Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Walking More Than One Dog!

I've had numerous people send me photographs and videos of dog walkers and dog owners walking three or more dogs at a time!  Every person sending me these photos/videos has the same question:  Is it safe to walk multiple dogs at the same time like this?  Clearly in some of the photos/videos, the answer is a resounding NO, but it truly isn't that simple. Let's talk a bit more in depth about the pros and cons of walking multiple dogs.

First off, you already know that I have three dogs myself, plus my daughter's dog when she's here visiting.  I've never attempted walking all four dogs, by myself, at the same time, and will never do so. I don't believe it would be safe for me nor enjoyable for them.  Desi is almost 13 years old and as a senior dog, he walks very slowly and only a couple of blocks on each of his walks.  That's enjoyable for him.  Because of that, Desi is walked by himself.  I have walked Ozzie, Westley, and Henley together, but I did so at an off peak walking time (really early in the morning) to minimize heat for all three dogs and to minimize encounters with other people and dogs.  Did I do this because I have concerns about my dogs around others?  No. I did it because I didn't want to have to wrangle an excited puppy and two well-behaved adult dogs just trying to do a walk if there are other people and dogs out walking too.  I have walked two dogs together many times, whether that's Ozzie and Westley or Ozzie and Henley.  Though I will tell you Ozzie prefers walking with Westley, or alone, to having to walk with his annoying little brother!  I feel comfortable handling two dog leashes as my collies are well-behaved on leash and can be easily navigated in traffic, around pedestrians, and around other dogs. If I didn't feel comfortable doing so, I would simply walk each dog separately.

No, I don't use a splitter leash to walk two dogs; I always have each dog on their own leash, with the leashes being the same length to make handling easier for me. I've never liked splitters as they inhibit each individual dog's ability to make their own choices with regard to sniffing, stopping to toilet, etc. I'm not saying that you can't choose to use a splitter for your two dogs, I'm just saying think about that choice from your dog's point of view. If your dogs simply walk/trot together, rarely stopping to sniff or toilet, then maybe a splitter is a good choice for you. I just think they aren't good choices for dogs in general. Splitters were created for human comfort and convenience, not the dogs!

If you are walking one or more dogs with any behavioral concerns (aggression toward people or other dogs, reactivity on leash, fear of strangers or other dogs, excessive pulling on leash, etc.), then walk those dogs individually.  You need to give your dog with behavioral concerns all of your focus and attention; you can't be trying to manage two or more dogs if one or more of them have issues when on leash. I've had many clients tell me that they simply don't have time to walk their dogs separately, even when they have dogs who are clearly anxious on leash. My response is always the same: Better to walk each of those dogs a shorter distance/shorter period of time than to try to walk them together and risk an incident. Plus, I've treated many dogs over the years who got frustrated on leash and lashed out (redirected aggression) at the other dog they were walking with or at the owner holding the leashes! It's more productive for you and your dog(s) to take a short walk together that is successful, meaning free of reactivity, aggression, and anxiety, than it is to try to walk your pack of dogs together in a misguided effort to save time.

Now, let's talk about those dog walkers who walk 5, 8, or even 10 dogs at a time.  When I see this, it makes me very uncomfortable. All it would take is one dog going rogue and the entire situation will go sideways really fast. I know several professional dog walkers who state that they heavily screen the dogs in their care and only do multi-dog walks and hikes with those who can do this safely and successfully.  My response to that is always that behavior, by its very nature, is unpredictable.  And just because you know and trust the behavior of the dogs in your care doesn't mean that other dogs (and people) you encounter when out in public spaces are trustworthy or reliable.  I know for myself that I would not feel comfortable using a dog walker who walked multiple dogs at the same time with any one of my dogs in the mix. Feels like a liability situation for the dog walker too.  What if a skirmish breaks out and you lose control of one of the leashes? A dog escapes your pack?  Redirected aggression occurs toward one of the dogs in your care, or toward you?  Maybe I'm just assuming the worst, but I only bring up these scenarios because they've happened before with my clients' dogs on pack walks, so those clients can't be alone in their experiences.

I guess it's all about comfort level. If you feel comfortable walking your 3 (or more) dogs together at one time, then that's your prerogative. Just know that if any one of those dogs is experiencing issues in anxiety, that peaceful, time-saving, multi-dog walk could go sideways really fast.  I'm a "better safe than sorry"' kind of person.

As always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me. 

Here's a picture from one of my multi-dog walks when Henley was still really small. I would not feel comfortable walking these three dogs alone now as Henley is almost 45 lbs. and I definitely need more than one (or two hands!) to allow three herding dogs the space they need to sniff and explore on our walks.


  1. Personally, I try to never walk more than two dogs at once. Like you, I don’t think it’s fair to walk my seniors with younger dogs. It forces them to try to keep up, which overtaxes them, and frustrates the younger dogs who want to walk faster and for longer distances. But I’m always cautious because more than two, and it can be dangerous if an aggressive off leash dog approaches. I haven’t had to deal with it yet, but the story of a friend’s senior collie being killed by two pit bull mixes that jumped the fence and attacked them on a walk is always in the back of my mind.

    1. So awful, but not the first time I've heard such a story. Breaks my heart. Imagining the worst case scenario always, keeps me from biting off more than I can chew in terms of how many leashes I can control, while still keeping my dogs (and myself!) safe.