Home
Lifestyle
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
The Pack Is Back [Updated]
Plus, readers write about their multi-dog households
Pages:

Pages

Left to right: Lola, Charlie, Holly (foreground)
Left to right: Lola, Charlie, Holly (foreground)

At the end of last year, Cameron, Lola and I drove north to visit Shana Laursen of Greyhound Friends for Life at her remarkable, 1,000-acre facility in Auburn, Calif., where she cares for both Greyhound and mixed-breed rescues. We had been looking for small, male Terrier to “complete” our family of three female dogs, and saw a photo of a little brindled stray, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, being fostered by Shana, and we were admittedly smitten. We wondered as we made the trip to see our prospective new dog: would he disrupt the delicate balance among our three dogs? What a pleasant surprise when this small, oh-so-sweet, plucky boy pranced center-stage with confidence, like he’d been among us all his life, completing our family so perfectly. All was definitely right in their world—they were once again a pack of four.

Have you noticed that we’re not alone in this scenario? Your friends at the dog park now have two, three or perhaps more dogs, often in a variety of types and sizes. These modern-day packs share a home, people and time together.

Historically, multi-dog households are nothing new. Working dogs have long helped with chores (herding, hunting, hauling, guarding), while “pet” dogs pulled indoor duty, cuddling with younger humans and keeping the pantry varmint-free. For the most part, harmony prevailed. Recently, our four-dog family suffered a loss, and we were down to three, all females. Then we adopted Charlie. As the youngest, and a latecomer with a relatively unknown provenance, he could easily have been a boat-rocker.

Imagine our relief when we discovered that it was quite the reverse. Everything got calmer, tension was defused, the two sibling sisters stopped bickering. There were no fights over bones or other prized trophies, such as everyone’s favorite plush turtle; they even made room on the couch for the new boy. What gives? All our fears of jealousy, rivalry and snarling mayhem gave way to a “go team” attitude. The pack was back!

Curious, I questioned Bark behaviorists to see if this blissful state of multi-dog living had been studied. Could it be that four (or more) really is better than one, two or three?

Karen London noted that even though she wasn’t aware of any research on “the number of dogs and decreased tensions/difficulties,” she has observed that “in households with big groups (five, six, seven), there is sometimes less competition over resources and some increased social flow compared with households of two or three dogs.”

Patricia McConnell, seconded that, and added, “Sometimes more is good. There does indeed seem to be a kind of social inhibition once you get a certain number of dogs together ... but, again, what that number is depends on many things, including the personalities of the dogs.” Both cautioned that it doesn’t always work out so smoothly. McConnell says, “I have had clients who had two or three dogs who got along great until they got ‘that new dog,’ and then everything went south.” As London pointed out, “It’s all different if even one dog in the group is seriously aggressive toward other dogs.”

Barbara Smuts observed that “there seem to be at least three different ways in which a particular dog can enhance multi-dog dynamics: with a calm but very strong and firm leadership; a gentle but decisive intervention when tensions mount; or a ‘good energy,’ cheering everyone up.” She also noted that what I might want to pay attention to in my pack are tendencies to “reconcile” or “console” after a tense episode.

Pages:

Pages

Print|Email
CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Kathleen Janz | February 23 2012 |

Congratulations! And thanks for opening your home to Charlie. Lucky guy.

Submitted by Andrea Anibal | February 23 2012 |

Welcome to the family of readers, Charlie, ya little cutie!

Submitted by Jackie B | February 23 2012 |

Great example. Happy it is working out for you. I have 2 of my own. They get along well and I have learned the signs of when one of them is getting frustrated. Stop anything before it happens:-)

Submitted by Dianne | February 29 2012 |

Congrats to all!

Submitted by Valerie | March 15 2012 |

Great article Claudia! Thanks for making me feel slightly less crazy for just adopting our 4th pup. For you, it may not seem so dramatic but until a little less than 5 years ago, I was pretty adament about no dogs in our lives until a little 4 legged angel moved into my heart quite by coincidence. Long story short, I was making a late flower delivery and bumped into a couple of people holding 3 tiny pups. Something about 1 of them caught me immediately and once I held him, he never left my hands. They were looking for homes for an ooops litter and I was happy to help. My family was shocked but thrilled and Bito became an integral and omnipresent part of our lives, going to work every day and driving everywhere with me. A couple years later we adopted a senior (9+ years) rescue pup who had belonged to a homeless person and a year later a red collar (significant agression & biting) pup who had been shuttled between shelters for 8 months. Story is long enough but suffice to say Bito just kept opening my heart and showing me what puppy love really means so we now share our home with 4 dogs, 3 boys and a little girl and while hectic, I wouldn't trade a minute of it! Thank you for your story and your obvious puppy love!

Submitted by Marilyn Terry a... | April 2 2012 |

I am Saski, a fourteen-year-old Siberian Husky. As the elder statesman, so to speak, my pack has elected me to write to you myself. Our mom has subscribed to BARK for many, many years, way back when your magazine was not even a real magazine but looked like a newspaper (she still has those early copies as she saves every edition of your magazine).

Mom was really interested in your article The Pack is Back; also your positive news about Charlie, the cute new addition to your own pack! Pack living has been a huge part of my mom’s life after she got Vanya, her first Siberian Husky way back in 1968. She never intended to have a large pack; that somehow evolved. She even inherited the last Siberians, Upy and Nikki, owned by her good friend Becky when Becky died twenty years ago. She has also rescued several cats all of whom stopped by her house at various times and found a home with her, and she has rescued several horses, the last being a wonderful old fellow she named Thor, who she rescued by buying him from a killer buyer at the Marysville, Washington, cattle auction to save him from going to slaughter. So mom gave him seven more years of life.

Currently in our household we have me (Saski), and my fellow Siberians: Galina, Yuri and Ursula. Then the Scottish Deerhounds Rowan, Edal, Bronwen and Ren. We range in ages from one year to fourteen years.

