If you are considering getting another dog, make sure that you are prepared for the responsibility that comes with training a second dog and helping your current dog adjust to the new addition. Here’s how.
The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself
Just as it is with parents of small children, there comes a time in a dog owner’s life when she forgets the challenges of puppyhood and begins to think about adding another dog to their life. I recommend that people first ask themselves the following:
- Is your current dog out of puppyhood and completely trained? Also, consider the age of your current dog. I personally do not like to have several elderly dogs at the same time. That happened to me once, and it was a tremendous heartbreak to lose multiple dogs in a short span of time.
- Do you have any big events or projects coming up? You may have forgotten how much time is required to dedicate to training and socialization—two major factors of how your dog will behave for the rest of his life. If you think you might be distracted in the next few months, wait until your schedule clears to get another dog.
- Is your family on board with the decision? A new dog will change the dynamic of the household, adding more cleaning, time, and money to be spent on the dog, so it is important that everyone is as excited about the new puppy as you are.
The Worst Reasons to Get a Second Dog
If the reason for getting a new puppy is among the ones below, I recommend that you wait.
“My dog is fearful, so I want another dog to help him be less anxious and neurotic.” The problem with that reasoning is that sometimes dogs can “pass” their fear on to another dog, so then you could have two fearful dogs. Work on your dog’s behavior issues first, and then decide if you still want to add to your pack.
“My dog is aggressive with other dogs, so I want to get him a friend to teach him that dogs are nice.” If that worked, our penal system would look a lot different. The safety of your new puppy would also be a concern if the older dog turned his aggression on the new dog.
“I don’t really want another dog but my kids (or spouse) really do.”
I know your family members are jumping up and down saying, “I’ll take care of the dog. I’ll do all the work.” Sure they will. Just like they do with the dog you currently own. Say to yourself in the mirror, “I will be responsible for a second dog.” If you notice that you’re grinding your teeth—or sobbing—then you probably need to wait a few months and revisit the issue.
“I’ll figure out the financials as I go.” I’ll make it easy: Get ready to double everything you spend now for your one dog—vet and grooming bills, food costs, training costs, equipment, and toys. You may even need a bigger vehicle. If you’re not prepared for the added expense, don’t get a second dog.
How to Introduce the Newcomer
When I bring a new puppy or dog into the house, the dogs will meet each other safely through the use of a pen or crate. I’ll alternate one dog in and one dog out. This way, my dog understands that there’s a new member of the household and they can safely interact with each other. The pen makes it easy for a dog to “visit,” but walk away when he’s had enough. Of course, I’m always supervising, even with this set up.
I recommend doing on-leash introductions in the front yard or another place the dogs don’t use frequently. Read up on dog body language first so that you know what your dogs are telling you (and each other). Bring a friend to handle one of the dogs, and make sure both are on short, loose leashes. At this point, just hang out so that the dogs can see each other, but not approach one another yet. You might consider taking both dogs on a walk (one person to a dog) along a different route than your dog is used to.
After your walk, if the dogs seem interested and fairly calm, let them walk up to each other. If the walk-up goes well, let them sniff each other. Remember to verbally praise all of this good interaction and to keep your leashes loose. After a few seconds, distract them with treats and run backwards. This reinforces the idea that you’re more interesting than another dog.
During this process, watch for stiffness, lip lifting, and staring—all behaviors that can precede growling and snapping. If you see the warning signs, give the dogs a break before trying again.
Have a S.U.P.E.R. Start
Until the dogs are acclimated to each other, which could take days, weeks, or months, depending on the dog, I recommend using the “SUPER” method.
Supervise I cannot stress this enough: You must keep your eyes on both dogs, at all times, until the adjustment period is over.
Understand The puppy was your idea, not your dog’s. Akin to a sibling not being thrilled with the new baby in the house, so it sometimes goes with dogs. In time, with help from the humans in the house, your dog will adjust. Until then, remember to shower the older dog with attention and love.
Pens Crates and baby gates will be a sanity saver for you and the dogs. When I introduce a new puppy to my household, there are crate times for the puppy as well as the adult dog. Everyone, including dogs, needs “me” time. Also, I like to make sure that each dog gets time alone with me to create a bond.
Expect Your older dog may correct your puppy with a growl or snap from time to time. This is normal, and it’s how adult dogs teach puppies proper social skills. Your job is to supervise so that things don’t get out of hand and that there’s no gratuitous or over-the-top aggressive reactions to the puppy.
Reinforce Reward your dog when he shows tolerance for the puppy. If my dog doesn’t move away, growl, or snap when the puppy lies down next to him, I say “Yes” and reward with a treat. Between that and limiting your dog’s exposure to the puppy, you can eventually expect a peaceful coexistence. If the relationship is consistently rocky, pursue professional dog-training advice immediately.
Like any training process, introducing, training, and socializing a new dog takes time. Remember to be patient and use rewards and praise to reinforce your dog’s progress.