsey Boswell

Lots and lots and lots of running around outside. They get tired and then cuddle together!

~ Molly Madrinich

Give them both their own frozen Kong! Works every time.

~ Brooke Austin

I know my dogs. We did several meet and greets before our special needs pittie girl got to come home. They were also then always closely watched and crated when no one was home. They are fed out of sight of the other, but together after they are released to eat. Never had an issue. It really comes down to personalities. My pit is generally lower energy, but still playful and tolerant of anything my acd/lab mix gives her. Yes they are now left loose in the house together, but that wasn’t until I was sure and at least a year of living together.

~ Michelle Gorecki

Making sure all dogs have their own toys and only get high value items when separated. Keep close supervision and know doggy body language to keep everyone mellow.

~ Chelsea Molitor

Lots of supervised group playtime! ~ Carrie Caselden

(photo, right, by Jennifer Azevedo)

We have a happy house because the dogs are separated when there’s nobody to supervise, because guardable resources aren’t allowed in the house (our older one gets insane about squeaky toys and tennis balls), and because they get trained together.

~ Alexis Bywater

We have two pit bulls and we just make sure they have lots of love.

~ Cynthia S.

We have three short haired muscular mutts. We had two for a long time, but then our hearts were captured by a third. We introduced him slowly, crated and fed him separately, worked him into the pack slowly, and taught him the rules. We fostered him for a few months to make sure that he fit in with our family before officially adopting him because it doesn’t make much sense to us to have multiple dogs if the fit wasn’t right. Our girl Millie was always the more dominant, but since adding the third dog, she has stepped it up a little bit more and exhibits a lot of “Mother Hen” traits, like correcting the boys’ behavior. When the boys start playing and it gets too rambunctious, she steps between them, and yes, she sometimes growls. One of our boys doesn’t have the best manners when people come to the door, and Millie also corrects him by giving him a nudge and a little growl as soon as he barks. Being parents to three dogs is a lot like being the parent to anyone or anything else… Rules, rewards, and consequences … coupled with CONSISTENCY and training are the keys.

~ Aimee Clements

Separate when unsupervised!

~ Nina Stively

Keep them well-exercised and be their pack leader.

~ Lynette Combs

I have six large dogs in the house; two are pits. Every day I consistently feed them in the same order, and each has his/her own special area (away from each other). They have become accustomed to this routine and now don’t mess with each other’s food bowls. Also, know your dogs. I feed one behind a closed door because she finishes before the slower eaters and then goes scrounging around the other dogs’ bowls. I let her into the main living area when they are all finished. Meal times used to be crazy until this routine was established.

~ Beverley Brenchley

(photo by Ashley Wozniak)

I have two pitties, one male 26 months that I’ve had since 10 weeks and a new female, 18 months, that I rescued. I let him choose his little sister. I knew to look for potentials based on his play style, but he’s a social butterfly, goes to doggy daycare and generally loves everyone. Key for me is to feed separately and only one toy to play with together, rope toys, otherwise, they play in separate rooms with other toys or chew bones. Always crate them when I’m leaving the house and all play is supervised, getting plenty of exercise, doggy daycare and lots of affection and we’ve had no issues with the new addition to our family.

~ Heather Sroka

Teaching all three to respect each other’s space, food dish, and the current toy one has in mouth/between paws!

~ Susan Rodriguez

When my girlfriend and I rescued our second pitty, we gave each one their own special, yet equally equipped areas. At first they were on separate sides of the apartment, but as they grew closer, so did their areas. It has been two years now and they sleep, eat and keep their toys in the same spot of the apartment with no problems. It is all about patience and constantly making sure each doggy respects the other.

~ Richard Scarponi

Lots of toys, no one is allowed in anyone else’s kennel, and the smartest thing we ever did was let the first dog pick the second one!

~ Tess Purvis

Lots of exercise and being the pack leader, knowing the signs of too much excitement which can lead to a fight.

~ Jo Presti Brisson

Attention, love, and patience. ~ Eddie Balles

(photo, right, by Darreena Harding)

We introduced Lucy our pibble, to Polo our boxer slowly. Plenty of walks and play time until we were sure they would be ok. Lucy is head over heels for Polo and just wants to be wherever he is. Polo has finally moved up to being the big cheese and is loving her adoration! So in answer to your question, patience…plenty of patience.

