Have you ever fallen in love with a pup, feeling like you “just knew” you had to adopt it (even if the dog you already have is used to being an only “child”)?
It happens to the best of us, especially in the dog-lover’s world!
Once you love one fur baby, you quickly warm up to the adorable cuteness of potential additional dogs. There’s no shame in taking home a second dog, but there are a few things you may want to consider first.
To start, if you have existing pets, you need to consider their needs first:
- Is your current dog old?
- Does he suffer from any health problems?
- Does he struggle with new dogs?
- Does he have a history of being dog-aggressive?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, stop and consult a trainer first. These issues can pose significant risks to both your new puppy or your existing dog.
If you’re sure your dog is ready for a full-time playmate, it’s time to get excited and start planning!
Learn About Your Potential New Dog
Whether you’re getting your new dog from a shelter or a breeder, it’s important to learn all you can about the life your puppy is leading before he comes to you. Sometimes, puppies may have a different initial upbringing than you expect; this can make a difference in their temperament and training.
If you’re adopting an older dog, history is even more important. Some dogs may have been strays living on the streets for years. Others may be outdoor dogs and lack socialization or house training skills.
Also be cautious of adopting from shelters. Although you certainly will be giving a needy dog a home, some pups may come from abusive homes. They could be frightened, skittish or even a bit aggressive when meeting new people or experiencing new situations.
The more you know about a dog before you take it home, the easier it will be to integrate him with your family. Not every dog you encounter will be well-adjusted right away; even the best temperaments can change with the anxiety of a shift to a new location. if you’re not prepared for training and dealing with the anxiety and behavior problems, it may not be the right time to adopt.
Meet & Greet
As tempting as it may be to just adopt and run home with a brand-new dog, this is rarely a wise approach. Every dog has their own personality and temperament, even puppies, and that means they may or may not conflict with existing pets.
Start by arranging a meet and greet to see how the dogs (and humans) interact. Be aware that “only dogs” who are accustomed to living alone may show some aggression and dominance with the potential new pup. In the interest of your sanity, and the health and happiness of your dogs, it is important to ensure they both get along.
Sometimes, meet and greets don’t become successful the first few times. Don’t give up. It may take several meetings and play dates for the dogs to get used to each other, or for a new dog to come out of their shell. Don’t assume that just because your dog growls a little at the first meeting that you’re doomed to single-dog ownership for life. Think about how you would feel if someone put you in a stranger’s face and encouraged you to play!
One way to make sure your dog is prepared to have another dog around is to socialize him at either a local dog park or doggy daycare. This is a wise idea even when you aren’t considering getting another dog. By meeting and spending time with other dogs, your dog will learn how to deal with other pups of all sizes and temperaments.
When you bring your new dog home, it is important to designate separate spaces for a few days, even if the two have gotten to know each other at meet and greets. Your new puppy is acclimating to a brand new home; your other dog now realizes his play friend is now in his house. He may react with joy or be territorial — don’t assume you can predict reactions. Take it slow and always supervise while the two are in a room or the yard together.
It takes time for dogs to establish their hierarchy within the home, both when they’re the only dog and when they’re just one in a pack of many. While they need a space where they can feel comfortable, you should give them time to play together and allow the new puppy to do a bit of exploring now and again.
If your new pup oversteps his bounds, your existing dog may correct him, either by growling or sometimes even pushing. It’s tempting to correct your dog and give him commands in an attempt to get him to “play nice” with the pup, but that isn’t teaching the puppy or your dog how to relate to one another when you aren’t around. It’s okay to supervise and directly prevent either dog from getting hurt while they work little squabbles out.
New Dog, New Items
Don’t expect your new dog and old dog to share food bowls, toys or beds. Dogs are territorial by nature even if they aren’t aggressive, and forced sharing may bring on undesired behaviors. Instead, bring home your new dog with new supplies and set him up in his own space. Allowing your new dog to establish his own “territory” and “stuff” within your home increases the likelihood that he’ll feel at-home and leave the other dog’s belongings alone.
After a few months, you’ll probably notice your dogs sharing items. This means the two of them have developed a trusting relationship — they’re friends! Once you see this happen naturally, you can move the items to a shared space for good.
Let Your Existing Dog Help With Training
A new dog needs to learn routines, schedules, and rules at home first-hand. Fortunately, having another dog is precisely what the doctor ordered for this concern! Your existing dog already knows the rules and how things work, and is likely comfortable and confident as he goes about his day. Young dogs follow “monkey see, monkey do;” you’ll often see the puppy mimicking the dog unexpectedly.
When you begin leash training, potty training or crate training, do it with both dogs. She’ll adjust to the routine faster when she sees your current dog doing the same thing. Doggy doors, fenced yards, and areas where the dogs aren’t allowed — your existing dog can help with all of these training issues, too.
Introducing a new dog into your family can be a smooth and easy transition, or it can be challenging for all involved. Neither experience is inherently wrong because every single dog is unique. You can have a big impact on your post-adoption experience by simply preparing for anything well in advance. Once the hard work is done, you have two dogs at home and can sit back and enjoy all of the the fun that comes with having more than one dog. The cuddles, the playing, and of course the adorable antics will keep you smiling and entertained.