Love and Alchemy

FEBRUARY 15, 2011 9:59PM

Multi-Dog Homes: Twice as Nice or Double the Trouble? (OC)

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I have not been around much lately. I apologize. My colleagues and I are trying to respond to a request by a  local school district  and we need to process the paperwork and try to be in and out of schools before April, before testing season. The last thing teachers and students need once testing season begins is a bunch of outsiders asking them to do ONE MORE THING. So I am working feverishly.

 My dog Lola is by my side.

Athletic, smart, playful Lola. Her support goes something like this:

Lola: OK. I am going to sit here very quietly and stare at mom. I am going to look very earnest.

(5 seconds pass).  

 Lola: Let me try my furrowed brow look for extra earnestness.

(5 seconds pass). Lola rearranges her butt on the floor.

 Lola: Well, maybe mom does not see me here needing some attention.

(Big. Fat. Doggie. Sigh)

 Lola: Damn, what is wrong with her. Maybe some ear piercing whining will help.

 (Whining and whimpering ensues. If you speak dog, you'll make out Lola saying, "Whatcha doin'? I'm BORED.)

 Lola: Darn those positive training classes she took!!! She knows better than to respond. Maybe if I show her what I want.

 (Lola goes over to the table where the laser light is, jumps up a few times and then goes to the bottom of the staircase and looks at me).

 Lola:See!!! All you have to do is shine that light up and down the stairs and I'll show you how fast I can run up and down the stairs.)

 (15 seconds pass. Long exasperated sigh. Lola plops herself one her office dog bed. And proceeds to pout.

 Lola: OK. OK. I'll lie here and play with my chew toy but I am not going to like it.

 And so it goes. She has her doggie play group but these days 3 hours (on days that are not so cold) of running around the yard, playing tag and ball and chase and running up and down the basement steps are not enough to wear her out.

 As I watched her with her nose in the air today, a day warm enough to melt the snow, I saw her so excited to be able to SMELL STUFF again. She smelled the air, the bushes, burrowed her nose in the muddy yard, dug up some toys, ran around and played catch all by herself. I joined her and she romped and ran and seemed so proud to show me she could run and squeak her ball at the same time.

 But a girl's got to make a living and I realized we needed to find more enrichment for her. This is one smart doggie. All of a sudden I am reminded of all that victorian chick lit - you know, the novels where the  beautiful smart corsetted within an in of her life heroine is locked  up in some big house ,her only relief going out for a breath of fresh air on the balcony that overlooks the cloistered rose garden. There, we find our heroine. Longing, longing to break from her mind stiflingly dreary existence.

 My Lola is swooning over her proverbial doggie balcony, longing for some excitement, poor girl.

After discussing some of this with OS Catherine Forsythe, the most phenomenal dog reader I have ever met, I started with mental exercises; armed  with Catherine Forsythe's fabulous liver treats   Tonight,  Lola learned two new tricks by shaping her behavior with clicker training. I was struck once again how much smarter she is than many people I know. The point of "shaping" is to click and treat dogs any time they make a step in the direction of a behavior you'd like them to learn. You can watch a video of shaping and clicker training here.

 It was fun to watch the wheels turn as Lola tried to figure out what behavior would get her a treat, first trying moves that had been rewarded in the past, like touching a ball with her paw, or rolling a toy on the floor with her nose. She groaned with indignance when these behaviors were not met with a reward (I was trying to get her to turn clockwise). She eventually got it.

 And then passed out with exhaustion. 

 So I will continue with obedience training and shaping. And as the weather gets warmer, we are going to start running. But I know what Lola really loves is to play with other dogs. 

 We all need our peeps people.

 I have relied on a small playgroup run by her sitter, but as the weather improves, her sitter will be taking up her lawn business and since I will only leave her at play group when the dogs can be supervised, Lola's socializing may be curtailed.

 What to do? I am not a fan of dog parks because the humans are unreliably trained and most doggie daycares have dozens of dogs wandering aimlessly in small enclosed areas.

 It's hard out here for a pup. 

 So I have been contemplating a second dog. I daily torture myself by scouring local dog rescue sites for possible good matches, cheering when dogs that have stayed a bit too long at the shelter finally get adopted.

Catherine Forsythe said to me a wise old dog trainer told her a smart dog will make you a smarter trainer. But I am still learning and I feel as though I have let Lola down in the training department. So while I know she would love a companion that would run and play with her, I am torn. Another dog will still mean a significant investment of my time and energy, particularly while I am establishing house rules etc. The Italian fatalist in me ponders the worst case scenario of my dying and how hard it has been to find friends able to care for one doggie orphan, much less two.

What to do? 

 There are those who say, there's more love to go around. And others who say, are you out of your @#$$%^ mind?

