How to add a second dog to your family

Turning Points 4 min read

There are many reasons to add a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) dog to your current one-dog household.

Who doesn’t want more love and companionship? Who doesn’t want to rescue a furry ball of fun? Who doesn’t want to give their current dog a new playmate? The reasons to say, “Yes!” are encouraging.

A new friend for Fido

With all of these wonderful reasons in favor of increasing your four-legged brood, it may be hard to resist. And really, why should you resist?! However, it’s important to consider a few additional aspects:

  • Is your first dog well-trained? Will they model good manners for your second dog?
  • Are there any potential behavioral problems with your first dog that could be revealed upon the arrival of a new dog? Do they suffer from separation anxiety? Excessive barking or pulling on the leash? Do they react poorly to dogs or humans when on a leash? Are they prone to accidents or making a mess within the home? If you’ve said yes to any of these questions, it would be best to work on these issues with your first dog, first.
  • Has your first dog ever shown aggression towards humans, dogs, or other small animals? Do they play and cuddle with dogs they meet? Then they’re likely ready to welcome a new addition into your house. However, if they growl and lunge, then now might not be the right time.
  • Are you prepared for the additional expenses you’ll incur? Consider the cost of medical bills if your pet becomes ill or injured. Pet insurance plans are great options for covering emergency medical care or serious illnesses for dogs and cats.
  • Are you willing to commit more of your time? Another dog means more time spent on training, feeding, exercising, and cleaning up.
  • Have you had your first dog for less than a year? It takes most dogs around six months to adjust to their new home, and another six months or so to bond with their owner and truly understand commands and house rules.

Finding the right match

Once you’ve determined that your first dog is likely ready and willing to accept another dog into your household, think carefully about who that dog should be. Here again, there are a few important aspects to consider:

  • Is your dog older or less active? Look for a dog whose energy is similar.
  • Is your dog dominant and assertive? Consider a dog who is more submissive than your current dog.
  • Does your dog seem fearful and lacking in confidence? An assertive, confident dog might be a good match.
  • Does your dog prefer playing with men over women, or vice versa? Find a dog of the gender they seem to prefer, as it may ease the transition.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to consider size differences. Although dogs of varying sizes can cohabitate well, a larger dog can unintentionally hurt a smaller dog, and thus might require much closer supervision.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

After a visit to your vet to make sure all dogs are up-to-date on their vaccinations, and after a conversation with your vet to see if they have any additional suggestions for the critical first impression meeting, follow the guidelines below:

  • The first introduction should take place in a neutral location like a park, and each dog should have an adult holding their leash. Keep the leashes loose when you walk but the dogs far enough apart that they can’t interact with one another yet. Study each dog’s behavior carefully.
  • If both dogs seem content, let the calmer of the two dogs make the first approach. If this causes too much excitement, take them on another walk until they’re calmer. This first meeting is all about taking your time and going slow.
  • Let the dogs sniff each other. If one (or both) of the dogs growls or shows their teeth or displays any other warning signs, give a firm, “No,” and begin the process again.

Positive signs

  • Relaxed bodies and open mouths
  • Wagging tails and bottoms
  • Play bows (when a dog stretches its front paws out and leans down)

Negative signs

  • Closed mouths and stiff bodies
  • Tails head high and ears forward
  • Staring and growling

If the dogs are relatively calm and haven’t shown any warning signs, let them interact without any intervention. If they being to play together or your first dog seems disinterested or unconcerned with the new dog, you can let them play unleashed. However, you must remain vigilant and monitor their interactions.

Be sure to praise both dogs and keep your tone light and friendly at all times.

Once they seem comfortable with one another, you can bring both dogs back to your house. It’s important to keep a close eye on them for at least the first 24 hours, so have a plan in place that allows you to do so.

Additional tips

Now that you’ve carefully introduced your dogs to one another, you should be in a good place.  Below are a few additional tips to help keep the ship sailing smoothly. (Or as smoothly as a ship with humans and animals of varying personalities can sail!)

  • In the beginning, if the dogs will be left home alone, keep them separated.
  • Feed the dogs separately at first, at set times.
  • Make sure you have separate food bowls, beds, and toys for each dog.
  • Never leave toys with the dogs if you’re not present, as this can lead to fighting.
  • Reward good behavior, but at first, only give treats when the dogs are apart. After a while, you’ll be able to give treats when they’re together, but as a precaution, always monitor these moments.
  • Learn your new dog’s cues and keep your first dog’s cues in mind as well, so that you can be aware of any issues when they first arise. Intervene and correct any unfavorable behavior immediately.
  • As you would with human children, continue to give each dog individual, undivided attention.
  • Consider consulting and/or hiring a trainer to assist you in the transition.
  • And as always, be patient!

Congratulations on taking these steps to add to your family, and good luck!

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