I read and re-read Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy a Multi-Dog Household, by Karen B. London, and Patricia B. McConnell. It’s a quick read but has a lot of good ideas.
They make it clear from the outset that if you have any truly serious inter-dog aggression, you need to work with a dog trainer or behaviorist and get the help you need. But the challenges that come up in multi-dog households are usually more about making life enjoyable than about keeping the dogs from harming each other.
This is a booklet which gives a positive approach to living with a number of dogs. In the past, the things I’ve read have been along the lines that you have to be alpha, and/or that you have to determine which dog in your pack is the alpha dog and then support its position.
The approach here is quite different. It’s about working with your dogs — individually, in twos, and in larger groups if that’s what you have — training them to become more polite and patient. It’s easy in a multi-dog household for the pushier ones to get what they want more than the dogs who hang back a little. But not if you use these methods! Pushiness isn’t rewarded and politeness is.
The booklet has four chapters:
1.Laying a Foundation discusses the value of working with each dog individually, how they want to have time alone with you and what you can achieve this way. It’s important to be sure that all of your dogs truly master a few basic commands. The chapter has some good commentary on group dynamics.
2. Getting Practical: Specifics for Real Life covers how you can use a “Body Block” and I found this section immediately useful in my two-dog two-cat household. It also has sections called When Someone Else is the Belle of the Ball, Being Comfortable Alone, Dinnertime Manners, Greeting Visitors, the Group Wait, the Group Off, and Play.
3. Staying Away from Trouble gives you ways you can teach your dogs that threatening or starting fights will not get them what they want.
4. Coming and Going is about deciding to add a dog to your present household, how to do it, what would indicate that there was serious trouble between your dogs, and the decision to rehome one of the dogs. I found the part about how to introduce a new dog to be very well done.
if you are doing everything in this booklet, you’ll be well ahead of the pack!