The Benefits of Having Multiple Dogs

There’s something special (and valuable!) about it
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2016, Updated July 2020
benefits of multiple dogs

Having two dogs can be more than twice as much work as having one, and having three can require way more than three times as much effort. That pattern continues as the number of dogs increases. There’s no doubt that having a multi-dog household is a big undertaking, and yet many people can barely imagine having just one dog in their heart and home at the same time. They would miss scenes like an adorable dog pile, having their dogs do zoomies together after a bath, or just rolling around in sync.

Pictured below are the three dogs—from two different households—that my family recently hosted for a couple of days, and it was a good experience for all of us. The dogs all live on the same street and their guardians are friends, so they know each other. Luckily, they all get along.

The companionship they gave one another during their stay with us made me happy, and not just because it took some pressure off of me to make sure that they were having fun. When I observed them together, there was a comfort in the company they provided one another that was lovely to see. I’m not saying it is better or worse than the social benefits to dogs of being around people, but it’s different.

benefits of having two dogs Above is a photo of Marley and Saylor successfully holding their “stay” while Rosie (out of view) played with a toy nearby.

Benefits of a Multi-Dog Household

- Multiple dogs to comfort you when feeling down
- You are more likely to have a couch companion
- And you more likely to have an adventure companion too
- Get welcomed home multiple wagging tails
- Multiple dogs means more silliness
- Your dogs will each have a playmate
- You dogs will never be alone

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Despite the extra work for the people, I kept thinking about the benefits for the dogs of being in a group, beyond just how nice it was for them to have a couple of buddies of the same species around.

Living with Multiple Dogs: People who model peaceful, generous and courteous behavior create a household culture that dogs, who are highly attuned to social etiquette, recognize. Puppies growing up in such households are especially likely to adopt that culture. More often than not, multiple dogs do get along. Positives of Having a Pack

Training Challanges with Multiple Dogs

There are obviously drawbacks to having more than one dog, but some of those can be channeled positively. Having multiple dogs can provide training challenges, but it also offers opportunities to help dogs learn to attend to a person despite big distractions. While these dogs were visiting us, I made a point of doing some training sessions with the added difficulty of having other dogs around.

Performing any skill in a distracting environment is a challenge, and the presence of other dogs is often particularly hard for social dogs. With three dogs in the house, it was easy to set up situations where one dog worked on a skill while one or both other dogs were there. Rosie worked on her “spin” trick a lot during her visit. In the first video above, she practices it while the other dogs are not around. That work was to lay the groundwork for the success you can see in the second video below, in which she spins when the other two dogs are present.

Walking Two or More Dogs

Walking two (or more) dogs at the same time is not always easy, but it offers opportunities, too. Each time one dog stops to sniff or for a potty break, the other dogs need to exercise patience.

It’s hard standing around when you want to keep going, but being required to do so brings benefits. Handling frustration and exhibiting self-control in such situations is beneficial to dogs. Similarly, waiting your turn when it comes to treats or dinner also gives dogs practice with emotional self-control, and that is an important part of maturing into a pleasant adult.

My main concern before the shared visit was making sure that Marley, who is 10 years old, had some peace and quiet from both his regular housemate Saylor, who is about a year old, and from his neighbor Rosie, who is about eight months old. Marley likes both dogs and often plays with them, but he needs more rest and snoozy time than the young pups. He opted out of some play sessions, as many older dogs often do. He would take a rest, hang out with us or chew on something while the other two played.

We also helped Marley get away if he wanted to by letting him up on our couch, but not allowing the younger dogs to bother him when he was there.

The only reason it ever felt overwhelming to have three dogs was a result of bad luck in the form of the weather. It rained all day in the middle of the visit, which meant that every time the dogs came inside, we had a dozen wet, muddy paws to deal with. I’m not going to lie—that was a big hassle. Other than that, we had a glorious time while these three little angels were visiting us.

What advantages do you appreciate about having multiple dogs?

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She has authored five books on canine training and behavior.