Multi Dog Household, Short on Time? Meet Needs FAST!

July 24, 2021

Multi Dog Household gone a little awry as you deal with the pressures of everyday life? Maybe those long walks and trips to the dog park just aren’t fitting into the schedule?

Your inattention might be fine for a few days. But eventually that pile of unmet needs comes knocking. The dogs are barking, destructive, bouncing off the walls, etc. Don’t worry though, you can skip this whole scenario, with fast and easy ways to meet dog needs.

Meeting dog needs in a hurry is a critical skill in my own multi dog household!

I’m currently recovering from a 32 day long migraine which means I have had to be creative with how I meet the needs of 3 energetic dogs. When your body breaks down on a regular basis you pick up some tricks. This is critically important in my household where dogs display upticks in troublesome behaviors when their needs are not met. Dogs get irritable with each other, become more reactive to sounds, and are considerably less tolerant about sharing resources among other problems. I absolutely do NOT have time for that when my health is in a tailspin.

Here are my top 5 strategies for meeting dog needs FAST:

1. Ditch the Bowls in Your Multi Dog Household for Enrichment Style Meals!

You have to feed your dogs no matter what curveballs life decides to throw at you. So let’s make meal time go beyond simple nourishment. These options allow your dog to practice the natural behavior of foraging while engaging their minds and utilizing their sense of smell. When life gets tough, take an extra 2 minutes to feed your dog in a new way. I promise you will like the results. In my house, that 2 minutes often buys 2-3 hours of peaceful quiet.

Puzzle Feeders:

Some of you are getting ready to tell me that your dog won’t use these toys. Let me challenge you to explore some other options you may not have considered. There are SO many of these toys on the market and a whole host of homemade alternatives. I’ve done part of this work for you, because we have tested just about everything here at Wise Mind Canine. Below you’ll find a video of some of my dog’s favorite puzzle feeders with a discussion of their complexity.

Our Top 5 Favorite Puzzle Toys Ranked:

  1. Pet IQ Ball (Easy)
  2. Kong Wobbler (Medium)
  3. Busy Buddy Magic Mushroom (Hard)
  4. Snuffle Mats (Easy)
  5. Kong Tiltz (Easy)

It’s important to start with a puzzle feeder that lets your dog feel confident and allows them to master the challenge. If your dog struggles with the toys above they may need a bridge puzzle toy first. A bridge puzzle toy is simply something that encourages foraging without so much challenge.

Bridge Puzzle Toys: 

  • Muffin Tins with/without balls on top.
  • A  large plastic bowl with one ball in it.
  • Kibble in a traffic cone.
  • Outward Hound Slo Bowl (or similar product).
  • Towel rolled with kibble in it.
  • A box with kibble and packing paper.

When your dog builds confidence in the bridge options you can then switch back to an easy toy from the original list.

Nature’s Snuffle Mat:

Simply step out into your fenced yard and scatter kibble throughout. Obviously, safety first, so don’t stick your resource guarder out in the yard with another dog or throw food into grass treated with pesticides.

Here’s a video of my 3 dogs enjoying nature’s snuffle mat:

2. Break Out the Flirt Pole for a Quick Burst of Exercise:

Our dogs need to move their bodies but sometimes we can’t get out for a walk. A flirt pole is a great way to physically tire out a dog quickly. Don’t know what a flirt pole is or how to use it? Check out this Flirt Pole Games Webinar from my friend Amber Quann KPA-CTP, CPDT-KSA of Summit Dog Training.

Always remember to balance your calming activities and exciting activities in a way that fits your lifestyle. If you prefer a calmer dog who is relaxed in the house 75% calm activities to 25% exciting activities is usually a good ratio to aim for!

3. Take your Multi Dog Household on a Sniffari:

Let your dogs engage with their incredible sense of smell. You can do this in your house or in your yard. I love Ani Ed Ireland’s version of a Sniffari that involves a multi sensory experience with obstacles, substrates and interesting sights that engage the whole brain. I’ve even gone to the hunting store (we don’t hunt) and bought animal scents for training hunting dogs to add to the mix.

I’m going to send you straight to the source for this one:

Elaborate Sniffari Examples and Explanation: Ani Ed Ireland

Longer Sniffari Explanation with Simple Options and Setup Instructions (Day 76 of 100 days of enrichment): Ani Ed Ireland

4. Mini Training Sessions:

Fulfill some of your dogs’ social and cognitive needs by giving them one on one mini training sessions. They don’t have to be long. Scatter 1-5 minutes here and there throughout the day. You can review things they already know or begin teaching a new skill. Not sure what to train? Try my Positive Interrupter.  You can also try some of the free training tutorials in Pandemic Puppy Raising Support Group.

5. Frozen Pacifiers and Long Duration Chews:

* Always remember to practice caution and supervise your dogs when they are in the possession of high value food items. Some dogs cannot have these items in the same room and need to be securely placed in contained and separate spaces.*

A frozen pacifier is essentially any item that has been stuffed with food and frozen. Common items include things like:

  • Kongs
  • Toppls
  • Squirrel Dudes
  • Kong Quest Items
  • Petsafe Chilly Penguin
  • Nylabone Stuffables

Long duration chews are different for every dog and your individual comfort with the risks of broken teeth. These include things like bones, hooves, antlers, nylabones, benebones etc

These check so many boxes. Stress relief, practicing natural behaviors, and even social needs. Plus they have that wonderful side effect of keeping mouths occupied and quiet. Meet your dogs’ social needs by including your quiet dogs in time with family members where loud, rowdy, dogs might have been excluded.

There you have it, 5 fast and easy ways to meet dog needs when life makes things complicated. Whatever the reason, you can have content dogs without adding to your own stress!

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