Outnumbered and Outmuscled - Living with a pack
Insight into the life of a multiple dog owner; the questions and answer that are on everyone's mind.
- "That" person
- "They don't live in the house....do they?"
- "Your house must be filthy and smell like dog all the time!"
- "It must be expensive!"
- "How do you manage?"
- "So why go through the trouble?"
I'm sure you have seen that particular person. The one with four fifty pound bags of premium dog food in their shopping cart. The one staring at the selection of collars and saying, "Do you have any in a larger size?"; or maybe you have seen them in the toy aisle giggling to themselves over those "guaranteed not to be destroyed" toys. You think to yourself, "What kind of zoo do they live in or what kind of animals could they possibly have living in their backyard?" Let me introduce you to my pack, because you see I am "that" person. We currently share our home with one 5 year old Great Dane, one 3 year old Great Pyrenees, and two Argentine Masiff pups, one three months and one ten months.
"They don't live in the house....do they?"
Inevitably, this is the first or second question asked of me, when people find out I share my house with a current 450 pounds of canine. The answer is, and always will be, of course. Living with four large dogs is not only a way of life, it has become an inexpensive decorating style. Minimalist decorating is essential; you only worry about knicknacks once before a large tail swipes it right off the table in eager appreciation of an ear rub. Expensive rug are not needed at our house, the floor is always warmed by one large furry body or another. Our house is not full of clutter or debris, at the most you might have to move the slightly soggy rawhide, but compared to some homes, that isn't so bad.
"Your house must be filthy and smell like dog all the time!"
True, there are occassions when my house smells like a pack of wet dogs; but that is normally when all four have just come in from playing outside in a rain storm. And yes, I have the periodic muddy footprint trail through my kitchen. But the key is disciplne and consistency, both of the humans and the canines. I clean my house top to bottom every day to get rid of any "doggy evidence", i.e. hair or mud . This not only helps me keep my sanity, but my home is always ready for unannounced guests. You are far more likely to notice we have an eight year old son, before you would guess how many or what size our dogs are.
"It must be expensive!"
Without a doubt, I will be the first one to tell you that having even one large dog can be like adding another kid to your expense account. And when you add four, things can get even more expensive. The price of veterinary procedures and medications are often directly related to the size of the pet. In order, to help keep those vet bills down, we feed premium food, which can be a literal lifesaver for many large and giant breed dogs. That food can range up to a dollar a pound and when even our smallest pup eats four cups a day, you can imagine what our feed bill is like.
"How do you manage?"
The key to having a pack of dogs in your home, besides spartan taste, is discipline and consistency from an early age. So many people treat their puppies as if they will stay an eight inch tall and eight pound ball of cuteness it's entire life. In our home, the dogs are treated as if they are already 200 pounds right from the get go. You won't find me handing any of my dogs table scraps while there is a human eating nearby. When your dog can stir the gravy on the stove with his tongue, it is imperative you make a definite distinction between dog food and human food. That is not to say my dogs don't get the occassional juicy tidbit left over from a holiday meal; but they do only get it after their human relations have finished and cleared the table.
In our home, the leaders of the pack are the ones who walk on two legs and have thumbs. The heirarchy goes down from there based on longevity. I have found that the dogs instill their own brand of ranking, which seems to be based on who gets the best spot on the couch. From the very beginning the dogs are taught respect for humans and are socialized like you would a child. We go to the parks, we go to school and we even go to those few establishments that allow dogs. When you are willing to be a compassionate leader and teacher, you will be rewarded by a loving and well trained canine.
"So why go through the trouble?"
Yes, it is alot of work. Yes, it can be expensive. Yes, I will never have a house full of knickknacks. And yes, it is worth it. Our pets are like family. We have the clown, the mediator, the troublemaker and the whiner. Our lives are never boring and they are enriched every single day by wagging tails and loving licks. Bringing a pet into your home, whether it be one or four, can help you relax, lower your blood pressure, and give you a nonjudgemental shoulder on which to cry. All they ask in return, is love, food, water and your promise that they have a place to stay until they cross the rainbow bridge. In the end you will see, when you become the leader of a pack, the trouble just doesn't matter.