How to Walk Two Dogs at Once
Walking Two Dogs at the Same Time
For a lot of busy folks, walking one dog every day seems to be really hard to do consistently. That being said, for those of us with more than one family pooch, walking more than one might seem like the impossible dream.
Although walking two dogs at once can provide some unique challenges, with a little practice and a lot of patience, most dogs can be walked in tandem quite well.
The most important thing to remember is that nothing comes easily usually without repetition. Someone who walks two dogs once every month or so will not have as much success as the dog owner who makes walking both dogs at once part of their daily routine.
Remember that most dogs are easy to please their owners. Also keep in mind that if dogs aren't allowed to succeed or trained to be successful in any given situation, they will probably fail. However, with proper training and a lot of patience (and the occasional or frequent reward depending on skill level), it can be done!
Size Matters When Walking Two Dogs
When walking two dogs at once, size definitely plays a very important factor in deciding several things. For instance:
- What kind of leash should you use?
- Can you physically safely walk two big dogs or is it dangerous?
- Would a harness be more appropriate?
- Should you use a retractable leash?
- Should both dogs walk beside you on one side or each walk on either side of you?
- Do you have any special leash products made for walking two dogs at once?
- Should the dogs be taught to walk ahead of you, beside you or even behind you?
- Are there any dangers to walking two dogs at once?
- Can you train two dogs as easily as you train one dog on leash?
While all the above questions are part of the criteria a dog owner needs to think about, perhaps first and foremost is the size (and breed) of the two dogs needing to be walked together.
Small dogs obviously may be simpler to walk than large dogs. However, small dogs can get into just as many bad situations on leash as big dogs and sometimes are the perpetrators rather than the victims.
It's important to think ahead before walking two dogs at the same time. For instance, if you have small dogs, most people can easily lift the dogs (or at least one) should complications arise. If trialing out walking on leash with two large dogs, that option obviously has evaporated. You do need to think ahead to "what if" scenarios.
Retractable leashes may be okay for walking small dogs although even with small dogs walking in tandem, they aren't highly recommended. Retractable leashes take away an important factor when trying to control a dog as they have too much freedom in straying away from you. Having two different dogs on two different retractable leashes makes for more confusion, more loss of control and in general, more problems.
Part of the philosophy of a dog being on a leash is to be able to maintain control of your dog at all times. Certain kinds of harnesses work very well in being able to keep dogs from pulling (such as the Halti or other harnesses/leashes that hook on at the dog's chest).
Some over-the-head leashes such as the Easy Leader also work well for some dogs who have a tendency to pull. However, it should always be remembered that administering a tug on this particular kind of leash is never recommended as they put undue (and dangerous) stresses on a dog's neck.
If someone is very coordinated and has very well-trained dogs, two dogs can be walked with completely different leashes and/or collars. However, for most folks, it's easier when both dogs are walking to the same "beat" so to speak and have the same equipment and the same training method in place so as not to get one or the other confused.
The greatest danger to walking two dogs at once most often arises from loose dogs or unexpected situations for instance involving moving kids, animals, people. Dogs that do not do well with other dogs approaching them can also be a problem--even if the approaching dog (or dogs) is on leash. A seemingly docile dog who becomes excited and then aggressive if another dog lunges at him or her can put a dog walker in danger simply because it's difficult to control one dog let alone two dogs in an excitable situation.
This author has malamutes and have discovered that any kind of stress situation such as that mentioned above sets off our male malamute. He sometimes "attacks" his own playmate, our younger malamute, if he gets into a panic attack over dogs showing aggression towards him. It appears to be a dominance type behavior, but obviously having the dogs on separate leashes on separate hands works better in this situation to separate them.
Training two dogs at the same time is possible though it's also important here to have them separated as well. This means that if you have two dogs joined with a coupler or even if you're walking two dogs holding two leashes in one hand, it's much more difficult to administer a reminder tug to only the dog who's misbehaving. It's likely that both dogs would get the reprimand which would be very confusing for a dog who is being obedient.
Most trainers recommend that you use separate hands to walk two dogs. This allows you to have control of one dog with one hand and the other with the other hand. This also serves to keep the dogs focused on their own training instead of each other's. If you consistently walk two dogs together, it's recommended that you give each dog their "side." Whichever side they seem comfortable walking on, maintaining that pattern is apt to lead to a more consistent walking experience with multiple dogs.
Many people believe that dogs should walk behind them and that this process allows the dogs to develop the idea that the human is their alpha. From personal experience, our dogs can walk beside us, behind us or ahead of us and still know that I'm the alpha. If I let them "out" on leash meaning they can walk ahead of me for a bit, I have only to give a tug or a command to get them back by my side. I consider this demonstration of being alpha and am satisfied with it. Granted, one does have more control if the dog is beside you but I see this as more of a personal preference walking two dogs than a requirement.
Equipment for Walking Two Dogs
There are many products on the market and it all boils down to personal preference or the limits of the dog owner's pocketbook as to which one works best for any situation.
There is a simple leash coupler as the one shown here in the photo which this owner has used for years. I have walked as many as three or four dogs at once and the couplers do come in several different materials (such as chains, leather or regular leash materials).
There are also walking spreaders as they are called which are longer, much like ganglines for sled dog racing. The long part attaches at the handle.
Do a Google search for leashes for walking two dogs (or more) and you'll find plenty of options. Select the one that seems to fit best with your dog's size and/or strength.
What to Remember When Walking Two Dogs
If you're walking two dogs at once, the most important thing to remember is safety--that of the dogs and that of the human counterpart.