As I said, I am aged fourteen (born 1997) and a year or so ago I lost my two sisters Olga and Xenia and then last August (2011) I lost my brother Grimm who was my mom’s favorite. We had lived together all our lives. My mom got Ursula and Yuri, just for us, after my sister Olga died in December 2010 as I and my brother Grimm were missing our sisters so much we were distraught and crying and howling every night that she was afraid she might lose us too. As she felt we needed another of our own kind (Galina was bonded with the Deerhounds and not us), she did her best to find another Siberian for Grimm and myself but had no luck at all. She wanted an older rescue female Siberian who would have had the advantage of being house-broken, who would have settled down with us and who would have appreciated a nice home and our company—Grimm and I—as two older well-mannered gentlemen and way past the age of chewing up garden hoses which was Grimm’s forte (among other things) when he was younger. But in searching over the Internet and all the shelters in Oregon—no luck. She saw several deserving Siberian Huskies needing homes in Idaho and the California Bay Area (where mom used to live). They looked lovely and would have worked out really well for us but the rules and regulations of the rescue groups there did not allow any rescue Siberian being allowed out of the state. Also, it was winter, the middle of December, and my mom is afraid of driving in the snow all by herself. My mom could have found a Siberian Husky from similar bloodlines to our own but she did not have the time as her first aim was to quickly find company for Grimm and myself before we ourselves died of grief. So she looked in the local Advertiser and found a “backyard breeder” who had twelve unregistered Siberian puppies available from two litters both at the same time, so she brought home Yuri and Ursula who were only five weeks old. Oh! How Grimm and I loved those two little puppies! We stopped being sad and crying and we taught them, to the best of our ability, how to behave like proper, well-mannered Siberian Huskies. They were so tiny they could barely scramble through the dog doors but like all us Siberian Huskies they are a very determined pair indeed!

You should see Yuri and Ursula greeting Bronwen and Edal when they have been parted for even a little while! You can almost see the thoughts in Bronwen’s and Edal’s heads like “Oh Gawd! Here they are again!” and they get passionately kissed and licked on their faces and Bronwen curls into a ball and tries to hide her face like a snail in her shell and Yuri has a silly, goopy grin on his face! And Edal barks ineffectually and no one listens to him.

Rowan, Edal and Bronwen are siblings, born in 2006. Ren came to live with us in October 2010 after our Deerhound ‘sister,’ Gaelic, died of osteosarcoma at only age 5 in July 2010. (Gaelic was born and given to mom in 2005 and was Galina’s best pal. They were puppies at the same time and glommed onto each other.) The people who owned Ren are very interested in showing and Ren has a short tail (thus would never have become Best in Show at Westminster!). So she was offered free to mom and was flown all the way across country to Portland and she has been living with us ever since. She was only 5 months at that time and now she is a very pushy and obnoxious adolescent. I (Saski) and my brother Grimm tried to teach Ren her manners but now she pushes Yuri and Ursula around and uses them for coursing practice—in other words, chasing them around and bossing them a lot. Luckily, Yuri and Ursula are very sweet and laid back and “take it”—all the stuff Ren dishes out. They all exercise each other a lot, which is good. Mom can’t wait for Ren to grow up mentally! Ren’s AKC name is actually ‘Serenity’ and mom has hopes Ren might eventually grow into that name.

And then there is Galina, born in 2005. Galina was another one who was given to mom, this time by a longtime friend of mom’s who wanted a nice home for her. Mom’s friend reasoned: “Your Siberians are all nine years old and it’s about time you had another younger one!” Mom named her Galina Krisravitsa. Galina means Bright Spirit in Russian because that is what she is and the name really fits her, and Krisravitsa was one of the Siberian Huskies who went to the South Pole with Captain Robert Falcon Scott on the Terra Nova in 1911. Galina is very attractive and friendly and is almost seven years of age now (how time flies!) and since she virtually raised Rowan, Edal and Bronwen (they were born in 2006), she believes she is the Queen Bee and thinks she can be bossy to them and tries to be bossy to all the younger set as well. Galina does not boss Rowan around as he weighs about 120 pounds and does not consider this at all amusing. But poor Bronwen is thoroughly intimidated by Galina, and always has been and won’t stand up for herself. Galina is not above randomly giving Bronwen or Ren a sly nip or two when they walk within range and are not expecting it. When Bronwen was much younger mom had to console poor Bronwen for a long time each time Galina had been mean to her, when Bronwen would cry and whimper and carry on pitifully when her feelings were so terribly hurt. Now Bronwen is over five she is a little braver about Galina’s bullying but mom still watches to see Galina behaves herself with Bronwen.

After Ren came here Galina tried the same tactics with Ren as had worked so well for her with Bronwen. Well, Ren is a very different kettle of fish (as the saying goes) and Ren does not think that is at all amusing and not a very nice thing to be snipped in the butt by Galina when she is minding her own business! Unlike Bronwen, Ren does not take this lightly and she stands up for herself! "Don't you dare do that!" she says. And gives back as good as she gets! Much to Galina's surprise! Mom thinks it is somewhat amusing that the tables are turned as regards Ren. Retaliation sort of stopped Galina in her tracks. However, Ren still watches Galina warily and only likes to go outside when Galina is inside the house.

Last but not least, then there is Rowan. Rowan, as I have said, weighs about 120 pounds but unfortunately, even though he is a very nice boy, he does not like his brother Edal at all. He did not like his other brother Bumbles either. Bumbles was the love of my mom’s life; he was the most laid-back, regal, noble and sweetest and most loving creature ever, who could not wait to meet and greet everyone. Bumbles loved everyone. But Bumbles also died of bone cancer last September 2011 when he (like Gaelic) was only five. Mom is still devastated to lose Bumbles so young. Anyway, mom has to watch to see Rowan is never with Edal (and formerly never with Bumbles either). Bumbles and Edal were best friends and it seemed strange to mom to watch Edal alone without his bigger brother after Bumbles died. Fortunately, Rowan loves living in mom’s bedroom a lot of the time and sleeping on her bed and she uses a dog gate across to keep him separate from Edal. Rowan gets along with Galina, Bronwen, Ren and us Huskies—it is just Edal he does not like. So mom has to be extra vigilant, especially as Edal (who is very sweet with everyone) is much smaller than Rowan.

