Adopting A Loving Pet
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Adding Another Dog To Your Household

Most dogs will enjoy having a canine companion in the home. Here are some suggestions for making the introduction of a new dog a smooth process.

  • In choosing a new dog, try to match your dog's personality and temperament, as well as your family's lifestyle. If your resident dog is a lap dog, he/she might not welcome an active terrier or herding breed. For example, a Mastiff might inadvertently injure a Chihuahua.

  • Both dogs should be spayed or neutered.

  • If your dog has any behavioral problems, you should resolve those before bringing in a second dog. If your dog isn't completely housetrained or barks all the time, you'll soon have two dogs with that problem. There are a few exceptions, such as a Greyhound suffering from separation anxiety from being alone for the first time in its life. This dog may actually do better if you bring in a second Greyhound.

  • All dogs should be obedience-trained, but this will be more important when bringing in a second dog. If your dog needs a refresher course, do that first. Obedience training is also a good way to bond with your new dog.

  • If at all possible, have the new dog checked by your own vet before bringing him into your home. Be sure he won't be bringing in diseases or parasites.

  • If you can have the new dog bathed before bringing him in, he will smell less threatening to your dog.

  • Give both dogs some exercise (separately) before the introduction, so that they will be a bit tired and more relaxed.

  • Introduce the dogs on neutral territory in a park, for example not in your home. This is very important. If you bring the new dog directly into your home, your dog may feel that he or his territory is threatened, and may react defensively or aggressively.

  • Keep both dogs on a leash, even if they are in an enclosed space, to give you control if one becomes aggressive. (You hold the resident dog's leash have a friend hold the other.)

  • Be careful not to telegraph to your dog any nervousness you may feel the leash is a transmitter. Keep a positive attitude and speak calmly. Avoid high-pitched, rapid-fire "reassuring" words and anxious petting, which we construe as calming, but dogs hear rightly so - as anxiety-ridden.

  • Make the experience pleasant give treats, such as bits of deli chicken or hot dog. Be careful, however, only to reward good behavior. Do not use treats to distract from a problem, and be sure you are not inadvertently rewarding aggression or bad behavior. If both dogs sit without growling, give a treat - within three seconds. Timing, and an immediate connection to the good behavior, are crucial to make the dog remember and understand what behavior is desired and is being rewarded.

  • Remember that dogs are hierarchical. One will be dominant. This is usually the resident dog, but if it is not, do not try to reverse the order they establish because you feel sorry for your dog that will simply prolong the conflict. A submissive dog is not an unhappy dog some dogs greatly prefer to let someone else (human or canine) be in charge.

  • If the dogs get into a tussle, as long as neither one is getting injured, do not interfere. (If you break up the conflict too soon, they may bring more of the unresolved tension to the next encounter.)

  • When the conflict ends, be sure to give attention first to the winner. This will reinforce the dominance just established. Temporarily ignore the loser. Once the hierarchy is established, fighting should stop.

  • Always be sure that the dominant dog is first to be greeted, fed, petted, given treats, and even first to have his collar/lead put on.

  • If either dog has an accident in the house, do not comment, yell, or punish. Simply clean it up, using an enzymatic cleaner. (Do not use any product containing ammonia, which smells like urine.) Again, this should stop once the hierarchy is established. Give the new dog extra opportunities to relieve himself outside until he becomes accustomed to your routine and schedule. If either dog starts to urine-mark inside the house, consider consulting a behaviorist.

  • Be sure to give your resident dog the same amount of affection he received in the past. Don't give him a reason to be jealous. If he got a walk or a play session at a particular time of day, be sure to continue that. The less the routine is disrupted, the easier this will be.

  • Each dog should have his own food and water dishes. Leave some space between the new dog's bowls and the resident's bowls. Food can be one of the most competitive areas for dogs feed them separately if you have any doubts about their relationship.

  • Don't overwhelm the new dog with visitors, particularly if he/she is a puppy, during the first days in your home. Remember that change is stressful allow the dog some quiet time.

  • If your resident dog is crate-trained, it is best to start that with the new dog immediately. Remember that dogs are den animals properly crating a dog (correct size, reasonable amounts of time, etc.) is not cruel and may help the dog feel safe and secure. Some dogs prefer solid crates to wire; if your dog does but you have wire, put a sheet or towel over the wire crate (but be sure to allow air circulation).
Within a few days, the dogs should be getting along nicely, happy to have each other as a friend and pack member.

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Additional Reading:

  • Second Hand Dog, by Carol Lea Benjamin.
  • Get Rid of the Problem, Not the Dog, by Rod Cassidy.
  • The Other End of the Leash , by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. A new book (2002) with positive training methods; how to use human and dog body language to help your dog understand what you want the dog to do. Also a good read.
  • Various books by Ian Dunbar.
  • Good Owners, Great Dogs, by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson - a traditional approach.
  • Excel-Erated Learning: Explaining in Plain English How Dogs Learn and How Best to Teach Them, by Pamela Reid.
  • On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, by Turid Rugaas - an odd little book, but may be extremely useful for tension between dogs or for any overly-excited dog.

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