I just want life with my dogs to be normal! I don’t want anything extraordinary – no fancy tricks or super obedient dogs. I just want to love my dogs and enjoy a great life with them – all free and easy – no fighting, just love.
My client had called me to come out some time ago because of conflict between two of her big powerful dogs. It had gotten nasty with trips to the vet. And she readily admits – as she puts it, “Life with my dogs is not normal.”
This got me to thinking about how we (I include myself because I’ve been there too) get into situations with a house full of dogs to love and then it turns nasty causing injury and stress to all. This is certainly not what I wanted and I’m sure you feel the same – whether one dog or many but especially with many dogs.
Big hearts have lots of love for many dogs – especially if you adopt rescue dogs. But love sometimes comes with a price. Kind of like credit cards – you keep spending but really don’t see the total sum of things until you have a problem. I guess you could compare it to overloading or “maxing out” your credit card to the limit – only with dogs.
Lack of structure and no rules or personal boundaries with dogs is the same as no spending limits and no budget restrictions with credit cards. They are both out of control.
A total lack of structure for this client and her adolescent dog had led her to max out her emotional credit card. When she called she was crying as she said, “My adorable Golden Retriever puppy had hit a point where she was really hard to handle, and I felt overwhelmed– like a failure as a dog owner!”
So what is normal with dogs?
No fighting amongst the sibling dogs?
Everyone respects and follows the rules.
Everybody loves each other and gets along.
I keep getting back to love because that’s what everyone wants. But too much love is like eating too much ice cream. In the long run it’s not good for you. It will wind up biting you in the butt (literally and figuratively). That goes both with dogs and ice cream.
Loving your dogs must be done in moderation – if we want normal. Too much love for the soft, insecure dog can cause separation anxiety and other behavioral problems.
Too much love for bossy dogs creates behavior problems in dogs like resource guarding and territorial aggression – and more. And here, I’m just talking one dog.
Multiply these potential problems with no structure or personal boundaries by the number of dogs in your household and you’ve just maxed out your credit card.
It’s a dog’s nature or instinct – well most dogs – to be competitive for things. That’s how they survived. You just don’t want it brought home to your living room. That’s why you must have structure — rules and personal boundaries.
It doesn’t have to be complicated
Love is not obnoxious, pushy or rude. And it’s certainly not fighting. Although your dogs will fight over your love and affection just like they will fight over a bone. Love is a human emotion that we want to share with our dogs. It’s because you love your children that you teach them rules, boundaries and expectations – or manners as you may know it. It’s no different with dogs.
One of my favorite lines is “Simple doesn’t mean easy.” Manners are NOT easy to teach to dogs or children…hence the packs of pushy, selfish children in our schools.
For example, a simple lesson to teach your dogs that may not be easy for you to teach your dogs is: Life is not fair – you don’t always get what you want when you want it.
Think of the repercussions for your dogs if they “always get what they want all the time.” If your dogs never see another dog with something they can’t have, they won’t be able to tolerate not being able to have everything. It’s not easy to withhold things from your dogs – especially love and affection.
Giving all your dogs love and affection – or anything else – all the time, may make you happy but it won’t necessarily make them happy. Your dogs may look happy but may become very competitive over your love and affection. Remember what I said about dogs being naturally and instinctively competitive over resources? Your love and affection is a huge resource.
Give affection out to your dogs sparingly. Always require a sit for any love and affection. Just because you give it to one dog doesn’t mean you necessarily have to give it to another at that time.
Let’s Get Normal
Whether one dog or multiple dogs – whether your dog is bossy or more easy going, the best gift you can give your dog is to set understandable and consistent Ground Rules for him from the beginning. Doing this will eliminate most of the inconsistencies causing his stress and anxiety.
Remember, no matter how many dogs you have, basic obedience training is a cornerstone to setting a solid foundation on which your dog can become a well-mannered and reliable pack member. He’s counting on you to guide him down the right path.
So, what do you think? Do you have problems with a multi-dog home?
We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from.
I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.