Thinking of adding a second dog to your family? The joys of owning more than one dog can be incredible. A second dog can create a livelier household with double the love and twice the fun. There are many things that you can look forward to doing together as an expanded family: more playtime, more companionship, and an abundance of new experiences and adventures. However, adding another fur baby to your life also means a lot of change for your entire family — and especially for your current dog.
So how can you decide if this is the right change? Here are two important questions to address before you move forward with adopting a second dog:
1. Are You Ready for Two Dogs at Home?
Adding a second dog means more time effort, and resources being required from you. You'll be spending more on the basics, like dog food, supplies, pet insurance, and veterinary care. Sure, some expenses can be shared such as toys and supplies- but just like the second child, the second dog comes with their set of needs that can be costly. Consider how much you currently spend on vet bills, food, grooming, and boarding, then double it. Does that extra amount fit well within your budget?
There’s also the investment you'll need to make in training for both of your dogs when you have a multi-dog household. Issues like potty accidents, barking, pulling on leash, jumping on people, and other dog behaviors can require a lot of time, effort, and patience to address. You'll also have to learn how to manage behaviors like resource guarding between dogs.
2. Is Your Dog Ready for a Lifelong Playmate?
Before adding a second dog, you should decide whether or not your dog is ready for a lifelong playmate. Determine if your dog has any underlying behavioral issues that need to be addressed, such as: separation anxiety, excessive barking, leash-reactivity to dogs or humans, pulling excessively on leash, house-training accidents, destructiveness, and aggression towards humans, or other dogs. If your current dog exhibits any of these red flags, make sure to address them first before getting a second dog. New dogs can and will mirror your current dog’s behaviors- both good and bad. One untrained fur baby can suddenly turn into two and require twice as much work. On the flipside, if your first dog is already confident and well-mannered, they will model good behaviors to the new dog and make the training process much more seamless.
If you decide that you and your family are ready to adopt a second dog, choosing one who is compatible with your current dog will help increase the chance of a successful integration. Consider the following common dog traits:
1. Energy Level
Dogs tend to gravitate towards other dogs with a similar energy level or “vibe.” In most cases, a more mellow and less-active dog might not enjoy a canine companion that's constantly on the move. Age can play a huge factor with this trait as well. Bringing in a high-energy puppy could be very frustrating for your current dog if they are older and need their space. Instead, consider adopting a mild-mannered adult dog when you have a senior dog at home.
2. Dominance Level
If your current dog is naturally assertive, adding another dominant dog to the family can be the recipe for disaster. Instead, think of adding a slightly more submissive dog. On the other hand, if your dog is naturally more fearful/submissive, adding a slightly more assertive/confident dog can help your current dog become more confident.
Does your dog prefer playing with males or females? If you know this preference, consider adopting that gender. In most situations, it is easier for a male to live with a female. However, most experts agree that gender is usually not an issue so long as both dogs are altered (spayed or neutered).
When you’ve found the right match through your local rescue or shelter, here are some tips to ensure that you can successfully introduce the second dog into your family:
1. Arrange a Successful First Meeting Between Your Dogs
Before you bring your new dog home from the rescue or shelter, take your family dog outside or to a neutral area (park, etc.) to meet their new friend for the first time. Make sure each dog has a handler. Keep the dogs on their leashes by your side and study their body language. If both dogs are happy to see each other, wait until they calm down before you let the calmer dog slowly approach the other dog. Once the dogs are comfortable with one another, you can bring them home together.
When bringing your new dog into the home for the first time, it may be best to keep both dogs on leash for at least a few minutes while they observe each other in the same territory. If they remain calm, you can let them off their leashes under close supervision. You must continue to closely monitor your dogs’ interactions for the first 24 hours. Make sure you have the time set aside to watch every interaction and playing session your dogs have together. It is your job to stop unwanted behavior before it escalates to dominance or even a fight.
2. Take Extra Precautions at Home
Remember, the more precautions you take, the more successful the integration will be!
While the dogs are left alone, make sure to separate them with baby gates or crates. This will
prevent any unwanted altercations while the dogs get to know each other. Prevent food altercations by avoiding free-feeding. Feed twice a day and separate your dogs for feeding, e.g. in crates, separate rooms, or different corners of the same room. You will also need to closely monitor your dogs when you give them treats and ensure that there is enough space between them whenever they eat.
3. Walk Your Dogs Daily
Daily walks are crucial to strengthen the bond between your dogs as they build their “pack”
mentality. Dogs are naturally pack animals. Since dogs travel as a pack, it is crucial that you recreate the traveling experience with your dogs by walking them daily. Before you can walk multiple dogs properly, start by leash training each dog individually to ensure they know how to behave. Once you are ready to walk both dogs together, consider getting a dog leash coupler or leash splitter, which attaches multiple leashes to one handle. For instance, Wacky Walk’r is a great manufacturer of leash splitters, and they also sell no pull, retractable leashes. Over time, and with the right training and equipment, your dogs will learn to trust and respect each other through these daily structured walks.
4. Give it Time
Bringing home a new dog is always a bit stressful, for both you and your current dog! Routines
change and everyone has to learn how to share their space a bit more. It takes time for dogs to feel each other out and settle into a new family structure. A new dog needs time to settle in during their transition period, which can range from a few weeks to several months- it simply isn’t something that will happen overnight.
After careful supervision, structured walking, and consistent training, your dogs will feel safer and more confident around each other. Their true personalities will come out, and you will have two wonderful pack members in the family. With time and effort, a well thought out plan for your second dog can result in a true “match made in heaven!”
Getting a Second Dog: Things to Consider
Should I Get a Second Dog?
How To Successfully Introduce A Second Dog Into Your Family
Thinking about a Second Dog: Points to Consider
How to Walk Multiple Dogs at Once - 2022 - MasterClass