~ Eryn Franchini

We have a pack of eight dogs right now and every one is crated when no one is home. The little dogs always get separate outside time because they are so much more low energy than the two pit bulls, but they are all allowed play time together as a pack inside with supervision. Food, toys, and treats are not a problem for any of our guys usually, but if there seems to be one object that is going to cause a problem, it is removed. We never allow playtime to get too rough or out of hand, because that could escalate into a problem. The two pits play together and the six little ones play together mostly, but the little dogs don’t mind snuggling with the big dogs at nap time! I think supervision and being able to read your dogs body language and realizing a problem could be coming, before it happens, helps you to keep your pets happy healthy and balanced!

~ Nicole Craig Culp

Having multiple cats to keep them grounded!

~ Christie Futrell

With three female bullies, we keep the energy in the home calm…if we know things are going to get hectic, the dogs are separated to keep from arguments. Ours seem to do just fine eating and having toys around, yet occasionally we separate during feeding. Exercise and training are done both individually and together depending on the day, and we train for life! We are always attending some new class, even if it is to keep socialized and mentally stimulated! We have house rules and those that remember the rules get more freedom than those who forget occasionally. By dinner time everyone is cozy cuddling on the doggie couch.

~ Danielle Cyr

Let’s see, five dogs, all rescues: Border Collie, Jack Russell, Mini Aussie (all 14!), a hound mix (2) and a Shiba Inu/Pit Bull mix (7). Keeping on top of things is important, watching body language, where the eyes are looking, who’s having a stare-down – yeah, it’s a full-time job, but if I can avoid a problem, it’s worth it!

~ Cynthia Geremia

(photo by Tami D’Errico)

We expect them to treat each other nicely, but also understand and respect the fact that they’re animals and they have their own pecking order and method of communication.

~ Emma Rixmann

We have two males and a female (American Bulldog and two pit-mixes). The boys have had one bad fight, after which we kept them separated for a long time. They were only able to see each other, no interactions. We let them back together slowly and they are fine now. The female bosses the boys around a little, but all know that I am the leader. We crate them when we leave, they are not alone together. Although they are 7-9 years old, they are still very excitable and we do not want to take any chances. I agree with the lots of love advice and I want to add that positive reinforcement goes a very long way. Let them know when they are acting correctly.

~ Gloria Basile

I have two pit bulls, male and female. We also foster pits and I pet sit dogs in my home. So, sometimes that’s a LOT of doggies and we have three cats! The ability to confine the dogs when unable to supervise them is very important. We never leave the dogs out together when we aren’t home or if we’re unable to monitor their interactions. My dogs get a lot of exercise and do off-leash hiking so they can stay calm when indoors. Too much pent up energy can cause a sort of intensity that is not conducive to positive interactions. We feed the dogs in separate areas and they are only allowed to have food items such as raw bones, bully sticks, or any chew when confined to their own areas – but they do share toys! Everyone also has their own sleeping areas (in our room of course!) and they know which bed is assigned to them. It’s my opinion that this structure, while not always convenient for me, is vital in minimizing any competitive behaviors that can sometimes arise in a multi-dog household. Baby gates are a must! Also, with multiple dogs, if one gets too “fired up” about the kitties it can cause drama! We avoid that completely by supervising the dogs and giving the cats access to areas where only they can go.

~ Monica Fergusony

Lots of exercise and supervised playtime, but also having the right personality matches.

~ Lisa Melnyk

Everyone gets a morning and evening walk, equal cuddle time and enough Nylabones for everyone! Also we decide when play time is over.

~ Emily Storkamp

Crate and rotate. ~ Lauren Cline

(photo by Amber Norris)

We have a female Sheltie and a male German/Aussie Shepherd cross and a female pit bull. We try to make sure that everyone gets a little one on one time with Mom and Dad. Feeding them separately and being aware of any signs of doggy aggression and stopping it before it gets started.

~ Holly Alessi

Two dogs = management. All of this is good: potty training on cue, teaching to “wait” by name, and one on one time with each dog! This every day practice has gone far with our two dogs.

~ Lori Beth Huck ‎

Feed them separately.

~ Jen Bell Ryan

When we had more than one dog, each one had their own kennel, even if they wanted to share one with another dog. Each dog had their own bowls for food and water. Each dog had a separate walk. The house was calmer after the walks. When I gave them frozen bones to chew on the deck, they each had one. This worked for us.

~ Pamela Barrowman ‎

We have a very large house and a small pack of animals who each pretty much have their own territories. I think knowing that each animal whether furry or feathery is a unique individual helps us to maintain a safe and friendly environment.

~ Tracilee Sullivan‎

(photo by Kelly Garcia)

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