Living with multiple dogs can be a great joy but often presents many challenges. Often the dogs you have will be at different levels of obedience and will also have their own personalities that need to be catered for.
So lets look at lead walking multiple dogs. The first thing you should do is separate your dogs for a walk. There are a few reasons for this. First, your dogs need clear instruction from you and a one-on-one session is the only way to achieve this.
Second, you need to be focused on only one exercise at a time and having only one dog will make your handling skills easier to master.
Third, your dogs should get used to being separated from one another. Individual walks give them the opportunity to get used to being alone. A good routine of walking your dogs separately several times per week is recommended. Perhaps you could alternate on lead morning walks, with one dog being walked one morning, and the other walked the following morning. Then, both dogs may enjoy a longer off lead walk together in the evening.
The particular problems you may be faced with were all addressed in my previous post- Lead Walking Problems? You will be able to start working on your one-on-one skills by reading through this article.
Often things can be working really well with the dogs on their own, but as soon as you start walking your dogs together the issues can arise again. Dogs will often behave completely different when they are together.
When you are able to walk your dogs on their own successfully you can then start to add the extra dog/s, be sure to add one at a time if you have more than two dogs. Start off with some really short successful walks first, that are not too stimulating for either dog.
The first thing you will need to do is prepare yourself for the possibility that when you start walking your dogs together your training will take a backward step. By adding the extra dog you have just increased the level of difficulty for your reactive dog.
In a sense, you will need to start your training from scratch, work out your dogs new threshold point and start working in from there, managing both dogs either in heel, or sit in front and focus on me skills. Don’t loose heart, the one-on-one training you did with your dogs will mean that you will progress much, much quicker than if you started cold at this point.
Pulling, in all likelihood, will rear its head again when you bring an additional dog in to the lead walking mix. The quickest and easiest solution would be to purchase a no-pull harness, these harnesses have the lead attachment on the chest to prevent pulling, and dogs accept wearing them very quickly. You could buy two harnesses, or just one, and put it on the dog who is the main culprit for pulling.
The alternative to the harness, would be to drive your dogs to the off lead park, and do some group and single dog on lead walking after they have had a run around off lead. You could even walk your dogs to the park on the harness and walk them back on their normal flat collars as a process of eliminating the need for the harness. Use your obedience ‘heel’ skill as well, that’s why you taught it, so use it. You should practice heeling with multiple dogs at home first before trying to heel with a group outside.
Having a handler for each dog would be the greatest solution when it comes to walking dogs on lead together. Each handler is responsible for their dogs, this means all handlers must be prepared for managing their dogs behaviour. Over time the dogs will learn a new way of behaving together and you will be able to progress to having multiple dogs to a single handler.
Here are some more general points to keep in mind when working with multiple dogs-
Try to have your dogs on a 6ft long lead, the shorter the lead, the more likely your dogs will pull.
Don’t become preoccupied with who leads the walk, this will only complicate your walk, if you need your dogs close, then just ask for it and then release them.
Practice calmly leaving your house with your dogs, if they are in a frenzy leaving, your walk will be difficult.
Try and avoid adopting multiple dogs at once, often this presents too much work for a novice dog handler. Wait until your dogs’ third birthday before deciding to adopt another dog. By three, most dogs have reached maturity and you will be well aware (and be able to manage) of any behavioural issues that your new dog will pick up from your first dog.
In my opinion, the best thing to do is to adopt a cat at the same time as you adopt your dog. Cats and dogs can be the best of friends, and it gives your dog a playmate and company, without the added commitment of another dog. I will always have a cat and dog combination. I’m not a huge fan of cats but my cat is company for my dog.
Mastering walking multiple dogs on lead takes time. Oh, and you will have to learn the On Lead Multiple Dog Shuffle- a complicated untangling dance performed by long time multiple dog owners.
Photo courtesy of dandy