Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 14, 2015

A Temporarily Large “Pack” of Dogs

Posted at 08:47AM - Comments: (15)

I own two dogs. One is Otto, my heart dog. He’s a largish mutt, about 7 years old, well-trained, well-behaved, and well-socialized. He serves very effectively as a watchdog, letting us know when anyone enters our front gate – and when UPS has a package for us. Or anyone else on our street. Barring his suspicion of UPS, he’s a joy to live with.

The second dog I own is Tito, also about 7 years old. He’s a probable Chihuahua-mix, having been purchased (by a relative) as a purported purebred puppy from a likely puppy mill. His start in life was a little rough, and he bounced from one relative’s home to another, picking up “issues” along the way. But he’s an astute observer of behavior, and once he landed here he just started going along with the program, more or less. Aside from his barking when friends arrive, he stirs up no trouble in the house, in the car, or on the trail. He follows Otto cheerfully, and though they don’t cuddle or sleep together ever, they get along with perfect understanding.

I’d be perfectly happy with just one dog again, but two works out fine, especially when number two is so easy. But this summer, I’ve got a few extras.

The first is my daughter-in-law’s dog, Sadie, a little scrap of a puppy-mill air-quotes Miniature Schnauzer – there is probably a little Miniature Schnauzer in there somewhere. My daughter-in-law is away, helping with a seriously ill relative, so 5-year-old Sadie is staying with me. She’s sweet, playful, and a funny little character. If she wasn’t so shrill, she’d be a lot less annoying to have around, but her bark is high-pitched, piercing, and frequent.

The next “extra” dog is my son’s coonhound, Cole. My son is on the road with various sports teams this summer for more than three weeks, so I get time with my granddog. Cole is 2 years old now, and growing up into a lovely young man of a dog. He’s affectionate and biddable, well-socialized, and friendly to everyone he meets. But his restless habit of trying to agitate the other dogs into playing – “C’mon, everyone, this is boring! Let’s play! I’ve got your toy! Try to catch me! – makes my adult dogs grumpy. Cole will nudge and nudge and nudge, sometimes dropping toys on top of my sleeping dogs, until one of them snaps and launches after him. In delight, and not the least bit afraid, Cole will spin and fly out of the room, thrilled that he’s finally gotten a reaction out of someone. It’s a tad disruptive of our quiet days.

One blessing (and curse) of having Cole here: we HAVE to get out for a long off-leash run every day. It makes me get all the dogs (and myself) out for more exercise than we would ordinarily make time for. If I don’t manage to make time for this, I lose sleep at night, when the clicking of Cole’s toenails pacing up and down my hall all night, and the occasional “Baarooooooooo!” of a hound call in the middle of the night, for example, when through our front security screen door, he spots a cat walking across the street. It’s easier to make sure we go for a run every day.

The last extra dog is a foster from my shelter, a perhaps 2-year-old Chihuahua/Dachshund-mix. I took in her and her tiny 3-week-old puppy a few months ago, to help raise and then place the puppy in a good home. That got accomplished, but the mommy really needs more socializing and training before she’ll be able to find a good home. She’s incredibly sweet and affectionate, but also suspicious and growly around new people. Despite having been with me for more than a couple months, I haven’t managed to take her out into the world to work on this with her very much. First, I didn’t want to take her away from her puppy, then she was recovering from her spay surgery, and then she licked a wound open, near the end of her healed-over spay incision, so she’s wearing a cone until it’s fully healed again.

How do people manage having this many dogs all the time? I’m finding it hard to adjust to having to sweep and mop every day (sometimes more than once a day), and I suspect my friends are daunted by the thought of dropping by spontaneously, as it takes a good five-plus minutes to get all the dogs calm and settled after anyone comes to the door. Also, with five dogs around, there is no odd sound in the neighborhood that goes unnoticed by at least one of the dogs (usually the ever-alert small ones), and once one dog sounds an alarm, they are all keen to join in. Who wants to be the last dog responding to an emergency, such as the mailman passing by?

Needless to say, we are working a LOT on ALL the dogs’ polite behavior at the door, and a “group emergency recall” to bring the whole bunch of them to me as quickly as possible. Group training sessions are surprisingly effective for teaching former strays like the mommy dog how to behave; she’s learned quickly how to follow everyone else’s lead for treats.

This won’t last forever. One by one, the three “extras” will return to their own homes, and it will be calm and (mostly) quiet around here again. I love and enjoy each and every one of these dogs for different reasons, but five is a little much for me.







