2010-07-011

 

How We Went From One to Six Dogs

We started out like most dog lovers, one dog turned into two then three and I thought I'd reached my limit there, until we had a litter of ten puppies with two adult dogs.  It was a crazy time as our entire home literally turned into a dog house!  But eventually as the puppies began to find homes, things began to settle down.  

We kept two from that litter along with the mother, Silver and their father, Brut that even after a full litter, four dogs seemed like a full boat and a piece of cake at the same time.  When the pups were seven months old, a pup from the litter was given back to us.  Blaze had to be separated from the rest as the four had become an instant pack and would not let her in.  Which is a whole other story, but we divided the house and the yard and had two sets of dogs.  Now the total was five.  It wasn't long after that Chance came back and joined Blaze as they practically grew up together with their related owners and that's how we ended up with six dogs.  

The number for me was always so overwhelming, not to mention the added dimension of the dogs being separated.  It took some time to digest the actually of having six dogs, all with different needs, and scrambling for my attention.  It took even longer to realize I was operating with a "two dog mindset."  I couldn't compete on any level with the people that had one or two dogs and that always left me feeling like a less than good dog mom.  Or that my dogs were worse off than others because I couldn't do all the things that regular two dog owners could do.  Simple things like walks became a big deal because there could be loose dogs in the neighborhood and in order to take any of the dogs for a walk they had to be individual.  Which was OK when I had two dogs, but I struggled with six.  

I felt like I couldn't make all them happy all of the time.  I couldn't meet all of their needs at the same time.  I had to prioritize many times with Blaze and Chance who were abused from previous owners and were crawling with anxiety and hyperactivity.   Brut was also constantly in the spotlight as his aggressions from the new situation skyrocketed and it seemed like I was breaking up a fight or trying to prevent one every day.  it seemed like we went from four to six dogs overnight, I was easily overwhelmed and didn't know what to do.  

Overtime things began to smooth out little by little with some order and balance.  Brut's aggression began to dissipate and Blaze and Chance began to heal from their abuse.  We fell into patterns and schedules and there was harmony.  I quit being jealous over other dog owners and began to praise each step our dogs took.  It was like an epiphany when the chaos simmered down and I realized I was trying to run my home like a two dog household with six dogs.  Every day each step brought us closer to a peaceful home.  And if I could tell anyone who may be going through the same thing what worked the most. Time.  It just takes time and with time miracles occur.

 

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Multi-Dog Household Helpful Tips

Here are some of the main tips I used in adjusting to living in a multi-dog household that are from my own personal experience and would reccommend to anyone.

 

♦Establish Being Your Pack's Leader. 

Huskies are pack-orientated dogs, which means they need a leader or they will establish being one for you.  With Brut's aggression and dominance toward other dogs, I established quickly being his leader at a young age and the rest of the dogs follow behind him.  But you don't need to have pack-orientated dogs to find that when there is a group of dogs, there is a pack and unless you don't step to lead, one of the dogs will do it for you.  This throws your balance of the pack off right away and into total chaos.  Like trying to run a war without any generals, orders or strategy.  It might be fun at first, but eventually it isn't going to work out.

 

♦Individual Time With Each Dog

While it bothered me at first that I couldn't walk more than one dog at a time, I found it to be a useful tool in bonding with the dogs individually.  To be able to take them out of that pack mentality and let their individual personalities shine through.  I found I needed it as much as the dogs to just get away with each other and spend that quality time together.  I also realized how this personal one-on-one time was making a positive contribution to the pack as a whole.  And while I might not walk all the dogs in one day, they would each get their turn with Mark and me.  And it doesn't take gobs of time, 10 minutes of learning a new trick or working on an old one, cuddling or playing with a toy.  I found the more I divide up my time, the more I am able to take care of the pack as a whole.  

 

♦Prioritize Dog's Needs and Time 

 This was a tough one for me to learn, but eventually I came to accept that I had to prioritize my time according to each dog's needs.  What I mean by that is that any sick dogs would get my utmost attention, followed by the problem/behavioral dogs and so on.  I don't know how many times I spent more time with the Front Dogs (Chance and Blaze) because of their abusive background from previous owners.  Some days it was just like that.  While other days were spent more with Brut and the Back Dogs because of Brut's aggressions with Zappa. 

Or I also found when I needed a break from the demands of the Front Dogs and their immaturity, which could be exhausting, I would hang out more with the Back Dogs to great a break.  And vice versa.  When Brut's dominance and bossiness was a bit more than I could take for the day I would hang out with the fun loving Front Dogs.  It worked both ways for them and for me.

 

♦Find Time For Yourself

This sounds easy enough, but when you've got a group of dogs under one roof, it is harder than you think, but it is important so you don't get burned out.  Talk a walk by yourself and find other activities that help you get some down time.  Teach your dogs to also have some down time with you, give them something to chew or their favorite toy to entertain themselves with so that you can get other things done or just enjoy the quiet.  It's good for and it's good for your dogs that everyone gets a break.  I found taking my bike out for a short ride without the dogs was a great way to burn off some steam while knowing all the dogs were OK.  I still get excited about the weekends because my husband and I would do some shopping and this was a great break from the dogs.  Then I'm come home re-energized and ready to take on the challenge again.

 

♦Separate Dogs-Give Each Dog Their Own Space

I can not tell you how many times I've used this coping mechanism when faced with what felt like all the dogs in my face or when things are getting out of hand between the dogs.  Have a crate, a room, or a bed, something that is for each dog to call their own.  A carved out space in the house that is just theirs for when they need that alone time or need a break from the other dogs.  Dogs need a break just as much as people for when they are stressed or overwhelmed or just need some quiet time for themselves.  They may need this spot, if you have aggressive dogs that may need a time out or other behaviors that take longer to work out that a simple treat and training session will do.  

Having a place for your dog to go that is his own is one of the best things you can do for your dog.  For dogs that are more social they may be fine with just a bed or blanket in the living area and for those that require more isolation a crate or room may be necessary.  And then don't be afraid to use it.  That's what their space is there for, for them.  When you need some quiet time or space, put the dogs in their allotted spots and let everyone chill out for a while.  Those spots can be your best friend and your dogs will appreciate the space as well.  

 

♦Relax!!

Time and patience will take of most issues.  Eventually your pack and you will roll into your own schedules and you'll find out what works and what doesn't.  Experiment with different ideas.  Watch your dogs they will let you know what they like and don't.  Don't worry about that you have to things differently or can't stay up with those that only have one or two dogs.  You know from having your own pack that a couple of dogs would be a piece of cake!  :)  Learn to have fun with your pack in whatever ways they like and take your time with all of them.  Remember you are only one person who can only do so much and if you have help that's even better.  Your dogs are going to drive you crazy, they are going to love you like crazy and you may think you are crazy for having so many dogs, but it is the best kind of crazy in the world...Dog Crazy!!  So stay loose and enjoy every single minute you have with these creatures that love so unconditionally and just love you for you.

 

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For Further Reading:

Check out these 24 Paws of Love Blog Post:

The Real Truth -my personal feelings of having so many dogs and the problems and joy that have come with them.  

The Two Packs-how the two packs came to be.

The Power of Blogging-how I came to the realization that I'd been operating with a two dog mindset.