Bringing home a second dog

Bringing a new dog home is always exciting. But knowing the right way to do it and knowing what to expect makes the move easier on everyone. Bringing in a second dog, poses some unique challenges, but nothing that cannot be dealt with, when handled with thought and care. When bringing in the second dog, the first dog should play a critical role in all decisions. Bringing in a second dog is very unnatural for dog and the disruption in the dogs life needs to be carefully addressed.

When considering what dog to bring home, let age and gender of your first dog play a role. Consider adoption only after your first dog is 2.5 yrs or above. Younger dogs will find it harder to cope with the change in environment. Try to ensure that your second dog is at least 2 years younger than your first dog. This will help your older dog to take on a parental role in the new household. Getting dogs that are closer in age might create a sibling relationship and we all know how turbulent that can be, particularly at a younger age. I remember being pulled up by my headmistress because my sister and I were fighting so bad and she was playing tarzan with my pig tails and I kicked her to get her out my my hair…literally! Imagine your dogs doing the equivalent and you know what you have on your hands!

Gender should also be a consideration. Opposite genders do find it easier to get along. Specifically, of you have a female dog, it’s best to get a male. If you must get another female, the age dynamic explained earlier becomes even more important. Female dogs, contrary to popular belief, have a higher guarding tendency. Given that, bringing home another female close in age or older can trigger this guarding tendency and it might lead to fatal fights that we certainly don’t want to deal with. There are exceptions to these, but it helps to keep these criteria in mind, if you had the luxury to chose.

Next comes the process of introducing the dogs. Here, the most important thing to do is to TAKE IT EASY. Don’t rush the decision or the process. Let your existing dog and the potential new dog meet on neutral ground. Take them for walks, maintaining a distance between them. They don’t have to meet and play on the first visit. Schedule more than 1 visit and gradually decrease the distance between them.

When we went to get Tiggy, we visited the PPF shelter. We used the vast space outside and let the dogs have a choice there. The space was so vast that they kept their distance and barely acknowledged each other. But contrary to appearances, dogs are very cognizant of each others presence and will work out how to meet. Give them the time and space and let them do it at their pace.

Nishi & Tigger – best of friends

Once the dogs are able to meet and have shown that they get along, that’s the point at which you can decide to take home the second dog. If we brought home a second dog, against the will of the first one, then we have only ourselves to blame if the first dogs starts acting out and it will take a lot of effort to set things right. Sometimes things may never settle down.

Let’s assume that you have found the perfect friend for your dog and have decided to bring the second dog home. Take your first dog out of the home and bring them into the house together. Neither should be welcomed by the other in the house. This is critical in starting to get the first dog to understand that your home is now a shared space.

Once the dogs are home, it is likely that one or both dogs start resource guarding. Anything can be a resource – food, human contact, toy, beds etc…In situations like this, don’t let the dogs get stressed over this. This can lead to bad blood. Remove the dogs from the situation all together. If food is contentious, feed them in different rooms. If people are contentious, two people pet both dogs simultaneously or don’t pet either dog when the other one is around. If the bed is contentious, provide several other options, so that the dogs can chose what they like best. Take away the contentious bed. Basically, change the situation. Don’t feel helpless. Don’t put your hands up in the air saying you are helpless and expecting the dogs to change behaviour. Instead, take charge and change the situation. You are the sentient human being there. Over time, they will learn to cope. Dogs are very good that way.

Another source of stress can be sexual hormones. This poses problems in several different ways. We, in India have several street dogs that are in and out of heat. This could cause tension at home. Male dogs get very stressed in situations like that. But having two male dogs can add to the stress. I don’t need to explain the in-house stress of having 1 male and 1 female dog either. Over all, the situation is far more manageable and stress free of the dogs are sterilized.

One little tip from my own experience. Nishi was helped immensely by our fostering. We fostered pups, who came home, healed and left. This not only taught Nishi how to be a lovely caring nanny, but also taught her not to feel insecure when a new pup comes home. However, try this with caution. Nishi might have been unique and it might not always work for everyone.

Now, not that there are no exceptions to all of these. Sometimes dogs of the same gender may get along famously. My Tigger and Nishi do. Sometimes, a completely strange dog brought home might just settle in. But if you have a choice and are looking for the right kind of dog to bring into your home, consider the above. It makes it a lot easier on the existing dog & the new dog & on the rest of your family.

Once the new dog comes it, it will take time for the dog to settle down. So give your dog that time. Don’t start training or long walks. Allow for loads and loads of sleep. And if the dog comes from a stressful past, it WILL take 9 – 10 months for the dog to recover fully and the brain to grow out again. I will soon have another post on adoption and what to expect. But for now, if you are considering a second dog or know anyone else who is considering one, do pass on this information. I hope the new member is accepted well and settles down well. My favorite quote on this topic is “Dogs are like chocolate. It’s impossible to stop at 1”.

(Yet another valuable Turid Rugaas lesson)

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