Adding a new dog to the family can be exciting for you, but it’s not always a joy for your existing pet. Just as you probably wouldn’t enjoy a random stranger moving into your home, your dog won’t either. Taking the time to introduce and acclimate the dogs to one another is a wise idea that will help prevent problems.
Before adding any dog, you need to ensure your current furry friend will welcome the newcomer. If you don’t already know how your dog will respond to other canines, take him to the dog park, leashed, or coordinate with a buddy with a dog-friendly pooch and introduce the two of them in a safely fenced neutral territory. Monitor your dog’s reactions closely. Watch carefully for things such as the fur standing up on the back of your dog’s neck or down his back; low growling, sometimes discernible only through vibration of the leash; curled lips, exposing teeth; direct staring at the other dog; or pricked, very alert ears, and a high or stiff tail.
Your dog may show you that he wishes to be an only dog. If your dog shows aggression towards other dogs, or is fearful of them, it might be best to allow him to maintain his “only dog” status. If you’re determined to extend your four-footed family, consult with a qualified dog trainer or animal behaviorist and work on your dog’s issues before you expand.
If you determine that adding a dog is desirable, choose your new pet carefully. Do not expect a new dog to improve on bad habits your existing dog displays. The newcomer will probably take behavior clues from the current resident, so brushing up on basic obedience is a good choice.
If your current dog is very assertive, and you add another dominant personality to the mix, you may find yourself with a constant battle on your hands. Look for a dog who will defer to your “top” dog. If your current pooch is more timid, an assertive dog may come in and take over. Mr. Submissive probably won’t mind, but you might find it difficult to watch him be pushed around. If so, look for another non-assertive dog.
Consider the size and age of the dog you’re adding in comparison to the size of your existing dog. Large breed dogs can cause serious or even fatal injuries to toy breeds. It is certainly possible to have a home with a large disparity in height and/or weight, but you have to be committed to supervising and managing interaction between the dogs. If your current dog is a senior, he may not appreciate a playful puppy leaping on him.
Once you’ve made the choice of dog, plan the introduction carefully. Don’t simply bring Newbie home and dump him in the room. Go to a safely fenced neutral location with a friend, both of you armed with treats. Stand at one end with one dog, while your friend enters from across the yard with the other. Watch the body language of both dogs. If they become watchful, tense or alert, or happy and playful, the responses are acceptable. If either of the dogs displays serious aggression, such as frenzied barking, lunging, snarling or snapping, stop the introduction and seek assistance from a professional trainer. Otherwise, when the dogs notice each other, feed them bits of treat, until the dog is focused on the feeder. Slow the rate of treats until the dogs glance at each other, and then back at the feeder. If the dogs appear relaxed at a distance, drop the leashes and allow the dogs to greet one another. Leash restraint can sometimes cause dogs to behave aggressively, so don’t hold onto them, but leave them on so you can separate the dogs if need be. When you’re sure they’re getting along, you can unclip the leashes and let them play.
Once home, introduce them again in your fenced yard, and allow them to play until they’re tired before you bring them into the house.
As you establish your new, dog-added relationships, be sure you manage the situation. Baby gates and crates can provide space for each dog, and they should not be together when you are not home to supervise. Feed the dogs well apart, and make sure there are enough toys and bones to go around.
Dogs are a lot like potato chips, it’s hard to have just one. With careful forethought and management, you can successfully have a multi dog home!
Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com for possible inclusion in future columns. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.