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How Do You Walk Two Reactive Dogs Together?

Walking two reactive dogs on leash is not for the faint of heart

Walking two reactive dogs on leash is not for the faint of heart

Challenges With Walking Two Reactive Dogs Together

When it comes to walking two reactive dogs together, I have a saying: "Walking two dogs together means double the trouble, walking two *reactive* dogs together means quadruple the trouble."

So to answer the question "how do you walk two reactive dogs together" my answer is simple: you just don't.

The reasons why I don't recommend in general walking two dogs at once are several. When we walk two dogs together the following is likely to happen:

1) Dogs will feed off each others' emotions

2) Dogs get into "teamwork" modality

3) It is difficult to train each dog

4) Leashes can get tangled (although there are solutions for this)

5) There are safety issues from lack of control

Let's take a closer look into each of these phenomena so to better understand the complexities involved.

Fear may spread from one dog to another

Fear may spread from one dog to another

Why is it So Challenging to Walk Two Reactive Dogs Together?

If you find it challenging to walk two reactive dogs together, you can't be blamed. This is not for the faint of heart! There are several challenges you will be facing and these are not easy to tackle.

Dogs Will Feed Off Each Others' Emotions

In other words, if one dog alerts to something, the other will become emotionally charged as well, and soon you'll have two dogs barking and lunging.

Here's the thing: dogs living together become very in tune with each other.

All it takes sometimes is just one dog twitching the ears in one direction or tensing up and looking at something specific, that the other dog alerts to that and automatically tenses up as well.

After all, we see this happen as well in humans. Last time, I saw a family of ducks and watched them swim in a pond and all other people who walked by automatically oriented to where I was looking and all stopped to admire them as well.

In another scenario, when walking on the boardwalk, I saw several people looking in one direction and walking towards the edge with an alarmed look on their face.

I automatically looked there as well, and there was a senior having difficulty swimming in the water and another person had jumped in to help her. Thankfully, she survived, but an ambulance still arrived to check on her.

It's therefore natural for dogs, just as in people, to alert each other about happenings in their environment.

Dogs Getting into Teamwork Modality

When two or more dogs are bonded, they also engage in "unison." In other words, it's almost as if they adhere to the "United we stand" modality.

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I was reflecting on this the other day, when I met two stray dogs I knew well who normally would greet me, but this time they both unexpectedly barked at me. The reason for this is that, there was a third dog who barked at me first and alerted them, and the other dogs backed him up.

After a while, they recognized I was no threat and were back to their normal selves, although this third dog kept his distance and acted wary, and the two other dogs didn't approach to be pet by me as they usually did.

We see this often in dogs who bark at triggers. There is often one dog who is more on the alert and the other dog joins in, despite the fact he had no interest of reacting to triggers in the past.

It's Difficult to Train Each Dog

When it comes to training dogs to walk nicely on leash, they need lots of individual attention, and this is even more true with dogs who are on the reactive side.

With a reactive dog, you'll need to not only train the dog to engage in calmer, non-reactive behaviors, but you'll also need to change his emotional state.

This entails keeping an eye on body language so to ensure the dog doesn't go over threshold, implementing behavior modification and training important cues that helps the dog learn coping skills and the ability to make good decisions.

On top of this, to train a dog, you'll likely be juggling a variety of items such as the leash, treats, and possibly, a clicker.

Leashes Can Get Tangled

When walking two dogs, there are always risks for the leashes to tangle. This is even more probable with walking two dogs who are highly excitable and reactive.

While there is a solution to this (a lead splitter, also known as a coupler), it too has some disadvantages.

The main one is that, having two dogs, placed so closely together, may put them into a more competitive state, which may lead to more pulling.

On top of this, it doesn't help that the splitter puts the dogs often in a front position which can cause them to act a bit like sled dogs, where they may team up and forget all about you.

Difficulty Gaining Control

When it comes to walking two dogs together, safety may also be a concern. If the two dogs become reactive, they can drag you to the ground causing a fall or they may get too close to other dogs or people putting them in danger.

Also, should an off-leash dog approach and cause a fight, or something unexpected happens, dealing with dogs tied up so close to each other without many options to give space can spell disaster leading to a redirected bite.

So my biggest piece of advice is to walk two reactive dogs separately. I know this is inconvenient in many ways, but it paves the path towards better walks with the dogs being less emotionally charged.

Walking two dogs at once can be a challenge at times, especially if the dogs are reactive

Walking two dogs at once can be a challenge at times, especially if the dogs are reactive

Is Walking Two Dogs Together Out of Question?

I don't recommend in general walking two dogs at once, especially when reactive, at least until they have proven themselves to have their emotions better under control, by being responsive to cues and capable of walking on a loose leash.

If you don't have the time to organize two individual walks, consider that having a helper walk the other dog is better than you walking the dogs together.

This way, each dog has one handler and can get the attention he or she deserves.

This may not work as well as if each dog was walked individually, but it can lower a bit more their emotional arousal if they are provided with enough distance.

The Ultimate Solution

If your ultimate goal is walking your two dogs together, you'll have to work on reducing each dogs' reactivity individually.

Interestingly, you may discover that one dog is less reactive on solo walks than in company of the other dog. This dog may therefore need less training, compared to the other one.

What type of training should each dog receive? This is covered in depth in this article: 10 tips for walking a reactive dog on leash.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli

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