How To Exercise Multiple Dogs at Once
Recently I was on the walking trails with my multiplicity of dogs (one retriever, one Italian greyhound, one dachshund and one mal-shi), four leashes at once, when a passerby exclaimed “Oh my gosh – how do you do that?” My response was “Well, usually pretty well but not today!” as my retriever shamelessly begged attention and affection from the nice lady with a very mighty pull. Later on during the walk, I reflected that actually it does go pretty well most of the time –- now at least, many years and lessons learned behind me. And, my method (and goals) might be different than yours. If you want to be the next Cesar Millan (dog whisperer) with multiple perfectly behaving dogs trotting all with a slack leash alongside you, this article won’t help. But, if you want to get yourself and your many dogs some decent exercise in the most efficient amount of time (like I do), here’s the answer to the question “how do you do it?”
Preparation – what you’ll need
Here are the items lined up next to the door at my house.
Outerwear and shoes suitable for the weather
Waist belt for phone/music and a few emergency dog treats
Bluetooth-compatible headphones (cord-free is really essential. Over-the-ear headphones with noise cancellation functionality are actually a little too good for this purpose).
Weight-lifting glove for your right hand - the kind with the fingertips cut out. This is to protect your hand when you’re course-correcting multiple leashes at once. It really helps.
Phone and music
A handful of treats
Harnesses to fit each dog (not collars).
Knotted Leash bus – see the red leash in the photo. This is a regular leash that has been knotted to fit the largest area around your hips. You loop the other leashes through it so that you can be hands-free while you’re walking.
Dress yourself – it takes a while! (items 1-8 above)
Get your iphone zipped away and your music or podcast content streaming. Your leashed, excited, and impatient dogs will be circling you with glee, so do this before you get them attached.
Harness the dogs
Leash the dogs
Affix the multiple leashes to the bus and secure the bus around your hips (not your waist – your back will thank you GREATLY if you secure the bus around your hips.)
Go! Getting on the road
There is only one way to maintain order – train your dogs to STAY TO THE RIGHT.
When there is a group of dogs, they will make a pack and pull you along. Strongly. Since I am running with them, I don’t mind the pull, but that might not work for you. If that’s the case, you’ll need another type of leash (e.g., gentle leader) to correct the pulling behavior. (And you’ll have to train them one by one, then re-assimilate them into a group. Probably a long process.)
The dogs will twist around and effectively braid the leashes – this is not a problem, so long as they stay to the right. To get this behavior going, I started with my best behaved dog, a golden retriever, trained her to stay to the right, and then I added other dogs. Follow the leader is a real thing.
If you keep your hand (the one with the weight lifting glove) at the mid-point of the combined leashes, you’ll be able to control the group. If you forego the weight lifting glove, prepare for a bit of rope burn.
Dealing with people, dogs, bikes, and other hazards
Your very best strategy with multiple dogs is to plan your walk for the least-busy time of day to minimize dog-to-dog aggression. If I hear a bicycle bell, I just pull the whole gang off the sidewalk immediately.
When you encounter another dog, pull your dogs off the trail, grab their leashes close to the harness, and get low with them. Speak firmly and command “Look at me!”
If your dogs respond to treats, bring some. Now is the time to get their attention and reward the “look at me” command.
With these tips, running with multiple dogs for me is just no big deal — I enjoy it and it is a DELIGHT for them. Give it a try and send me your feedback and tips here at firstname.lastname@example.org