I originally wrote this post in September 2011:

Thinking about adding a second dog to your home? If so, get another dog for you—not for your dog. A second dog really is twice the work, twice the expense. And yes, twice the love. If you have the time and ability to care equally for two dogs, go for it! But don’t be spontaneous. By planning ahead, the introduction of a second dog to your home will be a wonderful experience—for everyone.

Choosing the right dog

Your new dog must have good relationships with everyone in the house. Consider your resident dog. Is he confident or shy? Social or anti-social? Playful or a couch potato? How does he get along with other dogs? This will help you find a good personality match in a second dog. Also consider gender. Generally speaking, the most successful gender pairing is male-female.

The meeting

Once you have found a dog that may be a good fit, plan the meeting with your dog carefully. The old adage has never been truer: you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make it positive for both dogs. Here are some steps to take:

  1. The first meeting should be on neutral ground. This can be the shelter, a fenced ball field, a friend’s yard, the breeder’s property or another secure location. This reduces the risk of territorialism.
  2. Control each dog’s access to the other. Two adults start at a distance, each with a dog on leash and move closer together gradually.
  3. Make it positive. Each dog receives lots of yummy treats and praise and petting in the presence of each other.
  4. Watch body language. Watch each dog for signs he or she is tense, fearful, or threatening. Don’t move closer if you see such signs. Back up until the stress is alleviated.

If both dogs appear relaxed and friendly, then let them meet face to face on a loose leash. If one or both dogs are showing warning signs, this may not be a good pairing. Don’t push it; keep looking for a dog that will be a good fit.

Coming home                                            

Plan the homecoming carefully. Leave your resident dog home when you pick up your new dog. Walk the new dog around your property first, letting him explore. Bring out your resident dog and walk the property together. Take the new dog in first and let him explore the house with you. Follow steps 2 and 3 from above when you bring in your other dog. Continue to watch for signs of tension. Just because they did fine on neutral ground, does not necessarily mean it will be the same at home.

Living together

Help your dogs learn to live together over the first several months by taking precautions:

  • Feed them in separate areas.
  • Control access to toys and chews when they are together.
  • Keep them separated by doors or gates when you can’t supervise their interactions. Gradually, allow longer periods together alone.
  • Work individually with your new dog to build your relationship and to help him learn the rules of your home.
  • Work with both dogs together to ensure each offers good behavior in the presence of the other (sit, down, stay, etc.).
  • Don’t try to force which dog is the leader. Dogs are pretty good at figuring those things out for themselves.
  • Don’t punish one dog for fearful or aggressive behavior with the other dog—it only makes matters worse.

Include both dogs in your daily activities. It helps build their relationship together and with you. After all, you got the second dog because you wanted the additional companionship. Enjoy your expanded household!

Resources at your fingertips

More tips: http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/78/Introducing-Your-Dog-to-a-New-Dog.aspx

Book: “Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-dog Household,” by Drs London & McConnell

Carol Peter is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Cold Nose Companions, LLC Dog Training. She offers private in-home training for people and their dogs throughout Geauga County. Carol focuses on resolving problem behaviors and teaching good household manners using positive reinforcement training and behavior modification methods. She can be reached at carol@coldnosecompanions.com.

©2011, Carol Peter, Cold Nose Companions, LLC