If I had a nickel for every time someone said “5 dogs! How do you manage?!” or “Your house must be chaos!”, I’d be a wealthy girl. The reality is that while having five dogs is slightly more complicated than owning one dog, it’s not brain surgery.
I come from a horsey background and that has helped a LOT. Horses, like almost all other animals, thrive in a predictable routine that consists of feeding, exercise (physical and mental), training, rest, and loving. I have found dogs are very similar and, like horses, appreciate being able to anticipate how their day is going to go.
My dogs’ average daily routine goes something like this:
5:30 am – Wake up, go outside, eat breakfast
7:00 am – After unsuccessfully trying to guilt the humans into taking them to work, they settle down for a nap in their respective areas. Sioux is the only one still being crated and she makes sure we know how much she doesn’t like it.
12:30 pm – Lunch time pee & treat break. I am so grateful to live close enough to where I work to be able to let everyone out at lunch. It’s an ideal schedule for both young puppies and senior dogs.
1:00 pm – I go back to work, dogs take a second nap.
4:00 pm – I arrive home from work. Everyone goes outside. Everyone gets in the car and we drive to our usual walking place (approx 15 minutes down the street)
5:30 pm – We finish our walk. From here we either go home, run errands, visit my folks, or go to training. The dogs are not all enrolled in classes at the same time (we try to keep two in formal training at a time), but everyone practices/trains to whatever degree they’re capable – have to keep those minds sharp!
7:00 pm – Dinner.
9:00 pm – Bed time
Our average weekday routine doesn’t vary too much, but our weekends are a little more flexible. We make a point to take the dogs with us anywhere they’re allowed, both for socialization and mental stimulation. I avoid dog parks at all costs, but we do like to hike in areas where other dogs sometimes appear. We also visit pet stores (PetSmart, Petco, etc) so the dogs can see other dogs in a controlled environment. Aside from our daily weekday walks where there is enough space for all five to walk at once, we usually take them out in pairs/threes as bringing all five dogs into a busy store can be too chaotic for the senior dogs and too over stimulating for higher stress dogs.
In my opinion, most of the “managing” part of multi dog ownership is common sense and forethought. When I say commons sense, I mean things like creating a schedule that works to cover the dog’s basic needs (eating, bathroom, mental stimulation, physical exercise, training). If they’re getting all their basics covered, they’re much more likely to behave the way I hope they will. By exercising forethought, I mean think about the situations I am exposing my dogs to and consider their temperaments. I always stop and think about what I’m asking my dogs to do before I do it – that way they’re much more likely to have good experiences and are less likely to become overwhelmed. By sticking to a routine and thinking ahead, most daily activities and even unexpected ones go smoothly and the entire family gets to spend time together!