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If you are considering adding another dog to your family, this blog post explores some of the important considerations to keep you pack running smoothly.

For many dog lovers, the only thing that could go better with your one dog is another one. However, there are important considerations to address before adding a new dog or puppy to your house. You’ll find numerous tips and guidelines on adopting a second (or third) dog through online animal resources and at your local library. For this blog, we have pulled together some basic suggestions.

Take your time. Evaluate your home and situation first—this is not an impulsive decision and your pet may be perfectly happy as “top dog” and not even want a companion. Adopting a Second Dog-- Tips from WestVet 24 Hour Emergency Veterinarian HospitalDiscuss it with your family and partner—you need your loved ones full support to make this a successful endeavor. Ensure that you have enough space (inside and out), financial means, and free time to spend with an additional dog. Be aware that if your first dog exhibits some behavior issues (such as separation anxiety), adding a new dog can actually make these behaviors worse. Experts recommend that you address and correct negative behaviors with your first dog through obedience training before you adding a new one.

Selecting the right dog.  Just as when you adopted your first dog, consider what canine characteristics fit best into your home and lifestyle. Researchers tell us that dogs of opposite genders generally work best together.  Sometimes same gender dogs will have dominance and submission issues which may result in fighting and injury, not to mention stress for the dogs. In addition, there are some breed-specific recommendations for adopting a second dog—do some research, speak with your veterinarian, and/or a reputable dog behaviorist first. At WestVet we do treat dogs that have been injured by a housemate occasionally, and it is always devastating for owners and for both pets. Veterinary Partner has an extensive article on selecting the right dog, you can read it HERE.

Your current dog’s temperament and general behavior around other dogs as well as the size and age differences of a potential new dog should all be considered.  An exuberant puppy with a senior dog can be challenging, you may need to protect your older dog from roughhousing.

Neutralize the introduction. The smoother the beginning of the relationship is, the better for all the pack members. A “play date” before you’ve made your final decision could be an invaluable tool.

Once you have made the decision to proceed with the adoption, have your new potential pet siblings meet away from your home. Meeting at a park and going on a walk together can help alleviate territorial behaviors. As the dogs meet, keeping them on loose leashes enables them to meet and greet and you to intervene if necessary.  For an inside meeting, utilize two crates which will allow the dogs to safely take turns sniffing one another through the crates.  

It is important that you do not leave the dogs alone or unsupervised until the new dog has adjusted to your home, and this could take several days/weeks. A few “disagreements” may arise as they settle into their new roles and routines, a growl or a snarl is not uncommon. As they become more comfortable with each other, these behaviors should diminish. If the relationship does not stabilize and improve, seek help with dog behaviorists and trainers. Indoor Pet has a list of other tips, read those HERE.

Making it work.  You’ll have a few adjustments to routines and schedules when a new dog joins the family. In the beginning, separate the dogs at feeding time to ensure that there are no food competition issues. Share treats with both dogs and hold off on special rewards like bones or rawhides until the two of them have exhibited calm food behaviors. You may need some extra toys, your long-time dog may not want to share and this could cause lead to a fight. Give both dogs individual and regular attention daily.

Many people have successfully integrated a new dog (or two) into their homes and lives. It just takes a little preparation, time, and training to help the process along.  Occasionally, two dogs just are not a good fit. In these instances, if time and training are not easing the tension, you will want to find a good, safe home for your new adoptee. Both dogs deserve a home where they can thrive, enjoy life and most of all, be safe. Local rescue organizations may offer some support if needed.

Please visit with your family veterinarian with additional questions and concerns. 

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