Living with 6 dogs – the challenge and the joy
I didn’t plan to have six dogs, but I did plan to keep the puppies I kept, so then I found myself with six dogs, in April 2022. I kept Murmur, from the Punk litter, planning to breed from her in the future. Well why wouldn’t I, she is pretty special. I had found myself keeping Quin the year before, because I have wanted to have my own stud dog and having one live with a friend had not gone according to plan.
Normally, you would expect to reduce your number before adding to it, but Luna far outlived my expectations, reaching over 13 years old. She became diabetic at the age of eight, complicated by gestational diabetes during her third litter’s pregnancy. She lost that litter, which was very hard. Luna then became ill and needed insulin injections, twice a day, plus a special diet and additional care.
When I started breeding, in January 2010, I imagined I would keep one puppy from each generation. It makes me laugh to think back to that plan, because I kept two from Sunny’s litters (Luna and Busy), then Aura as the next generation. Then I couldn’t carry on breeding from Aura, so I kept Ounce. Then I needed a boy, so kept Quin. Finally, (for now!) I’ve kept Murmur, from my third generation of puppies.
What I hadn’t really thought about, was that keeping dogs from your litters means you end up with lots of dogs! And once they’ve had up to four litters (no more than 3 in my case), they are ‘retired’ from breeding, but still have up to ten years of life left in them! Responsible breeding is a lifelong commitment, with a huge cost.
Old dogs, young dogs
The biggest problem with having six dogs is that they need a lot of individual care. They have different needs, as some are old, some are young and some are more demanding than others (Ounce!) So you are constantly thinking about them individually.
Different aged dogs need different food. They have different levels of activity, so although you might take them all on the same walk, the older dogs need careful watching and going at their own pace. The puppies need training and work on their recall. And in Quin’s case, management of his fear around other dogs. He barks and runs at other dogs, so needs to be recalled and popped back on lead.
Ideally, I would spend some time with each dog, albeit only an hour or two a week. I take Busy into school for her fabulous work with the children, supported by the wonderful charity Canine Concern. Quin and Murmur have both been assessed and are able to go into school as well. We sometimes have a Double Dog Day! The pups are both wonderful with the children, but Busy is the best – so calm and gentle.
I also take the dogs to training, primarily because it is a brilliant way to really focus on that particular dog. Aura has been my number 1 agility dog, closely followed by Busy. They both really love it and I have enjoyed doing it with them. Sadly though, I have chronic arthritis in my knee, meaning I am currently not mobile enough to continue with this. Fingers crossed for a new knee this year!
I chose to take Ounce away from agility in October 2021 and start my scentwork journey with her. I thought it would give us a different focus, but I have been amazed with how much I have enjoyed it! Largely thanks to a great trainer – Emma at Beancroft has made it a positive experience and we are already preparing to compete at Level 6 with Scentwork UK.
I started Murmur at scentwork last October and although she is very different from her mum, Ounce, she is started to get going. Hopefully we will be competing in trials shortly.
The boy’s training
Ah Quin, my gorgeous boy. He has done some hoopers with Chris, which he was really good at, but we found a bit boring. I have taken him to a number of tricks workshops, which were great fun. And we have had a few agility lessons, where he was fantastic, mostly down to having done the foundation work in hoopers. Unfortunately that’s now on hold, as above.
I have considered trying my hand at showing him, with his wonky ear. I’m not sure I can stand the judgement though, or the excessive grooming required. He is still so wary of other dogs, so I’m not sure if it would ‘kill or cure’ him. Maybe some formal obedience…
Time needed with 6 dogs
It all takes time. Training six dogs is no mean task. Not to mention the cost of it all. I accidentally took on a very large responsibility last year, which together with a change in personal circumstances has sucked up so much of my time.
Time is needed for their care though. 6 dogs make lots of mess. They have lots of hair and poo! And muddy footprints. Lots of beds to wash and toys to buy and throw away. Sacks of food to buy. Vet visits to go to.
Would I recommend having 6 dogs?
Honestly? Not really. I knew it would be a lot of work and it was. Now, I’m back down to five, because we lost our beautiful Luna on 17th April. I had said to Chris that we should enjoy her while we could, because it wouldn’t be forever. We really did. And we really miss her.
Sometimes you just have to do it. No regrets, because after all, life is always better with dogs.
Buy the Workbook
The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!
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