Considering adding another dog to your home? First, consider the dogs you already have.
“In my opinion, when you are looking to add a second dog to your home, first and foremost, you’ve got to look at your dog’s personality,” says Brad Phifer, CPDT-KA, director of pet behavior services for Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center in Indianapolis. This includes knowing your dog’s play style, energy and socialization level, and playmate preferences.
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Before you decide to add a second (or third, or more) dog, here’s what you need to know to make all your dogs feel comfortable.
For starters, Phifer tells WebMD that there are no set rules about good dog matches because all dogs - even within the same breed - are individuals. So it's not necessarily true that female dogs match well with male dogs, younger dogs or older dogs make better second dogs, or that two puppies always do well together.
Dog Introductions: What to Do
Dogs use body language to communicate, even when they are not directly interacting, says Lindsay Wood, MA, CTC, director of animal training and behavior at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, in Boulder, Colo.
She recommends walking your dog and the potential new dog together. Called parallel walks or proximity walks, these low-key activities allow dogs to get used to each other while doing something fun in a neutral space. This requires that:
Both dogs are on a leash
There is one person per dog
You keep the leashes loose, especially if/when the dogs choose to interact
You keep the first meeting brief (several seconds)
You praise both dogs constantly and in a light-hearted tone
Have your dogs sit or lie down to practice self-control, especially if one dog seems nervous or excited. Phifer says jittery energy can lead to frustration or aggression. “First impressions between dogs are really important,” he says.
While walking, allow one dog to sniff the other. Phifer recommends letting your current dog sniff first, while feeding the potential new dog some treats. Then, switch.
If the walk goes well, Phifer suggests taking the dogs to a safe, fenced-in area to relax and interact.
What Not to Do
Avoid doing these things when introducing your new dog:
Don’t throw two dogs together in a car, house, or yard and assume they will work it out. Even social dogs that seem to get along need supervision or separation (via baby gates or crates) at home for a few weeks.
Don’t keep the leashes tight when dogs first meet. The pressure from pulling only increases tension between dogs.
Don’t let the dogs rush up to one another.
Don’t use a stern voice, telling the dogs to “Be good!” or “Be nice!”
Don’t immediately introduce competition or conflict over popular toys, food, or bones.