So, basically, all of us get along well with each other and we spread ourselves all over the house on our favorite dog beds and the one remaining couch that has not fallen prey to the teeth of the younger crowd (as was the tragic fate of all the other couches who are now in couch heaven). Rowan is the only one mom has to watch out for and that is as far as Edal is concerned.

Mom apologizes for the length of this email. She hopes you receive lots of input from your request regarding multi-dog households and looks forward to reading what everyone else has to say to you.
Thank you for listening to us and please don’t hesitate to ask us if you have any questions.

Submitted by Mary Dolch | April 2 2012 |

We live with seven dogs: three are street dogs from Mexico, one from an Arkansas puppy mill, two from local shelters and, most recently, one from Phuket, Thailand from Soi Dog. We assist several rescues, local and international and hence ended up with seven! Although two are really, really old, our hope is to stay at five and always foster one or two.

Living with multiple dogs is fun and at times a lot of work. Someone always needs a bath, or nails clipped, but as a pack they seem to do way better than a lone dog, or even two. Our dogs, with a few snags, work very well as a pack. Walking them an hour a day has really helped to cement them as a pack, and when a new dog comes into our home, I let the pack do most all of the work of integrating the newcomer.

Our Thai dog arrived in a state of deep panic and is very timid and fearful. She’s lived in a kennel run at Soi Dog for four years after being rescued from the meat trade. If she had been our only dog, I’m not sure she would be on the mend and adjusting as she now is. She learned by watching our dogs and how we interacted with them, how to live in a house and work towards being part of a pack. Exercise is key to having a harmonious pack in my opinion and experience, also the types of dogs do matter.

Great article, thank you!! I only hope most cities will see the benefits and allow households to have more dogs.

Submitted by Kathie Huffman | April 2 2012 |

My husband Tim and I currently share our home with seven dogs. More accurately, they share their home with us. We have a variety with three Goldens, one Golden/Lab mix, one black Lab mix, and two Terrier mixes. Sizes range from 90 pounds to 20 pounds and age from 2 years to 13 years. Our pack also includes two cats.

It has been some years since we had fewer than seven dogs but never more than nine. We very carefully consider sex and personality before we decide on a newcomer to our pack especially since our seven-year-old male is “top dog” and tends to be male-dog aggressive. We were test driving a female mix, Chow/Retriever/Shepherd I suspect, last night and I think that she will fit in just fine when she loses her current home due to her owner’s terminal illness.

We do have the rare spat, almost always among my girls. We feed all of the dogs together now though we do have to watch over the proceedings as my little Terriers are thieves when allowed to be. With the right mix of personalities, being part of a pack and witnessing the daily dynamics is fascinating and definitely a learning experience. Bath time on the other hand is not so fun!

Submitted by Kathy Porter | April 2 2012 |

I've been part of a multi-dog household since 1997—the year I adopted my first ex-racing Greyhound. Our dog packs over the years have consisted of 1) two ex-racing Greyhounds and one GSD-mixed breed 2) that same GSD-mixed breed and two Whippets 3) those same two Whippets and one Great Dane 4) that same Great Dane, one Whippet and one Min Pin mixed breed with hints of sighthound.

It’s been an amazing ballet over the years. With that first pack of three, we did have one occasion where things did indeed “go south,” mostly due to the alpha nature of our Shepherd-mix taking exception to being “hunted” by the Hounds out in the backyard one day. Her retaliation was to start what turned into a major dog fight. That turned out to be a wake up call for my husband and me—refusing to give up on any of the dogs, we enlisted qualified help and set about to bring about a cease fire.

We’ve never gone beyond three dogs except for a 12-day period last summer when we dog-sat, and a three-month-old “Cava-chon” (a Cavalier King Charles and Bichon Frise crossbreed) female pup stayed with us. It was interesting watching the dog dynamics. The Dane proved to be the teacher and guide for this young pup during her stay.

There’s a different energy dynamic with multi-dog homes—and for me, that’s always been the fascination. Each time a “new” dog enters the pack, there’s a subtle shift as the established dogs interact and figure out how that new energy is going to be accepted. You knew this, of course, when you went looking for that fourth dog and found Charlie. I wonder what the “scientific evidence” would say about the abilities of male dogs to bring that “calming energy” to a female (bitch) pack? Our Great Dane (male) brings that to our pack. It’s that energy working, I’m sure. If we could bottle THAT, world peace might be just around the corner!

Thanks for inviting your readers to contact you directly with our own multi-dogs stories and thank you for reading mine.

Submitted by Andrea Seidl | April 2 2012 |

My husband and I have had multiple dogs for the 25 years we’ve been married. They have all been mixed-breed strays with the exception of one German Shepherd show dog who could not show any longer.

There have been many variations on the theme from coming in as puppies (mostly in the earlier years) and later as adopted older strays. I am fascinated by observing them interact as a group. We have had three and four dogs mostly but been as high as five for short periods and six when our son’s family joins us. What is really interesting but not surprising is that our son’s dogs have always mixed after a short period of introduction and they then form a larger group temporary group.

Here are some of my observations:

They find or create their niche in the group.

They seem to live longer (maybe it’s improved care but…). Our purebred German Shepherd lived to 14, our Border Collie mix to 16, etc.

They all want to participate in the family activities, fishing on our dock, watching TV, hiking etc. We make sure that everyone is accommodated (we currently have one 16-year-old senior Chow mix who is going strong).

They form various bonds over different things (usually in pairs):

    • Years ago we had one couple learn to tag team fetch (not from us). The Border Collie mix would “go out for it” and then deliver it to the Shepherd mix who brought it back to us.

    • Our purebred Shepherd literally adopted the very young Lab stray that our son found. They became inseparable to the point that when our son moved away we ended up having to send the Shepherd to live with him because they pined for each other.

    • We have two currently that hang out like twins (Jack Russell mix and Feist mix).

    • One of them has a grooming relationship with our senior who likes to clean his ears (and he comes around for it).

