Bringing Home a Second Dog

Bringing a second dog home requires a lot of thought. It means a complete change in your “normal” family routine.

There are many things to consider before you bring the new pet home. It is not just a matter of bringing the new dog home and you all will live happily ever after (though that can be a remote possibility) without any transition period.

You need to take time to think this new undertaking through and mull over these questions:

  1. Are you living on a tight budget? A second dog will require annual vet visits, patient will need food, toys, perhaps a new crate and training classes.
  1. A second dog requires “time.” Do you have extra time to play, for walks, time to groom your pet, time for feeding, training and extra clean up?
  1. Does your current dog have any behavioral problems? A new dog might not be able to teach your old dog to stop misbehaving. You could end up with two dogs, each with bad behaviors, making matters worse. Ask Providence Animal Center for recommendations and get help before you adopt another dog.
  1. Do you have what it takes to adhere to “dog pack’ rules? Even though you should be the LEADER, two dogs are a pack and one or the other will become the second leader. If it’s the new dog, can you adjust to following the rules? The leader dog gets to be “first” in all things and you cannot change that. Trying to change what is natural dog behavior will cause conflict.
  1. Are you prepared for the resident dog to start misbehaving, such as using the house as a potty place, chewing things and just being destructive in general? The newcomer may upset your pet and you may see these behaviors temporarily.
  1. Is your current dog friendly with other dogs and people? If your resident dog is a “bully,” your chances of finding a “friend” for him/her are slim. Training for your current dog maybe the answer before you plunge into adopting another dog.
  1. How is the stress level in your household? Have you moved, added a new family member or has anything else happened to upset the normal routine of the household? Dogs stress out during changes in their routine. Times of stress are not a good time to bring home a new dog.
  1. Are you happy with your current dog right now? A second dog could bring changes in your dog’s personality. The two dogs could really bond and might prefer being together, ignoring you, except for food and treats. Are you ready to accept that?

Read these questions a few times and answer them truthfully. Being truthful will help eliminate you making a mistake and having to return your adopted dog to the shelter. Some dogs really don’t want a companion. They are as happy as a clam being the only dog. Is that your dog?

Once you have made up your mind and truly feel that another dog will be an added benefit to your household, there are a few more things to consider such as the age and energy level of your new dog- puppy, young adult or an older dog?

The answer will depend on your resident dog and your activity level.

Puppies are probably easier to introduce to your current dog, as a puppy doesn’t appear as an intruder, only as a pest. If you decide on a puppy, please keep this in mind. Puppies do not realize they are supposed to behave in a certain way until they are about 4 months old. Until they are old enough to know all this “dog stuff,” it will be up to you to protect the puppy from the older dog and protect the older dog from the puppy. The puppy may drive the older dog crazy at times. Puppies want to play all the time and require an extensive amount of attention, exercise and complete training (house, crate, obedience). Always choose a puppy that is a different sex than your dog, as a male/female combination is most successful. Do not under any circumstances leave the puppy and older dog alone without supervision. Crate the puppy when you cannot watch them.

A young adult dog or an older dog addition to your household requires a little more knowledge about dogs, along with some patience and planning. In looking for an adult dog, try to find a dog whose personality matches that of your dog. If your dog is outgoing and friendly, find one that is equally so. If your dog is quiet and gentle, do not bring home a dog that is very active and playful, the match more than likely will not work.

Remember the saying: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? The idea works with dogs, too. So proper introductions is key…

The dogs will have to meet on neutral ground. The Providence Animal Center requires a short “meet & greet” of the dogs at the shelter, and you’ll want to do this again before you enter the back yard, and then again when entering the home. To do this you will need help of a friend or a relative, one person to handle each dog on the leash.

Both dogs need to be on a leash and introduced casually. Allow them to smell each other. Make sure to remain calm and do not be nervous, talk to the dogs in a “happy voice.” Their stance may be rigid and you may feel some tension. Keep them together only for a few seconds, then take a short walk, then allow them to stop and sniff again. Repeat this until you see less tension. If you hear growling or see lip curling, calmly move them apart, walk them together and keep them separated in the home until a professional dog trainer is contacted.  Whatever you do, do not try to force a friendship but allowing them off leash to “work it out”.

Once the introductions have been made and it seems to have gone well, it is time to bring the two dogs onto the property and into the home.  It is a suggested that when you have both dogs at home you keep their leashes on them. You now have a “pack,” it will be necessary for the two dogs to decide which one is going to be second in charge (you are the first leader) and this decision may take some haggling. Acceptable aggressive behavior should last for a few seconds (10 -–20 seconds) and may consist of some growling, lip curling, snarling, snapping and possibly pinning one of the dogs down by the neck. Unacceptable aggressive behavior would be biting to draw blood or any of the above behaviors that last more than a few seconds. Call a professional right away if you see any instances of aggression between the dogs, and keep them separated until then.  One of the dogs may exhibit submissive behavior and this is to be expected also. Barking like a puppy, rolling over on its back, tail between its legs, running away from the other dog are all acceptable submissive behaviors.

It may take the dogs a week, a month or even longer to settle on who is the leader, and while that is going on DO NOT let them alone together unsupervised.  Put the dogs in separate areas or in their crates if you cannot watch them, and do not let them be together until you are certain they have settled their ranking and will get along.  The Providence Animal Center recommends always separating “bully breeds” from each other when you cannot supervise, for the life of the dogs. Bully breeds include but are not limited to the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, English Bulldog, American Bulldog, Boxer, Mastiff and all mixes.

Give each dog their own items, and their own eating spot. Do not let one steal food from the other. Pick up all food bowls after the designated meal time. Do not introduce any valuable resources initially, like food, toys and chew bones. Let the dogs get to know each other first, before mixing in items of possible value. Allow them to eat and have toys and bones in separate areas. Take caution when introducing these things into a multi-dog household and never leave the dogs unattended around valued resources.

It will usually take a month or more for a routine to establish and peace to rein supreme once again in your household. If you keep the dogs apart when you are not home to supervise and you make the time they spend together “fun” they will soon become friends.

Exercise is the secret to keeping your dogs too tired to argue with each other. Exercise relieves their stress (and maybe yours too!) and tired dogs just behave better.

Good luck and remember to have FUN!

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