“Dogs are like potatoes chips, it’s hard to have just one.” ~ unknown
Once you’ve experienced the unconditional love of a dog, and all the joys that come with having a fun-loving canine companion, it’s hard to stop at just one. When that happens, the joys may be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, but so might the work, worry, and heartache. This may be especially true if you’re a breeder or involved in canine sports and travel a lot. How do we maintain peace of mind and heart when living with more than one dog while juggling all of life’s obligations?
Read on, and discover 3 essentials to finding harmony in a multi-dog home.
Years ago, when I acquired my first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, I had no idea they’d become addictive. They’re beautiful, friendly, fun-loving, comforting and easy to care for… what’s one more? However, what began as a simple task of caring for one dog risked turning my comfy calm life resembling a bed of roses into a garden of weeds. Thankfully, I learned early on the art of creating a beautiful garden.
Finding harmony in a multi-dog home is similar to creating a beautiful garden.
In preparing this article I interviewed Cindy, a friend whose garden could be compared to Monet’s—it’s extraordinarily beautiful and harmonious. As we spoke, I discovered we had much in common. People often wonder why she would want such a large garden—I mean the more you plant, the more you have to care for, right? Her response echoed the words of my heart: “It’s my passion!” I asked her to offer three words that would inspire others to find harmony in their garden. Her response: Passion, Patience, and Perseverance. These are the same three essentials I would apply to finding harmony in a multi-dog home.
PASSION is desire, it’s energy, it’s love… it’s what drives me on when life gets tough. When people wonder why I’ve chosen a hobby that involves so much work, I respond, “It’s my passion, not my work.” I love sharing my heart and home with my dogs, participating in dog sports, raising the occasional litter, training dogs, and being surrounded by unconditional love at every turn. Of course it’s not all cuddles and kisses. There are lots of little chores, and the more dogs, the more chores, training, grooming, and daily cleaning just to name a few, not to forget the cost involved in caring for multiple dogs ( i.e. vet bills, high quality foods, supplements, supplies) Like any family with several children, or like Cindy with a large garden, it all takes work. But Cindy and I agreed—we passionately love what we do, and we have the time and energy to do it. That said, we must continually reflect on our goals, making sure that we’ve not taken on more than we can handle. Benjamin Franklin writes, “If passion drives you, let reason be your reins.”
PATIENCE is collaborating with nature’s pace. Dogs are entrusted to us like precious seeds. Collaborating with Mother Nature means coming alongside each seed, providing for its needs, then patiently watching it grow. We cannot expect too much too soon from our pups. That means when our dogs express certain undesirable behaviors (i.e. digging, marking furniture, chewing shoes, excessive barking), we must remain calm. That said, we can patiently reinforce the behaviors we desire, while being diligent to weed and prune the behaviors we don’t want. Weeds are much easier to pull if they’re caught early before they’ve developed deep roots—hence the importance of early socialization and training. Be patient. Beautiful gardens take time. And when you’re raising more than one dog it can be a bit more challenging. The danger is that while we wait for results, we become discouraged. That is when we need to persevere. A house full of well mannered dogs is definitely possible. And it’s such a joy! We also need to be patient with our personal dreams. “Best in show” doggies or agility stars are not born overnight, neither is a strong breeding program.
PERSEVERANCE is what takes us across the finish line despite the aches and pains, and even the slips and falls. When I chose to have more than one dog, I knew it would involve work, but I had no idea that life would throw so many unexpected blows to trip me up—dog health issues, whelping issues, a family crisis, illness, and constant moving… all things that frustrated my dreams and risked making me want to give up. But my husband often told me, “It’s not only how you start the race, it’s how you finish.” Had I not persevered during the tough times, I would never have seen the fruit of my labor as a dog show exhibitor and breeder, and multi-dog owner seeking happiness and harmony in my heart and home. I’m also convinced that learning to relax, have fun, and enjoy our dogs is a key factor in our ability to persevere. I mean, who creates a beautiful garden and doesn’t take the time to enjoy it? My dogs are constantly tickling my funny bone. The ability to laugh at doggie mishaps invites the sunshine, making our home a warm and inviting place for the entire family! It makes me so happy that my children (now young adults) hold happy memories of growing up with dogs.