    • Our most recent Shepherd mix tends to be a bit of a loner (only with us one year and in bad shape when she was found) but she has bonded with one of the “twins” over barking at anyone who dares to walk past our city house. They are very supportive of each other in this.

    • The twins get up at the crack of dawn (as soon as I stir), the other two prefer to sleep in.

I also believe that they learn from each other. The most striking example is one of the “twins” came from an abusive background (we believe). While we have worked at teaching him confidence and trust, I have observed behaviors that he could only have learned from his incredibly outgoing “sister.”

We have had hierarchies but no real bullying. Currently, the hierarchy is fairly subtle.

Not sure if this sums up to anything but I am happy to share it as a subject of interest of mine for a very long time.

Submitted by Nancy V. Garver | April 2 2012 |

My husband and I have five dogs up until last evening we had to let our BELOVED black Lab Angus go.

I married a dairy farmer (Lancaster County, Penn.) who thought that cats belonged in the barn and dogs tied to a doghouse in the yard. In Pennsylvania’s winters he would put clean, dry hay and straw in the dog houses, but never in the house!

Marrying me changed all that. Our last group started with Angus as a five-week-old from a neighboring Amish farm, he cried at night so I went back to that farm and had the children pick a chocolate female from the litter of 16 pups. That is Bella, who is 13 and being treated for mast cell cancer.

Then I woke up one morning (after a phone call from Amish Sadie) announcing the birth of 14 beautiful yellow Labs. She remembered me saying I would like one from each color. My poor husband Gary said, “if you are going to bring another dog home, at least I want to pick this one.” He went along and we came home with beautiful Sophia Grace. I felt so blessed and lucky for the joy these three brought to us, our three grown kids and six grandkids, that I became a member of Brookline Lab rescue.

We had five here for the past year and it is fine. The older dogs show the younger ones how to behave, most times. Now the two latest rescued, Maggie and Seamus, still have their moments with each other. If they bump or run past, they bark at each other. Most time we have had five wonderful dogs in our lives, now four. The only drawback, as I can see, is the many trips to the vet. If I had a traveling vet who could come to the house for just one visit it would be a piece of cake. We do have a traveling mobile pet groomer who brings her van one time a month for baths—that is tonight, in fact.

Love your magazine!

Submitted by Sandy | April 2 2012 |

Thanks so much for the article on multi-dog households. I’m the pet parent (kennel girl) for ten (gasp), ages between three and 12. All rescues, from newspaper giveaway, Craigslist, backyard breeders and four from traditional shelters and rescues. Five boys and five girls. They are Border Collie and BC mixes, except for the an English Springer (Craigslist) and my mother’s Chihuahua from hell.

I think when adding to your pack, age is definitely a player. My eldest three (one is 12 and two are 11) just want to stay out of the drama. Some are best buds with each other, some merely tolerate each other. You really need to be a strong pack leader and never let them forget you are the Boss... I get gridlock in the stairway with three across. A doggy door people suggest? I can just see butts wedged in that as well. No, my one girl just opens up the door for all...

I encourage people to have more than one—they love us, but they love being around their own kind. They can play with each other as they can’t with us. And someone is always up for play. It does my heart good to look out in the yard and see a game of chase/tag going on. My house is eternally dirty. I never go on vacation. I own a parking space at my vet’s office (O.K., I just haven’t spray painted my name on it yet...). A 12-pack of Interceptor? One month’s worth for me...

I do a head count all the time, my worst fear is I’ll leave someone outside, especially when it’s the middle of the night and I’m not quite awake. It takes me longer to get their breakfast/dinner ready (again, the counting thing) than it does for them to inhale it. I have baby gates and crates throughout the house. I sleep with at least 4 to 6 dogs and they rotate throughout the night.

Probably one undesirable thing is the reactivity of a pack. One barks, they all bark even though they have no clue. I get up, they all get up, even if I’m just going to the bathroom. Sometimes, I miss not spending enough one-on-one time with each, but they seem to come to me at different times, for different things. Grooming is ongoing, as is laundry. Conflicts arise from time to time. I find the boys are a lot of noise, posturing and false bravado, but the girls are “in it to win it.” Girls are definitely harder.

I wish, in any dog publications, they would do a home plan/decorating for a TRUE active/multi dog household. Forget the white carpet and furniture. Perhaps give tips on what works for paint/flooring/furniture. I buy toddler beds from Craigslist/yard sales because they are wood, look nice and have a supportive mattress and lower to the ground for my older dogs, yet away from a draft. You can put a waterproof mattress pad cover and it’s easier to clean than a filled pillow bed on the floor. I have even cut one down to a shorter length too. I have a galley kitchen... not a whole lot of space for dogs to whip around the corner on their way out the door. They bank off one wall, then the cabinets/dishwasher, to head out the mudroom door, so I use Swiffer floor cleaning pads to wipe down cabinets, walls and doorways, etc., because it cuts the dirt/oil from their coats better than spray cleaners. It would be nice if you could do like a “tip of the month” in your magazine for suggestions such as these so pet parents could share.

Thank you for a great magazine.

Submitted by Bobbie Mann, Li... | April 2 2012 |

I loved your article on your recent baby. Charlie is precious. I have seven little Havanese babies. My oldest will be 11 in April. They are a crazy joy and love each other beyond words. I have the mom with three of her babies, her brother, a cousin and one of her babies’ son. I used to show and breed and, of course, that’s how I ended up with all of theses little babies.

The most wonderful thing about them is that they all play, sleep next to each other and have never been territorial. If I leave one by mistake outside they will bark at the door to let me know. All sleep in bed with my husband and myself.

I also take in small dogs to stay with me when parents go away. My group gets so excited and greets everyone but afterwards they go off on their own among themselves. They don't mind other dogs getting in bed with us either. We have so much fun.

Submitted by Robin Trelz | April 2 2012 |

Baby, a twelve-week-old Rough Collie puppy, became a member of our family in July of 2009. I had gone several years without a dog after losing my beloved dog and best friend of 18 years. It took me several years to be able to allow another dog to enter my life without feeling like I was “replacing” her. Snickers, my companion and best friend in the entire world, could never be replaced after being together for 18 years! Then the day came. Welcome Baby!

