Walking Dogs Together When One is Reactive Part 1: Dog Skills

fearful dogs reactive dogs May 11, 2021
Woman walking two dogs

The students in our online reactive dog program, the Reactive Dog Survival Guide, often have more than one dog at home. Once their reactive dog has improved on walks, a common question is, “Can I walk my dogs together?” 

Many people try to walk their dogs together, and are disappointed. All the training they did with their reactive dogs seems to have fallen apart, and their other dog is pulling and barking more too!  Where to start fixing this problem?


Should I Walk My Dogs Together?

Sometimes the answer is no.  Would you be out-matched in strength by two large dogs pulling or lunging? In the worst case scenario, maybe being charged by a loose dog, could you hold on to your dogs safely without being pulled down and injured? Or dropping the leashes?  If you’re not sure, walking your dogs together might not be in the cards. That’s ok, it’s better err on the side of safety- both your safety, and the public’s safety. 

Skills Needed for Walking Dogs Together 

If you decide it’s safe for you to walk your dogs together, there is some work ahead. Walking two dogs requires skills that you and your dogs don’t get to practice when walking one dog at a time.  This doesn’t just apply to your dogs- you need additional skills too! 

To walk with another dog successfully, each of your dogs needs to be able to

1) Walk nicely on leash with you, when walked on their own.  If your dogs pull on walks when walked individually, you’ll have two pulling dogs when walking them together; 

2) Respond to a few cues, like their name, “Find it!“,  “Let’s go“, and any other behaviors you’d like them to do on walks. Each of your dogs needs to be able to respond to cues reliably on their own walks;

3) Walk nicely on leash and respond to cues when together.  This isn’t a minor increase in difficulty!; 

4) Wait while the other dog gets a treat. It’s difficult to train dogs together if each dog is lunging for the other’s treats when you try to reward them for something. 

On top of these “dog skills”, you’ll need a few new skills too. Holding and managing two leashes at the same time without getting tangled up or dropping them isn’t always easy. And paying attention to and reinforcing behaviors of two dogs at once can feel impossible at first!  We’ll cover these skills in future blogs. 


Where should I start?

There’s no right answer to this, but this week we talked about starting with focusing on dog skills- like polite leash walking and responding to cues- while slowly introducing the presence of the second dog. You’ll need a second adult to make this work, so each dog has their own person walking them.  Check out the video for examples. 


Have you tried to walk your reactive dog together with your other dog? How did it go?  Join our Facebook group and post your questions or comments there, or reach out to us by email at [email protected].