If you’re thinking about bringing a second dog into your home, it’s important to consider whether a newcomer will get along with your resident pet. It is not common, as many pet owners mistakenly expect, that two dogs living in the same household develop an instant friendship. Still, there is a lot you can do to ensure that your two dogs become good pals.
For starters, you may want to ask the shelter where you plan to adopt whether you can bring your dog along to meet your potential new companion. Many shelters encourage this idea and even provide a play area where the two dogs can interact on their own terms. Initial signs of significant aggression from one or both dogs are a red flag that there may be problems down the line. Apart from out and out aggression, you should also pay attention to whether the dog you want to adopt tries to dominate your current dog. For example, does the new dog try to mount or chase your dog? If so, you may want to keep looking.
“Pets, like people, react differently to different situations,” says Dr. Nicholas Dodman director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton, Massachusetts. “Some pets see all changes as a threat; others are more tolerant. When it comes to dogs, it’s a matter of personality rather than breed. There are three characteristics that determine a dog’s interactions with people and other animals: dominance, fear, and prey drive. “A dog with any one of these characteristics could be bossy and always want to be in control,” says Dodman.
It’s important that you do your homework to find out which breeds have a better track record for getting along with other animals in the same household. Brittany Spaniels, for example, are very friendly and would be likely to welcome a new friend, while some of the terrier breeds are very territorial and prefer to remain the one and only dog.
In addition to considering breed, Dodman also advises second-time adopters to consider a dog of the opposite sex. Male and female dogs tend to have less difficulty sorting out roles in the pack. If you are adopting from a shelter, your adopted dog will already have been spayed or neutered, which usually reduces aggression towards animals of the same sex.
Getting to Know One Another on Home Ground
Once you bring your new pal home, Dodman suggests that you first allow your dogs to get to know each other by smell. Start by keeping them in separate parts of your home and then allow them to switch territories. Yes, it’s true that you’ve already allowed them to play together at the shelter, but that is “neutral” ground. You must be more careful in the place that your current dog considers his home turf.
Choose a fenced area for your dogs’ first face-to-face meeting at home. You might even want to keep them both on leashes while they sniff each other out. If this goes well, consider taking them for a walk around the neighborhood to give them plenty opportunity to stop and sniff along the way. If you’re unsure about handling two dogs by yourself, ask a family member or friend to come along. Gradually work your dogs into more interaction in less constrained environments. Along the way, they may come to enjoy each other’s companionship.
Signs of Trouble
Always be aware of any signs of tension between the two dogs, for example: growling, hair rising along the back, prolonged staring, or baring of teeth—all of which can build up to outward aggressiveness. Be sure to separate the two dogs before anything escalates into a full-blown attack.
Also keep in mind that your dogs will decide their relative status on their own. It’s perfectly normal for dogs to challenge one another from time to time. It is also true that your resident pal may not remain the Alpha dog. Don’t despair — he may be quite happy to hand over the reins to the newcomer. Dogs tend to have an inborn tendency toward alpha or beta roles in the pack.
A Puppy as a Second Dog
Shelter workers often suggest getting a puppy as a second dog because your resident pet will not see a youngster as a serious rival. If you decide to go this route, keep a careful eye that the puppy doesn’t badger your pal. Be sure to give your older dog plenty of alone time away from the exuberant youngster.
Behaviorists also advise pet owners never to leave the two dogs home alone together until you are absolutely sure they have become firm friends. As with people, some relationships cement more quickly than others. Be patient and always offer both of your dogs lots of praise whenever they show signs of friendliness toward each other.
Of course, once you have two dogs, you have two pals to spoil. When it comes to buying toys, it’s a good idea to purchase extras. This way your dogs are less likely fixate over a particular item and refuse to share.
And finally, always remember, no matter how many dogs you have in your household, you are, and always will be, Top Dog!