The first year seem to fly by with Baby. My daughter came by several times a week for play dates with her dogs. Baby loved when they came and had so much fun playing with a couple of four-footed friends. I could always tell when they went home she waited in anticipation for her next play date. I often wondered if Baby would be happier with a permanent live-in “sister.” After careful consideration, along came Lilly, an eight-week-old Shetland Sheepdog puppy in June of 2010.

I was so amazed! It was love at first sight. Lilly thought Baby was her mommy and Baby agreed to take the motherly responsibilities on. Baby and Lilly were inseparable most the time. Baby actually seemed happier to have a “sister.” We now had two daughters that completed our family or so we thought…

The end of August 2011, I found out Lilly’s half sister was available. I pondered back and forth about what I should do. Baby and Lilly were very compatible, loved each other and I wondered if the third girl would throw things off the wrong way! I decided to go take a look and make a decision. I took Lilly with me as she has a completely different personality than Baby. Baby loves everyone she meets, four legged or human, but Lilly is quite the opposite. She is quite picky with who she likes or does not and there never seems to be a middle with Lilly.

Upon meeting the new baby, I was hoping Lilly would be willing to make a go of things as the little one was pitiful. She was very thin, flea-infested and dehydrated. I showed Lilly the puppy and she licked her face and looked at me like I need this puppy!

Ebbie was now a member of our family! At times I think Baby was jealous of the bond Lilly and Ebbie developed but yet she seem to understand why. The three girls became quite the trio. They all loved each other very much. They all shared food, toys and treats but sometimes “argued” over rawhide bones, but nothing ever serious. We were a family! I felt three were enough financially and for the attention for each individually to receive. We were one big happy family. I felt three dogs were not much harder than one, just triple the love. Right about the time I felt our family was complete along came Rupert!

Rupert was a ten-week-old male Bloodhound who needed a loving, forever home. I really had to think this one out. We had three girls. Rupert is a boy. We had a Collie and Shetland Sheepdogs, which are similar in personality, energy level and temperament. Rupert is a Bloodhound! I thought he is going to be the “oddball” and stand out like a sore thumb! The circumstances still drove me to go meet Rupert.

Needless to say, Rupert is a member of our family as well. A Collie, two Shetland Sheepdogs and a Bloodhound, yet the breeds seem to mean more to humans than they do to them. Rupert has fit into the family just fine. He can be quite possessive of his toys, which at first Lilly and Ebbie couldn’t figure out (Baby could care less) but they are working things out just fine. Rupert does not understand how much bigger than the Shetland Sheepdogs he is. He is already over fifty pounds at four-months-old but he is learning how to play nicely. He is going to puppy classes, which he loves! The funny thing is Ebbie, the baby before Rupert, is the one who adores him! It seems like after my four, the youngest of the “pack” most easily accepts the newcomer. At least, that is my experience with the four I have.

Our home is now full but I do not regret adding all four who have made our home a happy home full of love. I have to admit the fourth one was a little more unsettling at first but with time, love and patience anything can work!

Submitted by George Schlosse... | April 2 2012 |

As owners of a 50-run dog boarding kennel, we get to observe a lot of packs with many customers having multiple dogs they want boarded in the same run. Having been in the business for 10 years now, we have seen many packs lose a member, add a member or replace a member. The strongest packs, least affected by change, are those where there is a true human pack leader as opposed to when the dogs are allowed to decide who is pack leader. An example would be the pack of four dogs we just sent home, a Sheba Enu, a GSD, a Belgian Malenois, and finally a Lab mix. The owner is a bomb dog handler for Boeing, with the Malenois recently retired and the Lab mix replacing him. When the Lab mix joined the pack, it was as if the pack had been together for a long time. If I had a kennel big enough, all four could share one kennel, not even needing to be separated for feeding. But as a working dog handler, the owner knows the importance of being the leader.

But then there are the packs where the dogs get little direction from the human pack leader and need to be kenneled separately and sometimes not even allowed to play together outside.

Our own pack has varied from one to three dogs. For the most part, bringing in a new dog to the pack has not been any problem, as long as there is strong pack structure to begin with. One interesting observation is when there is a loss of one four-legged pack member, if there is still at least two more dogs in the pack, they get over the loss faster.

When there are only two dogs in the pack, and you lose one, the other seems to grieve longer. Our three- and four-year-old dogs had a very short grieving period when they lost their older pack member. The two we had left did everything together, and nothing together. They would go for walks together but go in opposite directions. They went everywhere in the car together, but seemed perturbed that the other one was taking up too much of the back seat. When one passed away, the other went in to a nine-week grieving process until two puppies came along. When that dog passed away a year and half later, the two puppies seemed lost for only a few days.

Another thing we noticed, both in our own pack structure and have heard from customers, is bringing in two new pack members at the same time can really upset the apple cart. The two newcomers wind up belonging to two separate packs. The first and most important pack is the new “outsiders” pack. And the previously established pack is secondary to them. As an example, we had a very well established four-member pack of two people and two dogs. One dog passed away. We added two more dogs at the same time. The Dalmatian puppy was born socially dominant, and rather then needing to assimilate quickly into the established pack, she established herself as pack leader over the Lab puppy that came along at the same time, creating the “outsiders pack.” It took six months for the older, more cantankerous Lab to get it through the thick skull of the Dalmatian that he was leader of the dog portion of the larger pack, and that everyone had to respect the two legged pack leaders. (The Lab puppy was beholden to the Dalmatian puppy, but learned to at least respect the older Lab very quickly.)

For the record, we started serious observation of dogs while training our own dogs for search and rescue. We learned to watch for clues based on body language and behavior. With enough observation, your dog can talk to you in plain English with nothing more than body language. We use those observation skills in both our kennel and doggy daycare on a daily basis. In the doggy daycare we really get to observe pack behavior, having as many 40 large dogs of all breeds playing in one big room, and another 20 small dogs on the other side of the fence. In the kennel we use those observation skills to watch for stress.