 So all you dog lovers out there (and all you dog and cats with blogs who'd like to weigh in on your experiences) - what have your experiences been with multiple dog households? Twice as nice? Or double the trouble? 

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Catherine should have her own dog training column.. Glad to see you
I have two dogs and they love each other so much, I do not worry about leaving them alone. They sleep like Yin and Yang. They are totally in sync to each other and I have twice as much love. I always tell them that "God gave me 2 hands so that I could pet you both at the same time."
rated with love
i started out with one pup (she is now 2 years old) but like you, i was working long hours and pepper (the pup) was usually sluggish the whole day because, i think, of lack of exercise.she was also not eating most of the time which worried me though the vet told me that nothing's wrong with her, i figured it was because she longed for someone to play with her ( i only get to play with her on weekends) so then i got polo, (same breed, shih tzu). polo is a boy and pepper is a girl. they now have 3 pups, 2 are with me the other one i gave to my bf. so now i have a total of 4 dogs in the house. everything's cool, so far so good :) the pups are being toilet trained so i don't have much of a problem cleaning after them. i never thought i'd have this many dogs (my mom's helping me out sometimes) and for me it has been one of the best decisions i have made :) you just have to develop a routine and everything's (almost) manageable.
I don't know, my pooch would never tolerate another dog in his house-- but I would like a second one.

When I was growing up we had two dogs. Dog A loved, loved, loved Dog B. The feeling was not mutual though, and Dog B spent her life trying to get away from Dog A.

So I'm dying to know the mental exercises--my dog has been very bored lately as well (I love how you describe it--perfect!) Maybe I'll pm Catherine?
I had 5 dogs at one time. They were all small non shedding so that helped and it was much fun. I don't think anyone needs 5 dogs, but 2 are definitely better than 1. They develop such a great bond and are never lonely. -R-
Oh, sweet little Lola, I love how her mind works. For me dogs are like kids, if you have 1 or 5 you're still just worn out, and stuff gets trashed either way. If I have one dog (or child) I feel guilty, if I have two, then I'm worn out, stuff is trashed and I don't feel guilty about how lonely they are when I'm too pooped to play. It seemed like the same amount of work for me to have 2 as 1 (dogs and kids both). The money is a whole different issue only you will know, two vet bills, food, etc.

Advantage to 1 dog (or child), you always know who broke the lamp. Either way, lamps will be casualties. I hate thinking about my cat alone all day too, I'm getting her a dog some day when I get another job.
Antoinette, thank you for the kind words. I have been fortunate and have been taught by some very bright dogs.

- "then passed out with exhaustion". ~ I am going to assume that it was Miss Lola who passed out. It is "ok" if it was you too.

In case of what you call a "worst case scenario", Miss Lola always has a place in my home.
iq - Max would actually be a perfect companion!!! And I think they'd make a cute couple! Yes, all your reasoning makes perfect sense.

Hi Linda!!! I have missed my Linda. Hugs back to you from me and Lola!! And I agree about Catherine - a healer of all creatures!

Romantic Poetess: when I see the way Lola adores some of her best buddies, I know that you are right about the love b/w dogs and also that I have two hands!!! And I figure I'll just have to get a king sized bed.

Hi Hermione-- thanks for stopping by and sharing. Sounds like one big happy household!!
Caroline Marie - dogs aver very different in their need of canine companionship and age is also very much a factor. Also their spoiled quotient. Lola may be just a tad spoiled and I wonder if she'll want to share me. Catherine remined me that mental stimulation will wear dogs out faster than physical exercise. Any kind of obedience training will do it. I find shaping to be the most challenging, but even go through and reinforcing different commands will help!

Christine - wow!! 5!! I do think you're right though, the trick is to try to get low shedding dogs. That would make a huge difference.

Bleue-- you are so funny. I see your point about kids and dogs !

Hi Catherine!! We both passed out from exhaustion but it was so nice to feel as though we had enjoyed a nice challenge together. In fifteen minutes she was worn out more than if I'd walked her a couple of miles. And I am so very touched by your offer to take Lola. I know she would be so happy. You are very very sweet.
I so love reading this. Lola is so beyond lucky to have you for her mom. Lola, are you listening. I have been very lucky to live with two little dogs but not at the same time. Lil Bit was so much company for me. Your descriptions of Lola's needing you make me smile. Lil Bit was never as subtle as that, but she was the most perfect snuggler. I even miss that cold little nose nudging me to wake me all through the night. OK. We never did the training school. No wonder I can't remember how to sleep. My kitty man friend and his wife also have two labs. They've all been to doggy school and when they listen to commands, they are very good. Mostly, like all of us, they just want to know they are loved. Kitty man is not so good with the commands. His wife keeps the order and he gives all his love. Wonder if they are awake yet. I could go and visit. Smiling here. As iq says, it will be interesting to see what others think. Meanwhile, I'll get biscuits for Vinny.
Well Larson would probably like a sibling but I can't stand the thought of the whole first year all over. May be cat...I do like that the cost is kept down w/ one. Click training sounds very interesting and something I will look into.
Hi Anna1liese, glad to have you stop by. If Lola had Vinny and Max nearby, I am sure she'd have all the playmates she needs (she likes the boys)! I knew when I got Lola she was no couch potato and the training really helps. Lola gets something out of it too!

