If you are like most multiple dog owners, you are a dog geek, participating in a variety of dog related activities. In the case of a multiple dog home, activities done with one dog probably are not the same as activities done with the others.
This requires that you sometimes or even frequently take one dog and leave the others at home. If you are a dedicated multiple dog owner (and I know you are or you would not be reading this), then you probably spend more time than you should feeling guilty and wondering if your dogs understand why they don’t all get to go sometimes.
There are rules about playing fair, but there are also rules about life not necessarily being fair at every moment. That is to say, just like with people, all dogs can not always have the same privileges or get the same treatment at the same time. It is inevitable that one dog needs a med and another doesn’t, or one dog needs extra training (which results in extra one-on-one time) and another doesn’t. This could easily be a cause for jealousy among the rest of your crew.
Preventing these situations from being an issue is easier than imagined. First, the crew needs to learn that they don’t decide who gets what and when. You do. There should not be a pecking order other than you as the leader. Of course, there are always leader dogs and follower dogs. But if you regularly reinforce positions that you imagine to be set in stone, you can cause chaos in the crew. Status among dogs is fluid and dependent on the situation at hand.
On a daily basis, vary who gets what first. Take care to make it the status quo that no one knows in advance who goes first. This levels the playing field and sets the tone for everything else, including when one gets to go and the others don’t.
So it’s more like this: life is fair today but may not be tomorrow. One day one dog goes to a dog show and the next day another dog goes to agility class. Maybe you have a dog or two that is not involved in any dog sports or the like. That dog should get a solo walk or something else one-on-one with you. This is another way of leveling the playing field.
Practicing this makes it easier when you take one dog somewhere and leave the rest behind. Not doing everything as one big crew also helps your dogs to have time away from each other. It’s very important that your dogs learn to function as individuals and not just as part of a crew. There will come a day when you will lose one before the others. It’s inevitable unfortunately. Having a history of being able to function without a particular crew member present, even if for a short time, is helpful to emotional survival.
It may be even harder when you have just two dogs since there is only one left when you take the other somewhere. And if you’re a single person, this makes things harder on the one who is home alone. So make sure it’s not a sad or scary situation. Making the home alone situation as safe and special as possible is more important with a crew of two. A special Kong along with some soothing music can make all the difference in the world to the one left alone.
If you have done your homework and set the stage for success with your crew, then you should feel comfortable with the dynamics of any combo of dogs left alone. And it’s a lot easier when your dogs have learned that life is not always fair. If you have taught that, then all should be well. If you have any worries at all about leaving certain dogs alone together, then always pay attention to your gut and make the proper provisions. Safety first.
Now back to guilt. Work on letting it go. Your dogs will easily pick up on any unease that you feel about leaving any of them behind. The more you make sure that each dog gets special one-on-one time on a regular basis, the better off you will be. Every time you take one dog on an outing act as though it’s a natural activity and your dogs will think of it as perfectly appropriate. Just be on your way and your remaining crew will treat it as any other outing without them and simply eagerly await your return.
By Debby McMullen with Pawsitive Reactions