Dogs being walked

Q: How many dogs can one person handle in public? I see people walking multiple dogs in my neighborhood, and they don't have control over any of them. People also turn multiple dogs loose in our off-leash dog park and then don't pay attention to what the dogs are doing. These dogs seem to me to be more likely to get into fights.

Can you suggest a sensible limit on dogs? I think if you have two hands, you should take two dogs and no more. What do you think?

A: There are two issues here: The number of dogs that can be handled on-leash is very different than the number that can be turned loose in an off-leash dog park.

Limits on Taking the Lead

A person with good sense and well-mannered pets could handle several dogs on-leash at once, while someone who is often outgunned by an ill-mannered animal is hard-pressed to control even one. When walking dogs on-leash, people need to be realistic about their strength and reflexes, their knowledge of canine body language and their dog's level of training. If someone is overmatched, he or she needs a trainer's help with leash manners and should walk no more than a single dog at once.

Don't Let Too Many Loose in the Dog Park

The off-leash dog park is an entirely different matter. No matter how well-mannered their pets are, owners with multiple dogs simply cannot stay on top of what all their dogs are doing. Anyone who takes a pet into an off-leash dog park needs to remain responsible for the behavior of the animal. The dog park is not for catching up on reading or flirting with other owners. It is for safely exercising and socializing a dog. One dog is hard enough to monitor properly; more than two is nearly impossible.

Further, dogs who live together are more likely to gang up on animals that aren't in their "pack." Dog packs have a different dynamic than individual dogs, and having a regular pack frequent the park can be a dangerous situation, indeed.

Safety in (Fewer) Numbers

To operate safely, dog parks need basic rules, an active community to police through peer pressure and plenty of common sense. While you can't stop a person who's walking too many dogs on-leash, you can help put common-sense rules in place. Limiting the number of dogs may not be effective, but lobbying to ban inattentive behavior on the part of the owners is essential. If that fails, it may be necessary to set an arbitrary limit as to how many dogs a single person can bring into an off-leash area.