Somehow I have found myself with only two dogs - two bitchy girls. I have had hundreds of dogs come through my home over the years: foster dogs, boarding dogs, visiting family dogs, roommate dogs, dogs in training for service or therapy work, and our personal dogs. Until recently, we had four resident dogs in the house. Then, suddenly, there were only two. These two wonderful, loyal, sweet, playful, sassy, guardy, snuggly, obsessive, opinionated, grumpy, happy, energetic, and lazy, bitchy girls. I love them.
I have spent years telling clients how important it is to spend individual time with each of the dogs in a multi-dog household. Take one on a walk, then alternate, rather than taking both. Give each pup the attention they need and deserve. Give each pup the focused training and handling that they need to thrive. Sure, I understand that time constraints make it challenging to always work one dog at a time, but everyone in the house will benefit if, at least some of the time, you can spend the time, with just one at a time.
When I had four dogs in my house, I couldn't imagine taking all the dogs out together. I had a senior dog who walked at an incredibly slow pace and preferred to spend his time smelling the flowers, rather than traveling down the road. I had a puppy who needed a ton of focused attention to make sure he picked up the correct skill set on every outing. I had an adolescent female who thought (still thinks) that Mom is here for her, and her alone. I had an older female who always got the short end of the training stick because "she's such a good girl", when in reality, her leash skills are atrocious! Trying to walk these four dogs together just wouldn't be fair to anyone - me or any of the dogs involved. So, solo sessions were our jams!
Flash forward to the beginning of 2021, when I have only 2 dogs. These two girls. They both LOVE Mom and are quite responsive. They both have excellent off leash and recall skills. They both prefer to be trotting and traveling on their outings. And every time they go somewhere new together, I see these little glimpses of, we'll say sisterly, bonding. (Quick backstory - in general, these girls tend to coexist together, but would both be totally ok if the other one decided to move out - any sign of companionship between the two is quite exciting.) So, maybe there should be more "together" walks in our lives. Maybe this is a new thing that I should make an effort to incorporate into our routines. Since these girls are actually getting MORE individual attention anyway (now that there are only two dogs in the house) it makes sense to practice this new family activity together.
About 15 minutes down the road there is a fabulous state park with multiple, huge fields for off-leash dog exercise. I have taken Katia (3 yr old, Black Russian Terrier x Rottweiler) to this park many times. It's a great option for me to be lazy and just let her cruise, while I slowly follow behind and listen to the latest podcast on revolutionary dog training discoveries or emotional wellness or best business practices for the busy entrepreneur. Bindi (11 yr old, Border Collie x Pug x ?) has tagged along a couple of times and has done surprisingly well for the often overlooked "good girl" with minimal recent practice in such a stimulating place. Typically, these outings consist of both girls loping big circles and figure eights around me and each other, smiling and bounding around in the grass, until eventually Bindi locks on to a gopher hole and Katia happens upon the world's greatest stick. After some time spent sniffing all the things, digging holes, and shredding tree debris, we meander back towards the car with the girls walking side-by-side, satisfied and ready for a drink and a couch to crash on.
But today, the outing with the girls played out a bit differently. Today, I left the park embarrassed and frustrated. Today, I remembered why it's SO important to remember to focus that solo attention on each member of the (dog)family - because everyone has their own needs and meeting those needs is imperative for a happy life with happy dogs.
Continue to Part 2 --->