Dog World Magazine
McMullen has trained dogs professionally since 1998, and like many owners, her canine menagerie grew without much planning. She adopted an unwanted puppy, took in a stray, and fostered a rescue or two. These dog acquisitions might have happened without a great deal of forethought, but McMullen stresses that a relaxed approach to a multi-dog home must end there.
How Many Dogs?! is a straightforward, realistic book full of valuable guidance. McMullen’s methods are based on real-life experiences living with multiple dogs. She emphasizes that owners must establish leadership to avert chaos, but a domineering approach rarely achieves desired results. “It is not your job to dominate your dogs, nor to let them dominate each other,” McMullen writes. “It’s all about benevolence. You are the benevolent leader.”
She discusses strategies for feeding a gang of dogs, sleeping with a bed full of dogs, ensuring the comfort of old or infirm dogs, and the tricky business of group training. For multi-dog households, training is an ongoing experience. She explains how to incorporate it into everyday life, as well as how to avoid complications caused by unintentional training: “Every interaction you have with your crew trains them in some way.”
The book is full of advice and ideas, but McMullen admits there are no standard rules. Owners must tailor their routines to the dynamics of their particular dogs. However, dogs will be dogs, and she is realistic about situations likely to arouse pack mentality, such as walking multiple dogs, visiting a dog park and the arrival of a new dog.
“You will know when the mixed group can be trusted to be left alone together when you are not home,” McMullen writes. “And in some cases, the answer may be never. But if integration is to happen, you must never move toward this goal incrementally.” Most importantly, she makes readers aware of signs that trouble is brewing, and steps they can take to defuse conflict before it escalates into a dog fight.