Increasingly these days, people of all ages are sharing living space with roommates — and their dogs. If you’re looking for roommates, you must take your dog’s comfort level and temperament into account. You also need to be thoughtful and intentional about how you introduce your dog to potential roommates, especially if they also have a dog. Roommate dogs can live comfortably together, but it’s important to start them off on the right paw.
When you’re bringing a new roommate into your home, or you’re interviewing to move into someone else’s home, set everyone up for success by being honest about your dog’s needs and challenges. While interviewing for housing accommodations, you’ll want to put your best foot forward, but it’s also important for your dog’s safety and the safety of others to be realistic with yourself and any potential roommates about your dog’s temperament and personality.
If your dog is uncomfortable with other dogs, it’s best to seek out roommates who don’t have dogs of their own instead of trying to force your dog to live with another dog. When interviewing potential roommates who have dogs, ask questions specifically about those pups. Confirm that they see a vet regularly and are up-to-date on vaccines. Ask what kind of training and socialization a potential roommate’s dog has had, as well as what kind of experience that dog has with other dogs, particularly living with them.
You may like all dogs, but it doesn’t mean that every dog is going to be a good roommate match for you and your dog. When selecting a new roommate human and canine, you have a responsibility to be focused on the safety and comfort of your dog. It’s okay to be picky about potential roommates, especially if you have temperament or behavioral concerns about a possible canine roommate match.
Beyond basic temperament and sociability, be thoughtful about how roommate dogs might not have compatible energy levels. For example, if you have a large, young, energetic dog and a potential roommate has a small, frail elderly dog, they might be poorly matched roommates—even if both dogs are social. Similarly, if you share a small apartment, you’ll want to be thoughtful about if a large and energetic dog would be a good roommate match for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what a potential roommate’s routines are with their dog. Do they bring their dog to work? Does the dog go to daycare? How many hours a day will the dog be left alone in your shared home? Don’t be afraid to ask for references from past roommates, trainers, vets, dog daycare, etc. to gather more information about a dog that might move in.
Other good things to ask a potential roommate about their dog include:
- Is the dog crate trained and will it be kept in a crate when no one is home to supervise?
- Has the dog ever been reactive towards people or dogs?
- Does the dog have any allergies?
- Does the person have allergies to pet dander?
Don’t wait until after a new roommate has been invited to move in before introducing your dogs. Dog introductions should be part of the roommate interview process. This will give you more information about if these humans and dogs are a good match for your home.
Start introductions between dogs like you would ideally with any other dog — in a neutral space with dogs on leash. Begin at a distance where both dogs are calm and relaxed before bringing the introductions into your home. Prior to the other dog’s visit, go around your house and pick up any food, treats, or toys that could add stress or conflict to the introductions. Instead of taking their leashes off once the dogs are calm, have them drag their leashes attached to collars or harnesses. The dogs will need to be fully supervised, but dragging leashes gives you an easier way to separate them if things get tense. Be sure to always praise and reward calm and positive interactions between the new roommate dogs.
Once you pick new roommates and they move in, be sure to continue to supervise all interactions between the dogs to ensure that they are safe and comfortable together. When the dogs can’t be supervised, keep them separately crated or in different rooms of the home. Be particularly cautious if the dogs in the house will be of different sizes because it’s very easy for large dogs to hurt small dogs during play without intending to.
New roommates always lead to new dynamics in the home. Be aware that treats, mealtimes, chews, and other high-value and high-emotion interactions could prompt resource guarding or conflict. Before your roommate moves in — ideally as part of your interview process — ask questions about what your prospective roommate’s normal routines are for their dog and what their training approaches are like.
You and your roommate don’t have to agree on everything, but you do have to agree on how your roommate will engage with your dog and vice-versa. For example, are you comfortable with your roommate supervising your dog and their dog together, or taking your dog outside? Is it okay for your roommate to give your dog treats? Negotiating these specifics of daily life in advance will make for a more harmonious living situation for you and your new roommates.
Feeling overwhelmed? It’s always okay to ask for help. Bringing in a professional dog trainer to support can give peace of mind and hands-on support for setting up introductions between roommate dogs. A dog trainer will be happy to offer advice to help you determine if dogs would be a good match to live together. If you and a new roommate are having challenges with your dogs’ interactions, don’t be afraid to get help before situations escalate. Dog trainers will be able to observe the layout of the home and interactions between dogs in order to develop an individualized training plan to support a more harmonious relationship between the roommate hounds.