Submitted by Stacey Perlman | April 2 2012 |

Congratulations on your adorable new boy, Charlie!

We too recently adopted a younger boy to round out our “pack” of three girls.

At one time we were up to six rescues and it was really more “balanced” and calm at our house than it was with the current three girls. The two younger girls were trying to gang up on the older girl and I had to separate them all the time.

From my experience rescuing and fostering dogs, it depends on the mix of personalities and genders as to how the “pack” interacts. My younger girls even walk better on their leashes when my “new boy” accompanies them! He keeps them busy with his very active style of play and my older female dog is more relaxed and secure now.

My “new pack” is still adjusting but I think everyone will be okay.

Submitted by Thom Reisterer | April 2 2012 |

I enjoyed your article on multiple dog ownership and wanted to share our experience.

Five years ago, my wife and I got our first dog, a Lhasa Apso puppy we named Pudg. A year later, we got a Maltese/Shih’tzu puppy we named Baxter.

The following year we began volunteering at a local shelter and things began to change in our household.

Over the course of the next two years we began, one by one, adopting those dogs that had come into the shelter severely neglected and/or abused, and which were not doing very well adjusting to the shelter environment.

As it became evident that certain dogs were unlikely to ever leave the shelter, we decided there was room in our hearts and our home to give those guys a chance. Over the course of the next two years, we adopted another Lhasa, a Yorkie, a Shih’tzu, a Jack Russell, a Papillon and a Malhapoo. All small dogs with different personalities and temperaments. Each arriving at the shelter severely neglected or abused and not doing very well adjusting to the shelter environment. But, each had stolen a little piece of our hearts and deserved a chance to become members of a family.

We feel very fortunate that our little band of mini-misfits has evolved into a happy, fun-loving, affectionate, cohesive pack. We credit the result to a lot of patience, affection, fairness, equal treatment and Pudg’s strong leadership. We are also fortunate to live in a very dog-friendly area. All of our neighbors have dogs and all the dogs have become friends right along with the neighbors.

Two of our neighbors have several acres of woods between them and have groomed walking trails that crisscross the two properties, for the express purpose of dog walking. This is our favorite off-leash playground. Nothing brings me more joy than to watch these little guys racing each other along the trails, sniffing and exploring, just being dogs for 30 minutes or so. Then, when I announce it’s time to go home, they all fall into a group and escort me back to the house.

Recently, I was visiting the staff of another area shelter. Just prior to my arrival, a senior dog had been surrendered, because “he was getting old.” I met the 10-year-old Lab/Airedale mix and, after a quick consultation with my wife, decided to take a chance and introduce a full-size dog into our family of “littles,” bringing us to nine.

Once again, they proved what amazingly understanding and sensitive creatures they are. They understood intuitively that Buster was old, arthritic with failing eyesight and hearing. Rather than being put-off by having a bigger dog in their midst, they accepted him as just another member of their family. With the help of our vet, his ear infections have been cleared-up, he’s on supplements for his arthritic joints and he’s caught-up on his inoculations. What seemed like a dog with only about six months to live, has become a ol’ guy who’s reclaiming some of his youthful vigor. Racer, our eight-pound Yorkie, is teaching Buster how to play. Such fun to watch!

Like any large family, sometimes the kids will have their moments of disagreement. Yet, they are brief and never violent—mostly, just some yelling at each other for ten seconds or so. Afterwards, they are back to playing or snuggled next to each other on the couch with “mom and dad.”

Having multiple dogs does present some challenges. There are the costs involved but we have a good vet who helps keep costs from getting out of control, while still providing quality care. There’s also the extra effort to ensure that each dog gets some quality one-on-one time with us. Even if it’s just a few minutes each day to reassure each one of their worth, it’s time well spent. They are so worth it for all they give us.

My wife and I enjoy countless hours of entertainment and enjoyment, and are the recipients of an endless amount of pure, unconditional affection. And, yes, we bought a king-size bed so that there was room for all of them to sleep with us comfortably.
Thanks for a great article and great magazine!

Submitted by Ehren Snyder | April 2 2012 |

In April 2010 we put down our 12-year-old German Shepherd. We had two remaining dogs a very mellow, laid back 10-year-old black Lab mix and a two-year-old goofy immature tri-color Collie. The two humans and the dogs went into a very deep depression. I especially was at an emotional loss over our girl Ella. I cannot describe the presence and strength of character of this dog accurately but she was really was an incredible animal and was the anchor of our dog family. Ben (Lab) and Beau (Collie) were really down and did not know how to act with each other. She was definitely alpha (I still use that terminology) and this void was felt hugely. We talked about getting a GSD but the health problems were an issue. I had been researching ACDs [Australian Cattle Dogs] and knew another strong female would not be an issue with these two.

In September, we brought home an ACD puppy. This event clarified that Ben was in charge and Beau would be taking care of the puppy. Ben was seldom friendly with her but she and Beau played constantly. Kai would just crawl on the floor when around Ben. She has turned out to be a fantastic dog and has probably almost filled the gap Ella left. Ben continued on as a very mellow alpha and Beau was still pretty goofy. Then when Kai was a year and two months we obtained a Yorkie-poo. This was from someone I went to dog-training with. The dog had many, many neuroses and was afraid of almost every person but she LOVED big dogs. In class, Kai was always a little scary with her like she wanted to eat her and this was an issue about us taking her. The Y-P Zoey was attacking the woman’s grandchildren and she could not get her to stop. I also don’t think she appreciated Zoey for her good qualities.