Comments (15)

5 isn't so bad...I have 9, age ranges between 13 & 1 yr., and (wait for it) yes, they are BC and Aussie mixes, except for my Mother's chihuahua and a Springer! I dread rainy days the worst... and it IS unending laundry. I enjoy the pack dynamics seeing who buds w/ who, the play dynamics, and the various energy levels. Now, being so smart, you'd think they could learn to pick up after themselves. LOL! I've just learned that when cooking/baking for others, there is a disclaimer, stating any dog hair found is just a mere garnish to the dish...

Posted by: dogsma | July 16, 2015 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Yes I can totally relate to your situation...we have just increased our pack to 8. We have 4 of our own.....2 Goldens ages 10 and 10 1/2 years, Great Dane mix age 10 years, Shih Tzu age 15 years? We are fostering 2 puppies age approx. 6 months....and also 2 adult dogs.....one was a former foster dog....one not a former foster but the adopter lost her job and asked me to care for both dogs while she gets herself together. Yes my hobbies are daily vacuuming and an enormous amount of laundry...dog beds and dog towels.

Posted by: Olivia | July 16, 2015 7:55 AM    Report this comment

Down the years I've tried to stop at three, but another one always seems to infiltrate and we're back to four. I can imagine how joyful it can be to have just the one - but I don't think I'll be sampling that anytime soon! Walks are easier when split into two.

Posted by: Beverley@BrilliantFamilyDog | July 15, 2015 11:07 AM    Report this comment

Loved the story. I have 9 in the home. 6 Cocker Spaniels, 2 shih tzus and my sons mixed something. 2 dog doors and alot of segragation barriers. My welcome home greeting is huge and yes, the alert system is huge also. The personalities are all diff and thats what makes this house a home. I vaccum daily around baseboards of wood floor. Only carpet is in my bedroom and only 2 sleep in there. My male is very passive but have 1 female that is pack leader. She is like stuck in teenage mode. Knows everything, rules everyone and gets into all mischeif possible. She is 7 goin on 2. I have milk crates on chairs to keep her off table. All laundry is kept up high. Any sock at her availability is destroyed and digested. All others are slowing down and growing old gracefully. She dominates others, picks fights then licks their face n ears n sleep together. The fights get pretty bad. Ive tried to not ellivate the situation to try to defuse but doesnt always work. Broom wont even break it up. I dont know what to do to get hold this problem. I cant stand by and watch my girls shred eat other. Any advice??

Posted by: Mmcurry | July 15, 2015 7:26 AM    Report this comment

Wonderful essay - thank you! I related to your pack - your two sound a lot like our two, & as a former schnauzer mom, I know the voice of which you write. The most I've ever had in my care was four, & just for a week - they were all wonderful, but it was a full-time job. Thank you to all the caregivers!

Posted by: jldeey | July 14, 2015 7:48 PM    Report this comment

Lol we have 4 Newfoundlands and a Pom.
Out house is far from spotless, dog hair abounds 20 minutes after vacuuming lol.

Our oldest is my Ellemae, my first show dog. We had a ball doing it and she has her AKC CH then we went for a Draft Dog title and at the age of 9 she got her DD!
She is a beautiful black girl even now at 12.
The other 3 are Brown Newfies. 2 from Germany. Our male has his International Championship but I got old and arthritic so our showing days are over.
The last two are my brown Newfie girls and sadly never shown as I cannot aymore. They live a great life, doggy door to a half acre grassy yard but they prefer to be in the house with us or going for rides in the car.
The Pom is now 9 years old and still the boss over all Newfies and cats. She goes everywhere with us ( in cool/cold weather).
This is our little family and we love them all.

Posted by: Sherrie | July 14, 2015 7:22 PM    Report this comment

We suddenly became the proud owners (family) of 5 dogs this year! We had adopted a large young Bouvier type dog 3 years ago to be a companion to our old wonderful lab. When our lab passed away it was a terrible loss and empty place in our hearts. We adopted a Shih Tzu puppy about 6 months later. Well, then we got another Shih Tzu for his companion, then voile - 3 puppies appeared a year later! Whew! This was not planned, yet we loved them! One puppy has been adopted by a wonderful family, but it looks like the other two have joined our permanent family group. We make our own dog food and everyone is thriving. We tried the commercial kibbles,much easier, but rashes, strange crusts, etc. developed on some of their skins. Once we started making our own, everything cleared up and everyone is happy. So - all is well - having 5 dogs brings us (and them, we hope) lots of joy and pleasure. So - it is possible! Incidentally, we live on a large farm.

Posted by: Tucker | July 14, 2015 6:35 PM    Report this comment

Pack dynamics are very interesting. It's always amusing to watch the hierarchy, especially at bedtime. No one would dare disturb the oldest female once she settles in her place on the bed...

I currently have 4 dogs, 3 are 9 yrs old & one is 8 yrs old. As much as I complain about the cost, the messes, no trips away from home, etc., I am already dreading how quiet the house will get as they die off. & wonder how the last one will handle being alone as they were raised from puppies as a pack & are devoted to each other.

