Frank and Ollie write about animating groups of characters as a shape in their "Disney Animation: the Illusion of Life" book. This technique helps keep a uniformity to the characters even if the action is more sporadic. In the scene I'm working on I have a group of dogs who chase one of the characters. The dogs are also going to be in silhouette which makes it even more difficult to read them as dogs. So I go to the technique the experts have given us. This involves animating a shape first, then conforming the characters to that shape. I used a bean shape which has a movement similar to a single dog running. Giving it this type of action will help sell the fact that they are dogs. Together with the sound of barking keeps me from having to be sure the silhouettes read in every frame. It also helps get the overall timing of the action because when you have characters of different size and shape they tend to run at different paces and that can impede the group moving together.
After animating the shape I placed the three dogs into the shape. Not only will it make them move together more smoothly but it allows me to make more pleasing overall poses. Had I Just animated the characters singly I know I would have made the timing of each much slower. Using this technique I am able to make more comical timing. The same could have been true if I needed it to be more dramatic. Simply by adjusting the timing and design of the shape. Notice how the shape is simply a guide. I don't have to be exact in matching the dogs to the shape.