In a home where a dog has more than one owner, one of the most commonly seen situation is when the dog sticks to one owner more than the other for various reasons and under different situations. Dogs will naturally seek the person that can provide the best of what it needs during that situation. For example a dog that is fearful, will seek the human that can provide the most amount of security. A newly gone home puppy, will seek the human that can provide the best comfort for it during this time. Dogs are very clever animals, they know what to do and where to find exactly what they need. In nature, they will seek the best leader amongst themselves. In our homes, where there is no danger, a dog knows exactly what to do to get out of any situation they want to. Dog A can do everything perfect with Owner A, and start screwing around, getting off commands, being pushy with Owner B. Dog A can be very active when going out with Owner A, and refuse to walk more than 10m with Owner B. Although favouring one owner more than the other does not usually cause any major issue, it can cause some minor problems and upset the dog when one of the owner is not around and in-turn lead to more issues in the future.
Balancing the relationship can be beneficial to dogs when there is more than one owner in the family. It allows the dog to understand that there is more than one person to follow in the family, and it allows the dog to have a healthier mindset and decreases the chance of separation anxiety, pushiness towards another human and overall a more balance lifestyle.
Zero Choice, Zero Chance
Giving dogs too much choices and too much chances are never ideal. Dogs and humans included, when given an option, will always go for the easiest option to solve any problem. The difference is that, humans can rationalise, dogs can not, dogs do not know when they are doing the wrong things or heading for trouble. By not giving the dog a choice to choose the owner, the dog will learn to work with the owner and build trust, confidence and bond. At the same time, make sure that all the owners handling the dog are of equal mindset and skill set.
The other option to go for is have owners do different activities with the dog. Owner A can walk the dog in the morning, Owner B can walk the dog in the evening. Owner A can feed the dog, Owner B can groom the dog. Owner A can jog with the dog, Owner B can do obedience training with the dog. Although separating activities is not the best way to balance the relationship, it does give the owners some time alone with the dog and start building a relationship.
Rotation and Shuffling
To add up to having owners do different activities, rotating or shuffling the activities will give that a plus point. Having different owners do different tasks and activities with the dog everyday will make the dog learn to get used to all the owners. Switch up the tasks allocations and leave the dog guessing. This way, the dog will learn to always be ready regardless of who leads him.
Dogs are social creatures, they crave for companionship. In the wild, dogs do not leave their pack, separation is not natural. However in our domesticated world, leaving the dog is something that will happen be it for work, to run errands, for vacation or to have a cup of coffee with friends. The best thing for us to do is to make sure that our dogs are comfortable and highly adaptable in most situations and with different handlers. While an owner can say that “my dog loves me too much, he can’t live without me” when the dog is highly attached to one owner, it is not healthy for the dog. An anxious, desperate, nervous, stressed out dog in the long run, is an unhealthy dog. When you have a dog who’s life is balanced, mindset is balanced, relationship with owners is balanced, you have a dog that can be anywhere with you, and anywhere without you. That way, no matter where you are or where the dog is, you know for a fact that your dog is doing just fine.