I love them & would do anything for them...lol

Posted by: Scamp's mom | July 14, 2015 2:28 PM    Report this comment

Totally understand. Have 5 dogs. 1 mother and her 2 pups (small dogs) and then 2 other rescues (med dogs). I find it crazy and fun and most days exhausting! They entertain each other and aggravate mostly. Very noisy for alerts. I try not to worry about floors etc but take a few days a week to get things in order. usually a day in-between! I keep sheets and towels on all furniture and change out during the week. Keeps things from getting so worn out. I love them all and wouldn't trade any of them. Just take deeps breaths at times and grab one to cuddle. Works for me:)

Posted by: marti1234 | July 14, 2015 1:41 PM    Report this comment

I have 4dogs and it's a job .I started with one my little terrier mix and my son had a gorgeous bejion freez don't know if my spelling is right ,that he didn't have the patience because they don't like to be alone .He is a loving dog .then my Granddaughter had the brother to my terrier and he was being abused and ignored tied up on the porch like a prisoner after 3yrs they decided to give him to the pound so I ended up with him it takes a lot of patience to tame him from all the anger and hurt he has been through.it's been 2yrs and he is getting better .And 3months ago my nephew brought his children's pet and keeps say I will come for him next week when they find an apartment,I am aware that I am stuck with him too .it's hard feeding all of them but I am making do .Just baffled about what to do because I cannot walk them everyday because I am disabled but we go out four days a week.I love my dogs they are my companions because I live alone.They are all trained where to go to the bathroom and has their designated area to eat .

Posted by: leolaadiaz | July 14, 2015 1:18 PM    Report this comment

With three of my own dogs, a hospice foster, and two other fosters I definitely know what you mean. The youngest is seven years old. The largest is less than 15 pounds to the high pitched early warning system is certainly in full force. Other people who have never lived with a large pack just do not understand the dynamics.

Posted by: Furrykids | July 14, 2015 12:32 PM    Report this comment

I can understand how much work that a house full of dogs can be, the confusion, noise, occasional squabbles... I am a senior and I have 3 adult dogs (seniors too, 10-13 years). I live in an apartment adjacent to my son's home, everyday for the last 4 years I have provided day care for his 3, now 4 dogs, bringing them to my apartment each day so they don't have to spend 10 hours locked in kennels. So I know what a FULL house of dogs is like!
His dogs range from 6 years to 18 months, so I know how a young playful 'pup' can disrupt the lives of older dogs. I have a big yard and his dogs can go play outside during the day, his older dogs come in when they tire of the pup trying to get them to play; but MY DOGS never leave my side except to do their business. The are willing to share their home with my son's dogs if his dogs behave themselves.
My son and his family left on vacation earlier this month and I had all off his dogs 24/7 for a week, ALL of his and mine had to sleep on my bed and that was interesting and crowded. We managed since, I did not insist that they move off the bed, so it left little room for me and I had to stay in on position though out the night. BUT they were all happy and it was worth it for that few days. However, I hope they don't go on vacation again for a while.
When one loves animals, you make exceptions and you do what is needed to share your life with them. So many dogs are abused - left outside 24/7, beaten, used as bate animals, left on the streets to fend for themselves if they get to be to much trouble or someone doesn't want to pay a medical bill. I admire those who are willing to foster dogs and give them a chance at finding a new home and the love they deserve.

Posted by: Cherrill | July 14, 2015 11:35 AM    Report this comment

How can anyone have more than two dogs... come petting time.. I only have two hands..there is NOT room for a third dog.

Posted by: margefromTN | July 14, 2015 11:01 AM    Report this comment

I have 2 greyhounds and recently hound-sat for a week for a friends 3 greyhounds. Luckily I have a nice big fenced in back yard and a fairly large living space. They were sweet babies which helped. But I couldn't agree with you more. Five is just too many. I always joke about getting a third when/if I could afford to feed an extra one and pay it's vet bills. But I think I'm cured. Two is the perfect number for me.

Posted by: YIKMDLF | July 14, 2015 10:42 AM    Report this comment

I have five permanent dogs.Two of them are guard barkers, and yes, everyone has to join. I have a whistle that gets recall to the house from yard with 3 short blasts.
They usually respect each other's preferences, and they all get to sleep with a human. I have to rely on them wrestling and chasing to get daily exercise, and they seem to. We haul all or some to the off leash park a lot. They are all beautiful multi-ethnic dogs save one, who is a queenly Shiba Inu. She is more work (read smarter and mischievous) than the other 4 together. My advice: Don't look down and the floors won't need so much washing!

Posted by: Kitsumama | July 14, 2015 10:30 AM    Report this comment

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