How Many Dogs Is Too Many?

four labrador puppies

How many dogs is too many for you? For most families, four dogs or more are too many to cope with on a daily basis. However, many families are maxed out at one, and some homes can cope with as many as half a dozen dogs at any time. There have always been a lot of dogs in our family, but this is partially because they are working companions as well as pets. Most homes will find somewhere between one and three dogs is the right number for them, but there is no hard and fast rule.


Four well mannered dogs can be a lot less bother than one with behavioral problems. But the path to puppy perfection is much harder when your time is split between pooches. Too many dogs for a family household will cause a lot of noise, smell and pet hair. You have too many pets if you are worried about having the time, space or finances to support them all.

Sporting dogs with varying roles often come together, in giant jumbles of furry legs, spilling out of the door when you come to greet them. But this lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

How Many Dogs Is Too Many Financially?

Keeping any pet dog adds to the family finances. If you are lucky it will just be the initial cost of your canine pal, and then the daily and monthly costs of basics like equipment and food. Each dog you add increases that cost, but in a fairly predictable way.

Where things can get really out of hand, is when there are unexpected one off costs. Surgery and ongoing veterinary care can be planned for with insurance packages. But if you’ve ever had an older dog, you’ll know all too well that once inevitable age related conditions creep in the insurers back off at a remarkable pace.

Your emergency pet payment fund will need to be pretty large if you’ve got more than two pups under your roof.

How Many Dogs Is Too Many For This Space?

Two dogs don’t necessarily need twice the space, and four don’t always spread out as much as you might expect. However, you will still need a bit more room around the home and in sometimes unexpected ways.

You’ll find that not every dog is happy to eat their dinner together, or can safely sleep in the same place. Especially not during puppyhood. You’ll need a plan for where each dog can comfortably have alone time at any period of the day they might need it.

Multiple dogs can also really do a number on your lawn. If you’ve got a carefully manicured backyard, this is something to consider the implications of before committing to further furry friends.

Time To Exercise and Train

Walking one dog can take the same amount of time each day as walking a pack of dogs. You’re following the same route, and leading the same pace after all. However, the reality isn’t quite like this. One dog gets distracted and wanders off to pee, the other greets a familiar friend and wants to stick with their fun game for a bit longer. You’ll need a great recall for each dog to keep up the walking rate you’re used to, and that in itself takes time.

Very well trained dogs can be worked at the same time. It’s an absolute pleasure to carry out training sessions with several of our dogs at once, each waiting for their turn to retrieve or jump an obstacle. Even practising leashwork winding in and out of each other’s sit positions.

However, getting to that point requires hundreds of hours of working with each dog alone. All basic obedience needs training individually. That means you’ll need time to train every pup by themselves, as well as a plan for keeping the others occupied while you do so.

Indoor vs Outdoor Dogs

If you have a large plot of land and some brilliant kennels, you can keep a lot more dogs than your average family home. The space issue, the smell, even the floating dog hair are all avoided. However, to keep these pack animals happy living outdoors is still a huge investment of money and time.

You’ll need large kennels that are heated or air conditioned, depending on your local climate. The runs will need hosing down at least once a day. Bedding will also need to be washed and changed regularly.

You’ll also still need to spend plenty of time with each of your pets. And until they are advanced in their training those sessions will still need to be carried out individually.

Working vs Pet Dogs

Dogs have worked alongside their human partners for centuries. Traditionally they were hunting, retrieving, scenting and herding companions, but these days our pets have all sorts of jobs. Therapy and assistance dogs tend to work solo as adults, but some people are heavily involved in doggy sports that can see them using several different canines during the same day at an event.

Activities like agility and flyball are growing massively in popularity. And most people I know involved in these hobbies have several dogs. Usually at least one puppy and one retired dog, along with a couple of current hot competitors.

Families with multiple working dogs usually muddle along just fine with a pack of four to six pups. This is because they are all very well exercised and trained from day one. However, they do also often use outdoor kennels at least part of the time.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

How Many Dogs Is Too Many For My Family?

There is no iron clad rule for how many dogs is too many for any family to cope with. I think we can agree that if you are a single person with twenty pups that’s likely to be too much. But some families can feel equally overwhelmed with just a pair of pups.

The right number of pooches for you is the amount that enhances your life. And doesn’t cause additional financial or practical stress. For most of us, that sweet spot is somewhere between two and four dogs.

how many dogs is too many?

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website