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One or Two Dogs and Behavior Problems Associated With Multi-Dog Families

What are some problems encountered when more than one dog lives in same house?

By Andrew Ledford 714-827-4058

Many people believe having two dogs will reduce behavior problems. The logic is two or more dogs will keep boredom away. But is it really true that the companionship of another dog will keep them out of mischief? People who are away from the home a lot are especially likely to get two dogs at the same time. In some scenarios having two dogs to keep each other company will work. However, I’ve seen many dog behavior problems amplified by having two or more dogs in the house.

Two German Shepherd Dogs in a Board and train program
Two German Shepherd Dogs in a Board and train program

Why would this happen? One reason is because there will be some competition between the dogs. Even mild competition can exaggerate destructive behavior. Competition and the desire to play tug can result in destroyed pillows, carpets, and other fun to play with items.

Competitive group play can also be seen in digging. If you have ever watched a group of dogs hunting rats you will see some intensive group excavation. I have observed this most vividly while living in the desert where there are a lot of kangaroo rats that live in sandy soil. I have seen the same hunting strategy without the digging in feral dogs that hunt on more solid terrain. Even if your dog is not chasing rodents it may like to play as though it is. In Southern California I have seen quite a few dogs that like to dig up the big white grubs living under the lawn. Other favorite digging targets can be sprinklers and sprinkler wires.

There are also some undesirable social behavior patterns that dogs in a two dog household are more likely to display. One of these is jumping on people. I have noticed that two dog households have dogs with a higher tendency to jump on people. I think this could be due to the dogs jumping on each other throughout the day. Jumping on others becomes a standard form of social interaction. While the dogs know people and dogs are different they tend to use jumping to interact with both. Even when the dogs are taught not to jump the training tends to break down faster because the dogs are highly rewarded for jumping on each other.

Barreling into people can have a similar cause as jumping on people. Many dogs delight in rough play and would like to interact with their humans the same as they do with their doggy friends. Fortunately these behaviors can be modified and managed with a well designed training program.

Another problem I see in households with two or more dogs is related to having dogs from the same litter. I have observed that when siblings are raised together it’s not uncommon to have one brave dog and one overly sensitive dog. Bringing out an overly sensitive dog who lives with a brother or sister can be time consuming. However the benefits will outweigh the effort. In the process of making the dog more emotionally hardy you can also teach it to be more independent. Being overly dependent on a brother or sister is another problem encountered with two or more dogs from the same litter.

Being overly dependent on another dog can lead to separation anxiety. Developing separation anxiety is especially prevalent when siblings are raised together. Over dependence on another dog is likely to occur when any young dogs are raised together. It might not seem like this will be much of a problem, until you need to take one to the veterinarian or in for grooming. Sibling overdependence is something I teach dog owners how to manage when working with two dog families. To get the best results it is ideal to start a training program when the dogs are still puppies, under 16 weeks old.

Best practices for having a two dog family.

Even when you have dogs that are different ages in the same house it’s best to get one dog at a time. Get the first dog trained and then introduce the second dog. You may still have problems, but statistically you will have fewer problems. You’ll also find that if behavior problems are encountered it’s easier to correct or train one dog at a time.

If you are getting a new dog you may also like to read my article about how a dog settles into its new home – New Dog Syndrome

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
Southern California Dog training