Walking two dogs at once, especially for an older person or someone with any kind of physical disability can be a challenge.
Keep your wits about you and make sure that you're paying attention to your surroundings as well as the dogs you're walking.
Don't forget waste disposal bags as walking two dogs instead of one obviously generates a lot more chance for dogs relieving themselves along the way. It's impolite and spreads disease to leave dog waste behind--tuck some poop bags into your pants pocket or tie them to your leash so you'll always have them at the ready.
Don't let the dogs become tangled if you can help it--and avoid the leash going under their legs or tangling about them. It's best to have the leash free and in appropriate position so that a dog (or the dog owner) doesn't fall or get tangled up in a mess, and if you need to administer a reprimand or a tug, the dog "gets" the message.
It is highly recommended that leashes not be wound around hands and "locked" there in place. In the event of an emergency such as a dog fight or any kind of unexpected scenario where the dog bolts, you have now placed your hand (or wrist) in a noose with the very real possibility of a severe torquing injury. This author speaks from experience. I used to wrap the leash around my hand and fingers and lock it there to ensure my dog could never pull away from my grasp. That served to leave me with a broken ring finger (on my left hand) when my dog bolted out of the water to catch up with his playmate. I could only run behind screaming in pain. By the time I got to the shore, my finger had swollen to the point where my rings would not even come off and I had to have them cut off by the ER physician. Winding a leash around your hand, fingers or wrist is a good way to end up with a broken bone but unfortunately it can even result in a degloving injury where you may lose a great deal of skin.
If stray or loose dogs come at your dogs and are obviously aggressive, unfortunately sometimes there is nothing that you can do in this case but let your dogs go. Do not try to intervene. If you have small dogs, you can usually lift them to safety. However, if large dogs become embroiled in a scene with other large loose dogs, standing in the middle of the dog fight with leashes attached to you probably is going to end up in human dog bites. Do the best you can to stop the situation without using body parts such as legs, hands and arms to separate them. Call for help, yell, kick, make loud noises but otherwise do not attempt to separate fighting dogs manually.
The best case scenario for walking two dogs at once is assuring that they are both leash trained separately. There are no shortcuts to dog training and without doing the time, the results will always be less than optimal. It isn't probably the best time to train a dog to the leash when he or she has a "friend" on the other side. Train both dogs separately and thoroughly, and then start walking them together.
Be firm and be consistent with your dogs if you walk them in tandem. Dogs are much like kids and if they are allowed to stop and sniff at every single thing along their path (or pee on everything along the road), they will do it endlessly. They will probably even become better and better at it! We use commands such as "no pee" to our dogs when we walk them followed by a sharp tug if they attempt to stop and pee often. They also very rarely poop on our many, many walks. We allow them to pee before we leave wherever we start and allow them to pee somewhere in the middle of the walk with the command "go pee." Other than that, they know they are walking to walk--not to sniff and pee.
If you have a breed of dog such as a malamute or another northern type breed, do expect that they will be somewhat more of a challenge to walk--whether alone or in tandem--especially if you engage your dogs in pulling exercise like scootering or sledding. There can be some confusion on the dogs' part as to what they will be allowed to "get away with" or what is expected in a certain situation. For instance, sometimes when we start out on a walk, there may be a good 5 to 10 minutes before the dogs actively remember they are not pulling a sled or a scooter, they are not in harness and this is walk time, not pull time. We don't let them get away with it, but reign them in, make them sit or down and remind them that it's our commands they'll obey not their own desires. You can almost hear the gears clicking into place when they decide "okay--it's a walk not a run."
Practice Walking Two Dogs
As with anything, practice makes perfect. The more you walk two dogs at once, chances are the better you will be at it. You will learn what kind of leash or collar works the best in any given situation and what kinds of commands you can easily give to both dogs that help them respond.
Don't expect them to know how to walk or behave right off the bat. Much of leash behavior is learned and the important thing is to praise highly and reward for good behavior on leash. Carrying a few treats never hurts and should be administered when they are doing exactly what you want them to do.
Start slowly and gradually build up until you (and the dogs) are confident that the dogs are under control and have a good grasp of what's expected of them. You can never prepare for those unexpected circumstances like kids running at your dogs or dogs off leash roaring towards you but the more you expose dogs to, the better able they are to cope. Needless to say, many dog owners who've had a bad experience throw in the towel and realize that it's possibly not in their skill set to walk two dogs at once--but even a bad experience can be forgotten with continued practice.
Two of our malamutes were attacked by a very huge dog that resembled a rottweiler. Although the experience does still remain in my male's head (as evidenced by his behaviors when dogs lunge or snarl at him), he has learned that he will behave and he will be safe as long as I have hold of his leash. It is a never-ending teaching experience and something I'm not overly fond of in those situations--but each time he encounters a dog who exhibits aggression, it's another learning tool for Griffin. He must learn how to deal with it and he gets better with each encounter. However, if we'd thrown in the towel and never walked him again (alone or with other dogs as is most often the case), he'd never have gotten over it. It is important to remember that dogs and training are a lifelong project.
Last but not least, keep your walks happy and as carefree as possible. Tension and fear travel down the leash and your dogs can sense if you are worried or freaked about situations. They may react because of you more than from their own instintcts.
It's important to keep a positive attitude and if at first you don't succeed walking two dogs, think about what went wrong and try it again perhaps in different circumstances or for a shorter distance. Thinking about the reasons for walking two dogs together sometimes helps as well--getting exercise and making sure our dogs have exercise too are important goals and though frustrating at times, most often quirks can be overcome and the result achieved. Sometimes it just takes time and lots of patience.