We did end up keeping Zoey. I already knew about most of her problems but was not aware of all the cute things she did. Neither of us has ever had a tiny dog before and laugh constantly at her antics. Zoey and Kai are the same age. I was very wary of Kai playing with her because she is so rough. She and Kai are inseparable and play very sweetly. Beau and Kai also play all the time. Shortly after Zoey came Beau moved into the leadership role and Kai went into second. Ben absolutely does not care. Beau has turned into Ella literally. His behavior is identical to hers. He stops catfights and keeps Kai in check if she gets too rough with the cats or Zoey and keeps Zoey in check if she is too rough with the cats. He used to be a complete a-hole on walks and now he is a dream—this could be maturity. He still has this sweet silly side but has taken over the protector and guardian role, which I was surprised to see him do. Zoey is a much more confident little dog and loves being around these big dogs. The groomer who knew her from young puppyhood on has said that she has totally changed and is much calmer and happier. I totally think that was all from being around the “pack” and gaining confidence from them. We have a happy four-dog household!

Submitted by Patti F. | April 2 2012 |

We are currently a three-dog household. The number has fluctuated wildly with a lost dog who became number five for a few months, and the loss of our oldest dog a year ago taking us back to 3... and dogsitting previous lost dog for several months (we became friends with her owner).

What is interesting is the positive changes since CJ passed; Rowdy (oldest at 13, the only male and, of course, the smallest dog) is more active with the two younger girls. CJ was his buddy and he stuck with her, but since she’s been gone he is a new dog, trying new tricks to win our attention. Yay for multi-dog households! The doggie politics are highly entertaining. I wish I had room for more! Our “temp dog” didn't upset the balance at all, other than adding to the laugh factor.

Submitted by Lynn Fraser, NC... | April 2 2012 |

I was reading the article “The Pack is Back,” and you are right about the dynamics of the pack. I started with one dog, a female Miniature Schnauzer. A year or so later, I added a male, and so on. We now have six in our pack—four Miniature Schnauzers, a 45-lb Schnauzer-Lab mix and a Schnauzer-Dashchund mix—ranging in age from 5 years to 16 years. They are all very different in their personalities. Sometimes there is some “snarkiness,” as we like to call it, especially if our 16-year-old Schnauzer isn’t up for one of the younger dog’s antics. But they all peacefully exist, even with one of our Schnauzers having come to us undersocialized and often crabby. They can be caught snuggling together on the couch or in a dog bed, and they all add a different element to our family, and making it whole at the same time.

Oh, and we have two cats also, and they don’t know they aren’t dogs!

Thanks for all you do in your magazine. I love reading it.

Submitted by Joyce Rutledge | April 2 2012 |

After reading your “The Pack is Back” article, I HAD to comment.

I am the proud human who is lucky enough to be loved by seven dogs!! I am always looking for reading material focusing on multi-pack households. One of my favorites is the book "You Have How Many Dogs?"

My canine family began after my divorce. It started with two English Shepherds, a number that has grown and varied in the twelve years I began my new life with Kobe and Kasey.

From there, I began doing some rescuing and volunteering at our local shelter. Started out walking dogs, which of course, led to being an adoption counselor, events worker, fostering and, naturally, adopting! During this time, I developed a friendship with a small, home-based, very responsible Australian Shepherd breeder/family after falling in love with a tri-colored female pup of theirs.

Thus, I have the best of both worlds, in my opinion—shelter/rescue dogs and fabulous Aussies! Add that to the fact that I am a sixth grade teacher in a small town and blessed with a dog loving principal, who is sooo happy when I bring my dogs to school with me! Every puppy I had started out in the classroom for months at a time! I’ve even had fifth grade students tell me in the spring that they want to be in my class the next year because, “You have puppies!” I did tell them that I didn’t have puppies EVERY year!!

Thank you for the shout-out for all of us busy, multiple-dog owners. I think I could write my own book!!

Submitted by Susan L. Trapkin | April 2 2012 |

I have had a multi-pet household for approximately 35 years. Provided that the dogs get along, it is my belief that the small home pack is the most psychologically beneficial living arrangement for dogs. A home “pack” will do best if it is constructed rather than a random collection of dogs or breeds of dogs that are less likely to succeed in the arrangement. It has been my experience, that dominant breeds or type “A” personality dogs often are not the best choices for a home pack. There are many dogs out there needing homes and if a pet owner feels they have an appropriate home arrangement that would work, it can be most enjoyable and satisfying.

On the positive side of having a home pack, we have virtually no destruction, neurotic behaviors and no separation anxiety issues during our absences in our pack of five. Housetraining is a snap when a new dog comes in because the new dog will mimic the behavior of the house-trained dogs. Even our cat goes to the bathroom outside when the dogs go! We have brought handicapped dogs and abused dogs into the pack and I feel the dogs in the pack help them heal.

The dogs in the pack have roles and seem to create their own mini society and we focus on what each dog does best as to how we work with their self-assigned roles. A small Terrier in our pack is always the sentry and stays on duty at all times. The other dogs will listen for his alert and will investigate if he barks or sounds the alarm. One dog in the pack is a certified therapy pet. He is handicapped and is a peaceful influence. Our two largest dogs are black Labs, one who came to us with serious fears. These are both rescue dogs and are gentle and kind to our smaller dogs. Our smallest member of the pack is a Toy Poodle. He only aspires to be cute and does an excellent job in his role.

Rescue organizations seem to view multi-dog households with suspicion. Perhaps experience has shown that families become overwhelmed by the needs of more than one or two dogs. Zoning ordinances and other local laws may forbid it. If an owner of a multi-dog household becomes unable to care for the multiple pets, at some point it becomes a hoarding situation.

We feel like our life has been segmented by the several packs we have had as the years have passed. The packs ultimately blend as one dog passes away and a new one enters. I think the most tragic passing for us was when the final dog from the group that our children grew up with passed away. Our hearts were broken because that last dog was by their sides from childhood through their departure for college. It was the end of a very special era.

Our son is now embarking on building his own pack. He says he cannot imagine life without a dog. He has two shelter dogs and aspires to have more someday. The joy that our dogs have brought to us has passed along to our children.

If all dog lovers could open their hearts to one more dog in need, perhaps we could make a dent in the overflowing shelter population and they, too, could enjoy life in a multi-dog household.

