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Adding Another Dog to Your Home

Dos and Don'ts for Bringing Another Dog Into Your Home

Good Signs, Bad Signs

Wood tells WebMD that watching both dogs’ body language reveals much about how they feel. Look for these signs that it’s going well:

  • Loose, relaxed body movements
  • Open mouths
  • Wiggling bottoms
  • Wagging tails, low and sweeping motions
  • Play bows (where one dog puts his elbows on the ground and his bottom in the air) or other bouncy movements that invite play

Some dogs that feel at ease may also ignore each other after the initial hello.

Phifer says that some barking is OK, if it’s happy barking, and he says, “Some mounting is normal.”

Watch for these signs that dogs feel uneasy:

  • Closed mouths
  • Tails held high, with a tic-tic-tic motion
  • Prolonged body stiffness
  • Forward ears
  • Staring
  • Growling

He says it's normal for dogs to ignore each other somewhat, but "what I don’t want to see is avoidance. I don’t want to see Dog A trying to get away from Dog B.”

Fearful dogs can appear either grumpy or completely tucked up and worried, with tails clamped to their stomachs and ears flat against their heads.

If either dog shows any of these stress signals, pleasantly call them apart, then ask them to hold a sit-stay or put them back on leash.

Wood says she typically knows within two minutes if dogs make a good match. If it goes well, she lets the dogs hang out. If not, she moves on to another possible playmate.

“We don’t spend 30 minutes with two dogs that don’t seem compatible because we don’t want either dog feeling overwhelmed or stressed out,” Wood says.

Puppies and Multiple Dogs

Phifer says the friendly nature of most puppies makes introducing a youngster easier. He says dogs learn best from other dogs, so the average puppy is going to get quick, clear lessons from the older dog(s) about what’s allowed.

If the puppy pesters too much, expect corrections -- in the form of little snarls and snaps -- from the older dog. Brief, controlled lessons that do not cause the puppy any injury are fine. If the puppy doesn’t get the hint, Phifer suggests stepping in so that the older dog doesn’t escalate the correction.

Introducing a new dog or puppy into a multiple-dog household is done much like single-dog introductions. Simply bring out one or two of the current dogs at a time to meet the new dog. “I’m not going to let all five of my dogs rush the new dog,” Phifer says.

Fast Friends, or Not

You can help dogs avoid conflict and make good connections by doing these two things:

  • Give each dog its own food bowl and eating space,  water bowl, bed or sleeping area, and plenty of rest.
  • Continue walks together and other fun activities. Wood says this helps dogs learn to like each other because good things happen when they're together.

There isn’t research for dogs, as there is for cats, that show how long it takes dogs to adjust to each other. Phifer, however, says that two to four weeks is usually enough time to know if dogs can be friends.

During the adjustment period, you want to see these behaviors:

  • Fewer grumpy moments
  • More frequent play or interaction
  • Mutual grooming or cuddling

But if the dogs merely tolerate each other or avoid each other, then that reflects a bad match. "Just existing together, but sitting on opposite sides of the room, isn’t a good relationship," Phifer says.

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Reviewed on September 07, 2010

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