You will no doubt come across those who say “You can never get too much of a good thing” and when it comes to another addition to the household I could not agree more. I would happily have my own pack living in the Swiss Alps if I could! However, introducing your second dog into your home is not as easy as it sounds.
Unfortunately, living in the real world you have to be realistic with the resources that are available to you. So when someone asks me, “Is it right for me to get another dog into the household?” sadly it’s not a yes or no answer I can give as there are many factors to consider in assessing this.
First off, the dog you already have living with you. Have they fought before with other dogs in the past? If that is the case, the best advice I can give you now is to see a local dog trainer/behaviourist for a second opinion. This is the same if you live with 2 or more other dogs already as the issue gets slightly more complicated.
Your dog will view your household as their territory in many cases so it’s important to approach this carefully as it can be a very confusing time for both dogs. So from the moment you bring that dog back from the kennels or breeder make sure both dogs meet in neutral ground i.e. a local park with few distractions around them. This ensures that they both meet as if they just met while going on a typical dog walk. If possible, try and get both dogs to meet with as few restrictions in place (no tight leads, collars or pulling, ideally off lead if allowed) this allows them to meet at their own pace.
Once those bottoms have been sniffed and tails wagged they may exhibit other greeting behaviours such as exposing their bellies, playful fighting and chasing. Do not worry if there is a bit of growling or dominating behaviour or even raising hackles, especially if you have an old dog meeting a young puppy as the older dog can only handle so much playful behaviour!
If the worst comes to the worst and you happen to witness snapping, deep growling or baring teeth then act upon this quickly. Try and break their attention with food and other distractions as pulling on the leads can often exacerbate this behaviour and you may risk a fight.
Try and not make this initial meeting too long and continue with the walk as normal and walk back home.
If all goes well, try and let your dogs off lead in the back garden. Ensure your garden is fully enclosed and secure. By this time, the dogs are more relaxed after a long walk and it’s a great opportunity for your new dog to familiarise themselves with the back garden (aka. their home toilet!)
Finally, get your first dog to roam around the house and get comfortable and remove any toys or possessions in the house to avoid possession issues. Once this has been done, allow your new dog or puppy to go off lead around the house and explore their new home.
Make sure that you do not disrupt your first dogs routine such as walkies and dinner time, this will assure your first dog that nothing will change as a result of a new dog. You want to make sure that despite being a new member of the family that they are just as special as they have always been and your relationship with them will not change.
It is always a good idea that they are always fully monitored within the first couple of weeks so you can act quickly in case any problems or fights may occur on the rare occasion. This is a very sensitive stage of their lives so make sure the house does not have too many distractions such as house visitors,loud music and parties as this can cause a lot of stress.
Things To Watch Out For
- No bullying around the household. This can happen among older dogs and puppies. Identify this and seek professional advice from a trainer to break this habit.
- Do not carry your puppy or dog, this can make your dog feel vulnerable and exposed causing further anxiety.
- Make sure they are both fed separately especially at that beginning stage. If a dog can be possessive about anything, it’s their dinner!
- If you work full-time try and take a week or two off holiday so you can fully monitor your dogs together.
- Try and limit your use of cages or crates. This can cause a barrier between both dogs and further aggression may occur. Similar to the restrictions they have on a lead or tight collar.
As a dog trainer when someone asks me “Is it right for me to get another dog into the household?” I would definitely say yes, but just like owning a dog, they come with responsibilities.