Hi TG -- clicker training is absolutely amazing. There are videos and books. Or look for a positive dog training class. It really teaches dogs how to learn and is a lot of fun.
When the kids left for college, my parents adopted a dog from a shelter. Then, someone gave them a kitten. Next came another dog adoption. It was a little dog found in the neighborhood. Since the dogs outnumbered the cat, the numbers had to be evened out. All four of them are pals and my parents still seem sane.
Your Lola and my Drea obviously took drama classes together. I recognize the sigh and high pitched whine routine. I don't know where you live--but if you are near me, we could do play dates. I have had two..and for several years three- dogs for many years now. I try not to get them near the same age. Drea was an accident. Long story.,but more is definitely better!!
After awhile Jovi just lays by the back door and emits periodic loud sighs.

I have had max 3 dogs + assorted visitors at one time and always have found that 2 is easier than 1 but it depends on the dogs. A certain amount of what you do for 2 dogs you are already doing for 1 so the increased time required isn't proportional. The new dog, especially if you choose wisely, will want to fit in to his new group and will look to Lola for an example. She will carry some of your training load. (I know some trainers say this doesn't happen but some trainers are excessively anthropocentric and wrong besides.) I made an error in selecting Jovi's new dog and so it's more work for me, detracts from my time with him and does not provide him with a good playmate. Choose more carefully than I did if you go the multiple dog route. Do not choose a female.

I frequent and love and believe in and would not live without dog parks but I have better choices in them than most people. The smaller one is 80 acres, about 1/3 of that usable as dog park. Even a 10-15 minute run in the dark(ish) during the coldest weather has a positive effect on Jovi’s spirit. He gets more exercise in the same amount of time if he can run at full speed and not be restrained by me and a leash. I have not found the behavior of other dogs or people to be a particular problem but we can always move far away if necessary.

This is the potentially useful part: For a long time I put 1/2 of Jovi's daily kibble in a treat ball, a ball with holes he could roll around the house to make the pieces drop out. After the granddog destroyed the first ball, I began to feed 1/2 his kibble in several (3-8) small dishes, hidden around the house. Sometimes there would be only a few pieces of kibble in a dish. The theory is that he is hunting or otherwise working for his food. It made a difference for him, in spirit and activity level.
Suerte con todo el sounds like a fascinating project~
All my perros queridos were de la would never have done, though. Saludos a Lola, surely the most guapa del parque.
Hi Eve, glad to hear they lived to tell the tale. I think there's something to the idea there every creature needs a peep.

Satori1-unfortunately, you are on the wrong coast for play datas, but yes, Lola is definitely a drama queen. Maybe I just need to jump in!

Hi Nerd --people here really don't have any sense that they need to figure out if their dog likes to play with other dogs and that they need to have control of their dogs. Three close friends have either been seriously injured themselves or had their dogs injured so I avoid them. Lola makes use of our yard to run, but somehow its not the same unless she's playing with another dog.

Now you are onto something with food games. We already do the stuffed kongs but I think the food bowls all over the house is a good idea and she'd like that. I'll definitely try it!!

Catch - obrigada. Tens razao she's the hottie of her pack; ele merece un guapo!
Antoinette, I am so late to this, my apologies. Perhaps you've found a solution by now. Although I'm neither an owner nor familiar with dogs, I have a friend who owns two dogs. They are baby sat while she works or travels. You'd probably have much in common. She would not have it any other way.
My husband and I each had a dog before marriage. Both dogs really love each other. It may have been a deal-breaker, if the dogs had not got along. Think of us as the Brady Bunch, with dogs instead of kids.
I am a proud resident of a multi-dog home - I have Clyde, an Australian Shepherd mix, Kashi, a German Shepherd mix, and Maddie, a somewhat-geriatric Cocker Spaniel. Its a good thing, most of the time, because what was once lets play "throw the slobbery, slimey dog toy for hours" time is now filled with Kashi and Clyde playing with each other. I do have to allot extra time in the morning to make sure everybody gets to go outside, eat, and go outside again (sometimes), though. AND sometimes I have to wake up in the middle of the night to take them outside for potty breaks - but hey, it makes me appreciate the plights of our forefathers and mothers who had to use outhouses! :-)