Scruffy and Charlie, my most recent boarders, have gone home. I'm pretty sure they enjoyed their holiday and I refined my skills at multi-dog management.
|Scruffy and Charlie: a rare snapshot with both boys|
I owe a lot of this to another little guide: P. McConnell and K. London's Feeling Outnumbered: How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household. I loved its advice on body blocking, and its general approach of 'teaching every dog good manners is the key to peaceful coexistence'. Makes perfect sense to me.
Most of all, though, I think this sudden foray into multi-dog management -- with Scruffy and Charlie at home, and Ava and Darcy at work -- has made me feel like the key here is management. Don't get me wrong -- dogs do need to be trained and you can almost always teach something new to improve situations. That's why I'm a dog trainer.
But I've also realised that management can be enough.
|Ava: You call this management?|
With multiple dogs, your time is split between them. Add to that normal life commitments -- for example, a homework assignment to finish, another dog job, and trying to fit in driving practice -- sometimes it's just about getting the dogs fed, walked, and getting in a little mental stimulation, whether that be with toys or training.
And I feel like part of understanding management is understanding that you won't be able to treat both dogs the same. Little Darcy, being only a few months old, spends half the day in his pen, while Ava can be trusted free in the house. Scruffy has to eat outside by himself while Charlie is inside with the humans, because Charlie needs to be coaxed to eat and Scruffy will steal his food.
|Dog days of summer: I shut Scruffy in so Charlie could enjoy his iceblock|
You won't even be able to treat your dogs equally all of the time. Some days only Darcy gets walked, because I can only take one dog with me to the cafe, and some days only Ava gets walked, because I'm out of time. And you know what? I'm realising that's okay.
Don't get me wrong, I wish Ava and Darcy could loose-lead walk nicely right now so that I could just walk them both together, and I really, really wish Scruffy and Charlie's owner could implement some more strategies so Charlie doesn't have to live timidly in the shadow of his brother. But I'm hoping that the more dogs I work with the more skilled I will become, so that I can achieve more in the same finite amount of time. Until then, though, I'm only human, they're only dogs, and we do the best we can.