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Healthy Dogs

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Adding Another Dog to Your Home

Dos and Don'ts for Bringing Another Dog Into Your Home
By Roxanne Hawn
WebMD Pet Health Feature

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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Over the last two decades, the role of the domestic dog has undergone significant change. Dogs who used to live in a house with family members around all day, every day-and who had a big backyard in which to play and chase rabbits-may find themselves in an empty house 8 to 10 hours a day and being taken on a leash to a place to eliminate. Some dogs have a difficult time adjusting to this lifestyle, and many behavior problems occur because dogs are on their own and entertaining themselves inside...

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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.

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