Adding a 2nd Dog

new dogWhen choosing a new dog, consider breed, age AND sex of the dog. In my experience, conflict is least likely to occur between a male dog and a female dog. Many experts believe this is the ideal combination and that a male dog with another male dog is the next best combination. It does vary on the dog’s personalities and each dog is an individual.

When it comes to age, always choose a new dog carefully, and consider your current dog’s needs when choosing that  new family member. For example, a puppy doesn’t always bring out the “life” of an older dog. An older dog that enjoys quiet time can often be annoyed by a active, exuberant puppy. A senior dog often has no more in common with a pup and no more desire to live with one than a senior citizen would have to live in a college dorm! If your current dog has health problems or arthritis, you should seriously consider the senior dog’s needs and not bring a young dog home. If you do choose a puppy or young dog, be prepared to provide a lot of alternatives, exercise and puppy time so the new dog’s favorite pastime is not harassing the older dog.

Regardless of sex and age, there are a few things to keep in mind when getting a new family member in order to have harmony in your home:

  • Meet the needs of both dogs. If the dogs are very different ages, they may have very different needs. Consider sending a younger dog to daycare or doing an extra walk each day with the younger dog while an older dog gets a nice chew toy at home.
  • Feed dogs in separate areas where they cannot see each other. Food is one of the most valuable resources in the dog world. Your dogs will be competing for enough in life — your attention, toys, etc. Do NOT turn dinnertime into a daily competition. Dogs communicate via body language, and it can be very subtle. It may look like they are getting along fine, but they are communicating by a stare, a stiffening of the body, or other subtle gestures. By competing daily over the food, they can actually be gearing up for a major fight, and you might not even notice the warning signs.
  • Remove all toys, chews, rawhide for the first few weeks until you know the dogs are getting along well. Many dogs must always be separated when they receive high value chews, no matter how long they have been living together. Set them up to succeed, NOT fight.
  • Give your existing dog LOTS of attention, especially when the new dog comes near. This way, instead of seeing the new family member as a threat, he will see that he gets LOTS of attention when the new dog is around.
  • Keep the dogs away from the dinner table or human food areas, as this may cause conflict.
  • Dogs often have conflicts, so if there is a growl or stare, this can be normal dog communication. Correcting normal dog disagreements that are not over the top will only make things worse. The dogs need to learn their boundaries. It’s best to SUPERVISE and DISTRACT, not correct. Punishment only causes more conflict.
  • Do not leave the dogs alone together in the home until you know they are both comfortable with each other. This can take weeks or months.
  • Use baby gates, long lines (six-foot leash for control) and crates to manage dog interactions.
  • Supervise all play, trips outside and interactions until each dog is comfortable in the presence of the other dog.
  • Avoid situations of arousal, especially initially. Any situation that raises the excitement should be avoided, including visitors, other dogs, or family members returning home. You should also keep your greetings calm.
  • Make sure both dogs are getting adequate exercise and walks. Just 20-25 minutes of exercise is shown to decrease many behavior problems.

Most dogs do very well together and live peacefully, but just like people, it’s not always love at first sight. They need an opportunity to have a successful relationship, and it’s up to us to provide an environment where they can succeed!

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