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Integrating a Second Dog in Your Home

When Joe Allen considered adding another dog to his canine family, he asked himself some pretty important questions.  Do I have the time to devote to another dog, am I willing to train another dog and do I have the financial resources to support another pet?  Joe’s resident dog, Bing, is a hound rescued from the US.  Bing initially showed some signs of stress around other dogs but lately had been relating to them better and actually looked to play with them occasionally.  After honestly answering his initial questions, Joe started to consider why he wanted another dog.  Joe is a professional dog trainer who really enjoys the training process.  He wanted a young dog that would enjoy participating in dog sports.  He wanted a dog that was friendly to people as he enjoys visiting seniors with his dogs.  And he needed a dog that would get on well with other dogs.

You don’t have to be a pet professional to enjoy a multi-pet household.  41.5 of households have a dog. Presumably, a fair percentage of those have more than one. 😊 The transition to a multi dog home goes more smoothly if people have a plan in place.   People should really think about the day to day care of their dogs.   Feeding, sleeping, walking on a leash, play time, all require consideration because it is not always smooth sailing when you have two dogs.  People should really take their time to find the dog that best fits their lifestyle.  A big part of the process occurs before you even consider another dog.  Take the time to observe your current dog in social settings.  Understand his idiosyncrasies and use them to help select the best dog for you both.   It is a good idea for people to evaluate their dog training skills.  You and your dog should brush up on basic obedience skills before looking at bringing another dog into your home.   A quick sit or down from your dog can diffuse canine conflicts.  Some dogs are more of a project than people are prepared for.   It is important to understand your own abilities.  Every dog is an individual.  They, like humans, have quirks and needs, specific to training, exercise and attention. Some are just not right for every situation.

In addition to planning for day to day life, people need to manage their expectations of the dogs.  They may not be buddies right away.  Often by attempting to make the dog’s friends, we create more conflict.  The dogs do not and should not spend every moment together.  They do not need to have exactly the same bed or toys at the same time. In fact, it is important for both dogs to get time independently with the people in their life.  That is the vital bond here.  The bond with their human caretakers is what gives a dog his feelings of safety and belonging. By spending time with each dog individually, you help to create and maintain the relationship with each dog.

Here are some quick tips to help both dogs settle in:
  • Going on leashed dog walks is one of the best ways to build canine friendships.
  • Crate the dogs in the same room overnight.  Or if your existing buddy is not crated, crate the new dog and allow your existing dog to choose where to sleep.
  • Always feed your existing dog first.  Ask for some simple obedience commands before feeding.  Give him a comfortable place to eat without worry about competition from the new guy.
  • Do some obedience work at mealtime with your new dog.  Self control exercises and basic skills are important around food.  Give him a safe, comfortable place to eat so he doesn’t have to worry about the other guy getting his meal.
  • Be vigilant around toys.  You never know which toy may become very valuable and potentially cause a problem.
  • It must be said, do not leave any dog alone with children. Children are not equipped to deal with situations that may arise.

Eventually Joe fostered a Jack Russel terrier mix, named Sheila, to see how she would work out with Bing.  Their first meeting was on neutral territory.  Joe knew in advance that both dogs where safe around other dogs, so he intervened as little as possible.  He paid special attention to Bing when Sheila was around.   Their daily routine includes scheduled, supervised mealtimes, lots of exercise and regular training to channel Sheila’s abundant energy.  By putting his plan into action, Sheila fits very well into Joe and Bing’s lifestyle.

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