Thursday, July 14, 2011

Multi Pet Households

This has apparently been the theme for the week, with another call last night.   Multi pet households can be difficult, and especially when multiple species are involved.  The problems tend to fall into a few categories:


- Conflict between animals: Primarily dog-dog or cat-cat.  It can be anything from stress to actual fighting.
- Bullying:  Usually dog to cats...sometimes other combinations. Especially seen with puppies to cats.  Some owners are excessively distressed, but more often they're not as worried as I think they should be.  Many people think that the cat will run off if he's having a hard time...  and some cats will.  It's typically better for the cat to stay put (no dog chasing then), but some are still stressed while stuck in position.    We see bullying with puppies to older/impaired mobility dogs as well.
- Management Issues: This is probably more a sub-type of conflict in the family.   Many times there are dogs that actually get along quite well...except in certain circumstances. Feeding. High value toys. Visitors. Stressful situations.   It's also interesting that most families know what circumstances cause problems, yet do not separate the pets at those times.  I had one family tell me that they dreaded coming home from work every day, expecting one dog to be dead.  We talked about both keeping food put up (no resource to guard, which was the problem) and separating the dogs in case they found some other type of resource. It just hadn't occurred to the family.  
- Compromising Training:  Some situations result in one dog needing to be walked separately until certain challenges have been dealt with...whether it's just establishing polite walking or something more complicated like barking/lunging at other dogs.  The separate walks are really stressful to some owners. It can be hard to leave the other dog/s alone at home. Time restrictions can limit how much walking anyone gets.  Like most species, we want to go the easiest route. And by walking multiple dogs at once...the long-term training is compromised. The puppy spends an hour every day pulling on the leash rather than 30 minutes of nice walking. The reactive dog is not managed as well as possible. The other dogs in the household become reactive.  
- Too much! Overwhelming!   It's hard to meet the needs of all pets in the household.   We're feeling that right now, with four dogs and a cat.  It's hard to meet the exercise and training needs of everyone.  

But multipet households are great.  It's amazing to see all of the interactions between the animals.  The cats rub up on the dogs.... but they also did that with the horses.   A bottle raised calf was happy to follow the dogs around, while the adult cows are typically just very, very curious.  Luna loves to groom the cat.  The dogs play with each other. The cat bats at the dogs as they move past.  Griffin wiggles and play bowed to ferrets.


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