Lastly, keep in mind that not everyone’s garden will look alike. We must not fall into the comparison trap. Some folks aren’t bothered by fur on the sofa, barky dogs, or wild games of doggie chase around the kitchen island. Some people can multi-task several litters, raise children, and manage life’s activities while everyone is happy and well cared for. Others may find this impossible. I don’t think it’s beneficial to compare gardens, nor to consider one garden better than another. Rather, we should focus on our own garden and goals and lead by example. My personal goal is to see each member of my family happy and content—husband, children, and dogs. I’ve learned the joy of juggling! That said, I must always be careful not to take on too many activities, or it could all come tumbling down. If that means saying “no” to something, that’s okay. Every decision regarding my family and dogs is bathed in prayer to ensure I don’t take on too much.
Years ago, I heard this phrase that challenged my goals, “Too many flowers in a garden and none come to bloom.” I asked Cindy if this was accurate. She said it’s not about “how many” seeds you plant, it’s about making sure each seed has its own space to grow. When seeds are scattered on the ground too close together, they’ll be either too tall, or too skinny, and some may even die. Her words, “It will be an ugly garden; it all depends what you want.”
Do your dogs have enough “space, soil, and nutrients” to encourage proper growth?
Offering enough space for our dogs proper growth involves caring for their basic needs—providing proper nutrition,shelter, exercise, grooming, and regular veterinary care. Without these things, it would be almost impossible for our furry friends to flourish. Making space can also mean many other things. For me it involves allotting time for individual bonding with each dog—personal cuddle time, grooming time, individual training and walks. It might also involve working with all of my dogs together to encourage unity and group focus. It also means making sure that all things dog related are kept clean and disinfected when needed. Good record keeping (vet records, breeding records, etc) is also important, whether keeping records for one dog, or more than one. There is lots more that can be said about offering enough “space, soil, and nutrients” for each dog to thrive. Bottom line is to know our dogs, and provide what they need to ensure their proper growth, both physically and mentally.
Living in a multi-dog home teaches countless life lesson, like the importance of routine, discipline, and sacrifice. Living with more than one dog and/or pursuing dog related hobbies like breeding and conformation can be very costly and time-consuming. You will most likely find yourself sacrificing of your time and money, even giving up vacations when necessary and some personal luxuries in order to afford their upkeep. It will take passion, patience, and perseverance to maintain happy dogs and find balance in our heart and home. It is a lot of work, much like creating a beautiful garden. But it’s also very rewarding work. Despite the sacrifices and occasional heartache, every dog I’ve lived with and raised has been worth my efforts, and seeing a harmonious garden (husband, children, and doggies) in full bloom is my greatest reward!
What do you want your garden to look like?
Be passionate, patient, and most of all persevere until your dreams come true!
Leila is the recipient of the AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Public Service Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America. She writes to inspire love, care, and compassion for dogs. About the Author.
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Do you have more than one dog?
Are you involved in canine sports and/or breeding dogs?
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“My Beloved Dogs” is a must read for pet owners, breeders, and those competing in canine sports. The record keeping charts provide a wonderful way to keep track of your dogs’ achievements. The section on individual dog’s records makes it easy to keep track of the health of each dog. Having all this information in one place is really the highlight. Well written and organized, this book will surely become a treasured companion!”—Norma Patton, AKC Judge
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Watch the Book Trailer
This book is the perfect companion for the multi-dog home and dog show enthusiast! Whether you’re heading to a dog show or to the vet, you’ll appreciate having all your dogs’ important information in one place. Stash the book in your grooming bag to record your wins, or take along to the vet for easy access to health records.Your pet sitter will also appreciate having your dogs’ health history and emergency contacts to consult at a moment’s notice.
Here is a peek at what you will find inside:
- Record keeping space for up to 20 dogs
- Charts for health testing and Vaccinations
- Charts for heat cycles, stud service, and Hopeful pups.
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For more information click here.
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