We get it... when you're a dog lover and you're blessed with an awesome dog, you naturally think, I want another one. After all, having two dogs means double the fun and love, right?
Well, the more accurate answer is, probably — as long as your two furry pals get along. Luckily, the odds are in your favor that your canine companions can co-exist happily, but it takes time and patience. In some cases, your pups might hit it off immediately, but more often than not, it will take a bit longer.
Planning for a Second Dog
As with many things, when it comes to doing what's best for your pets, proper preparation is vital. The more prepared you are for a situation, the better your chances of success.
So, if you're planning to add a new dog to the family, do so with a plan in place. Bringing home a new pup on a whim is rarely a good idea, especially if you already have an established furry family member.
The best way to approach introducing dogs is to do it one step at a time, and the process starts before your new pal even moves into the house.
Before Your New Dog Comes Home
It's worth doing some research first if you're considering getting another dog. For example, you might want to look into several breeds that enjoy being around other dogs, like Labs and Beagles. At the very least, gather together a list of dogs that are tolerant of other animals.
Of course, it's also wise to assess your existing dog's reaction to other pups. Hopefully, your current dog is well-socialized and trained and open to the idea. But, if not, before bringing home a new dog, work with the one you have.
It might be necessary to undergo some training exercises with your dog to better prepare them for sharing their territory. You can attempt to work with your dog on your own or seek the guidance of a professional trainer.
Preparing for a Second Dog's Arrival
Assuming your dog is ready and willing for a new housemate, here are a few things to do before bringing home a new dog:
- Prepare a place that will be your new dog's safe space. It should be a place that feels comfortable and secure, without infringing on your current dog's domain. Remember, your existing pooch still needs to feel like they're the alpha dog in the home, and the new arrival shouldn't get free reign right away.
- If possible, get something with your new dog's scent on it a few weeks before bringing them home. You can even provide a t-shirt or small blanket to the breeder or shelter and ask them to put it with the dog for a few days. Then, when it has your new pup's scent, bring the item home and place it in your current dog's bed. This way, your pup can start getting used to your new dog before they even arrive.
- Likewise, provide something with your current dog's scent to the breeder or shelter. Your soon-to-be new pet can start to get familiar with their future doggy roommate.
- Make sure you have everything you need for your new dog and that you keep it separate from your other dog’s stuff. Don't just assume your dogs will share everything (your current dog certainly wouldn't appreciate it very much). Get your new friend their own leash, food and water bowl, bedding, toys, etc. Eventually, your dogs might end up sharing a few things willingly, but let that be their choice.
- Finally, ensure your new pup is current on all vaccinations and that neither of your dogs poses any health risks to the other.
Once you've got all this in place, the next step is bringing home your new fur baby.
Introducing an Adult Dog to Your Current Dog
It’s best to introduce your dogs on neutral turf to avoid your current dog becoming overly territorial and aggressive. Enlist the help of a willing friend or family member to handle your new dog (on a leash) while you have your current dog, also on a leash. The meeting should be at a park or another open area that offers a lot of distractions.
Keep plenty of treats on hand to reward positive behaviors. Approach the meeting place separately, and let the dogs greet each other as they would any other dog they would come across at the park. Make sure to not pull back on the leashes; leave the leashes relaxed so your dog doesn’t sense any tension.
Let the dogs do their thing, whether it’s sniff, play, or even ignore each other. Try not to intervene, unless the dogs start to get aggressive. If this happens, distract them with a firm voice and a treat to redirect them. Don’t pull back on the leashes, this can spark a fight.
Taking Your New Dog Home
Let this first meeting be short and sweet. If it seems to go well, take a walk together. If the dogs are getting along, continue the walk and head toward your home. Let the dogs hang out in the yard for a bit. If they still are getting along well, you can let them play in the backyard, supervised.
When you’re ready to bring them inside, put the new dog back on their leash. Walk them around the house on the leash so they can get the lay of the land, but let your current dog remain off-leash. If everything is going well, you can attempt removing your new dog’s leash as well, but always closely supervise the pups.
Stay Close the First Two Weeks
Keep an extra close eye on your dogs over the first two weeks. It’s wise to keep your existing schedule the same, show both dogs lots of love, and feed them separately. You can use a tall safety gate to keep the pups separate when you aren’t home.
Pay close attention to both dogs’ body language as they interact. As soon as you see any signs of aggression or anxiousness, redirect the dogs and separate them. Remember, patience and taking it one step at a time will be the key to successful coexistence.
Introducing a Puppy to an Older Dog
If you're bringing home a puppy, you've got a few extra things to consider. Besides introducing your dog to a new, wiggly bundle of fur, you need to devote a lot of time to training, setting a schedule, puppy-proofing your home, and more.
Crate training is an excellent way to acclimate your new puppy to their new environment. Plus, it offers a perfect opportunity to allow your current dog to investigate the pup safely.
Position the crate in a neutral space (i.e., not your dog's favorite cuddle spot). This way, when the puppy is in the crate, your dog can get a closer look, take a few good sniffs, and take their time getting used to the new addition. It also shows your current pal that they still have the run of things.
After your dog has had some time to get used to the new pup (one to two weeks), you can take the puppy out of the crate and let your dog sniff and study. Keep these sessions short at first, rewarding your dog for good behavior with positive reinforcement, like praise and treats. Eventually, after a few weeks, your dog should show tolerance for your puppy.
When your little puppy is bigger and more capable, you can let them down on the ground with your dog. Watch them closely, and continue to reward positive actions. Over time, as the pups get more and more used to being together, you can allow them to play and have more interactions.
What If Your Dogs Don't Get Along?
If no matter how hard you try, your dogs won’t get along, don’t lose hope. It’s very unlikely you’ll have to re-home your new pup. Instead, you may need to enlist the expertise of an animal behaviorist to help you deal with the issue. So, be prepared for extra work, time, and money spent on trainer fees if this is the case.
Getting a dog is a commitment, and getting a second dog is an even larger commitment. But, if you’re willing to put in the work, it can be twice as rewarding. For more helpful tidbits, check out the rest of our blog. We have all sorts of valuable information that can help you become a better-informed pet parent.