Getting more than one pet to the vet clinic is almost always a hassle, so Vetted vets see a lot of multi-pet households. Which questions do they get asked again and again about how to manage more than one dog at a time?
What can I do to get my dogs to stop fighting?
This is definitely the most common questions vets get about multi-dog households, and it's a complex one. Most dog squabbles occur over what the dogs see as their resources: food, toys, bed, even access to the outdoors. Remember that the fighting isn't an overarching problem, it's situational. Training your dogs to handle the situations that usually push their buttons is your best bet. All dogs will fight if "pushed" hard enough; it's your job to teach your dogs the tools to help manage their annoyances. Do what you can to mitigate potential sparks by creating separate spaces for each dog, ensuring they each have access to the things they need, and separating them when you sense a fight coming on. Dogs have a language all their own, so they should eventually be able to work out a way to live together more-or-less peacefully. Just know that the more effort you put into training your dogs, the more control you'll have over things when emotions get a little heated in the pack.
How can I make mealtime for my dogs more peaceful?
Feeding time is when most conflict occurs in multi-dog homes. The easiest solution is to separate your dogs when eating. Dogs who are eating in the same vicinity (or, worse, from the same bowl) are bound to eat too quickly, become possessive, and perhaps even get aggressive with one another. It's only natural! It's best to give each dog their own space to eat in peace which may mean you have to get on a stricter eating "schedule" at your house than you would like. Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to encourage on-demand eating if one or more of your dogs prefers to graze.
Do all my dogs need separate water bowls?
If water bowls seem to be a source of contention? Yes. When you can afford it and have the room, you really should give your dogs their own "things" (bowls, crates, beds, etc.) so they don't become aggressive for resources. It's fine to place the dog's water bowls side by side if they can handle it, but remember that whether they're in separate rooms or adjacent, you'll need to do some training to help them understand whose is whose.
How can I get my dogs to stop jostling for position at the door?
This is a common multi-dog behavior and it's solved by - you guessed it! - more training. Making your dogs wait until they're calm by turning yourself into a roadblock at the door is your best bet. They'll eventually learn they won't go out until they simmer down. The same concept works if all your dogs rush to greet you at the door when you come in from work. Turn around and refuse to give any attention until everyone is calm and respectful and the behavior should eventually stop.
How can I get my dogs to play together?
Well, you can't. At least, you can't make them play together. The best way to encourage playing together is slow and steady, and only if your dogs are relatively good at living together without conflict. Start by walking your dogs side-by-side for a few weeks to get them comfortable interacting with you at the same time. And once it's time to play, avoid games where there's a clear winner, such as fetch, unless your dogs are of similar physical ability. In all cases, you'll want to carve out time for each of your dogs to get one-on-one attention from you. This will not only make your bond with each dog stronger, it will make them less possessive for your time when you're around all the dogs at once.
Can I train my dogs at the same time?
It's best to train your dogs separately. They'll learn better when they're not distracted by other furry friends and there won't be any confusion over who "earned" their treat first, best, or whatever. And don't let having more than one dog dampen your training regimen. It's imperative for dogs in a multi-dog household to have regular training wherein the household hierarchy is reinforced. Don't forget: Your dogs need to know you're at the top or chaos reigns!