Submitted by Rosalind Remer,... | April 2 2012 |

On increasing the pack: Our 6 year old JRT/Spaniel mix is one very anxious, reactive girl, seized 5 years ago from a hoarder’s lair where she was caged 24 hours a day and had never been outside. We got her through the rescue group that took her and fostered her. She has issues galore (looks a lot like your two girls), but is the love of our lives. We wanted a second dog, but Minnie is intolerant of other dogs, doesn’t know how to play and guards us with her life. After fostering several dogs and seeing how unhappy she appeared to be with them, we were pretty anxious ourselves. But, along came Max. An adorable, goofy puppy of indeterminate origins (but also black and white, just like Minnie), who seems to know just how much space to give her and when to try to draw her out. I practically cried the first time she allowed him on the sofa with her and me. (That took two weeks). They now do everything together, zooming through the (incriminating!) dog door, gnawing on antler chews, sunning themselves on the deck. They’re not best friends just yet (he has found a soul mate in a friend’s Golden Retriever), but they are comfortable, just as sibling pack members should be. Maybe two of them doesn’t make a pack, but it has certainly made our girl relax a bit and have some purpose other than ensuring we are in her sight at all times, and for that, I am hugely grateful.

Thanks, as always, for the magazine I love opening my mailbox for!

Submitted by Cricket Weasel | April 3 2012 |

this is our summer community life. yes this is a very multi-dog household

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5hIWklJ-2A

Submitted by Tomi McEvoy | April 9 2012 |

Dear Claudia,
I very much enjoyed reading “The Pack is Back” in your March–May 2012 issue. We have long been a “pack” household, with seldom fewer than four dogs. In September 2010, our 6-year-old West Highland Terrier, Murphy, had major knee surgery. As anyone with an energetic terrier will tell you, keeping him quiet for eight weeks is a virtual impossibility, but we tried hard to keep him corralled and in a small space. After a recheck with the vet, he was given the green light to begin some light walking and exercise, which, of course, to him, meant “fly around the backyard and bark at the insufferable crows,” who had taunted him for the previous eight weeks.

At some point in the next few months, he again began to limp and his tail took on a crooked bent, quite unusual for Westies. He was diagnosed with a herniated disk, probably from trying to compensate for his weaker knee. As his obvious pain worsened, his personality began to change as well. He had always been the dominant dog and from the moment he chose me as a puppy had designated himself as my “special boy,” a fact recognized by the other three dogs. Because the cost of surgery was prohibitive, we elected to try pain management with drugs.

After several months of escalating misbehavior: marking in the house, excessive barking and increased aggression towards our other dogs, we made the very difficult decision to put him down in March of 2012. My husband and I spent two days crying together and cuddling with Murphy hoping to have a change of heart. After an unprovoked and bloody attack on his best buddy, our Silky, Riley, we felt that he had made the decision for us. As I sat and cradled him in his final moments, my remorse and sadness knew no bounds. I am still grieving daily for the loss of this beloved boy.

The moment we arrived back home from the vet’s office without Murphy, the change in the entire atmosphere of the house was palpable. It was almost as if the other dogs were heaving a huge collective sigh of relief that the tyrant was gone. We had expected his litter mate, Rosie, would grieve his loss as well, but that very first day, she began to play with the other dogs and bring us toys, behaviors we had not seen in her in several years.

To say that I miss Murphy is understatement: of all the dogs I have owned, he was certainly a favorite. But the return of a stable pack has made the last two years living with an injured dog, seem like a nightmare. Yesterday, for the first time in years, we took all three of our dogs to Easter dinner at my sister’s six-dog home. An amazingly calm nine dogs shared space and toys the entire day.

Living with a pack is the best cure for grief. The other dogs teach me daily what it means to get along and be part of a loving and extended family.

Submitted by Brenda | June 13 2012 |

I've had a multiple dog family since I graduated from college and bought my own home.

I'm happy to see that for some people, having more than 2 dogs does not make one a crazy or a hoarder (my multi dog family are all vetted, chipped and licensed, and on heartworm yr round).

As you may guess or may have experienced too, I am defensive about the number of dogs in my family. I've had to develop a tough skin to hear things like: "You should get rid of half of them, or when are you going to get rid of the dogs?" Apparently these people do not realize that dogs are non-human friends that contribute to a happy life.

Recently I had an old friend come to visit. She is legally blind, so I had her sit down safely in a chair on the deck and let the dogs out one by one. They ran and swarmed her as dogs do. She laughed and laughed and throughly enjoyed herself. I expect she will visit often now to get her "dog fix".

Submitted by Christine Cliburn | October 21 2013 |

I was down to 2 boys, close in age, who played well together, but also fought sometimes. Along came rescue #3, a girl who really wanted to play with them, but the most she got was: "You're cute, now go away." Over time things didn't change, except that she became frustrated, barking at them and pestering me. I started to consider adding a 4th... if I could find just the right one. Having spent several years caring for seniors and rescues with health and psychological issues, I was hoping for an easy one. She had to be young, similar sized with the right personality of the same breed. Time passed and she wasn't to be found.
Reluctantly, I bought a 6 month old pup. She arrived with the right personality, but with crooked teeth and a patella that severely luxated soon afterward. After months of pain, hassle and expense the breeder denied responsibility, but eventually said I could ship her back. Right. Following a very expensive orthopedic repair and spay, she has blossomed into our perfect addition and all are happier than ever before!

Submitted by Christine Cliburn | October 21 2013 |

Four is much more peaceful than three. I have 2 pairs, sometimes 2 boys and 2 girls, sometimes 2 couples. Three are from rescues, the fourth a careful purchase that didn't turn out to be the "easy" one I'd hoped, (luxated patella that was clearly known before the sale) but her sweet nature improved the group dynamic. Squabbles are rare now, and they've helped tremendously when we have foster pups.

More From The Bark

By
Robin Tierney
By
The Bark
By
Amy Engle
More in Lifestyle:
Is Your Dog Camp-Ready?
Puzzles for Dogs
What’s New: Products
Taking Rescue to the Next Level
Gone But Never Forgotten
Springtime Checklist
Crissy Field Dog Use in Peril
Reflections on the New Year
Howard & Erna Soldan Dog Park
Blessing of the Animals [Slideshow]