Many people consider getting a second dog, in the hopes that a new dog will help keep the first dog busy, and out of trouble. However, if our first dog is not well trained, it is more likely that our second dog will pick up on his bad habits.
In the end, we will have two furry terrors instead of just one.
I got my second dog one year after my first dog. I waited a year so that I had time to bond with my first dog (Shiba Inu Sephy) and properly train him. Only after I had solved most of Sephy’s behavioral issues, did I consider getting a second dog.
One of the biggest challenges of getting a second or third dog is the process of introducing her to our existing pack, and getting everyone to accept her. Here, we consider how to successfully introduce a second dog into the home.
Introducing a Second Dog into the Home
1. Meal Time Ritual
Meal time is especially important in a multiple dog household.
Dogs are opportunistic by nature, and during meal times, I have observed that they will try to steal each other’s food. This can often trigger food guarding and food aggression behaviors.
I supervise my dogs during meal times so that there is no stealing. They each get several interactive food toys to work on, and I make sure they give each other space while working on the toys.
Often, Husky Shania will work diligently on her toys while Sephy will just lie around sunning himself. He will wait until Shania is done with her toy, and then pick through what she has left behind.
He is such a moocher!
Sometimes, he will test coming in before Shania is finished, in which case I will step in and body block him away. Through this process, my dogs learn that I will enforce meal-time rules in a fair and consistent manner, so they do not need to do it themselves with their teeth.
2. Attention, Affection, and Rules
After getting a new second dog, it is natural to pay more attention and show more affection toward the new dog, especially if he is a puppy.
However, we must resist that temptation and treat both dogs equally.
If we give the second dog more attention and affection, we may create competition between the two dogs. This may later lead to aggression. Instead, make sure both dogs follow the same rules, and get similar rewards for doing work for us.
If we are too lenient with our second dog and let him get away with more, the first dog will likely observe that, and pick up on those same bad habits.
I like doing group obedience training with both dogs. This helps them work together for food, and be comfortable with each other around people, food, and toys. I also do their grooming sessions together including teeth cleaning, and fur brushing.
Supervision is very important, especially in the beginning, to ensure that they learn good play habits and interaction habits with each other. I still supervise my dogs, but less so now that they are older, and know the rules around the house.
Still, Shiba will always try something from time to time to test his boundaries.
He is that cool!
3. Play-Time Rules
In addition to meal-time rules, play-time rules are also important.
Since Shania is a three legged dog, Sephy may sometimes overwhelm her when he gets over-excited. I always make sure he does not get too rough with her.
I manage the excitement level of all of my dogs, by throwing in many play-breaks. During a play-break, I call one dog over to me (the more food focused one), get her to do some simple commands, and reward her well for it. This usually gets the other dog to join in, so we do a brief group obedience session. These brief breaks help my dogs to refocus on me, calm down, as well as practice doing commands in the middle of play.
I also institute a no-humping rule because it can be seen as a dominance move by other dogs (especially new dogs), and I do not want my Shiba practicing these types of behaviors. Shania also dislikes it, so humping is a time-out offense.
Some people prefer to let the dogs “work it out for themselves”.
Personally, I think it is best for us to set and enforce play-time rules and household rules. By doing so, I ensure that Shania never has to be fearful of Sephy, and vice versa. Since I am the one correcting their behaviors, both dogs do not have to do the correcting themselves, through aggression.
They both learn to see each other as playmates and equals, and if there is ever any trouble, they can come to me and I will take care of it. To me, that is what leadership is all about.
4. A Quiet Place to Rest
When I first got Shania, I made sure that Sephy had a nice and quiet place to rest when he wants to be by himself, away from the nibbles of a new puppy. This is especially important if our first dog is older, and tires more easily.
A new puppy can be a crazy ball of energy and a big handful, not just for the humans around the house, but also for the existing dogs.
I set up a consistent routine for my second dog, similar to what I did for my first dog. I make sure that the second dog has a fixed schedule for meal-time, play-time, walk-time, and sleep-time.
When it was time for sleep, puppy Shania went into her crate or puppy pen. In this way, Sephy got to rest and so did Shania. Now that Shania is older, it is no longer necessary to manage them so closely. Both dogs are able to regulate themselves, and give each other space when they need it.
Still, they each have separate crates that they can go to when they want, and they also get to go out to the backyard whenever they want.
If I am not home, which does not happen often, Husky Shania prefers to stay out in the backyard, and Shiba likes staying inside the house. I still do not trust them to be alone together in the house because their play can get pretty crazy, they may get over-excited, and end up hurting themselves.
Conflict Over Resources
When we get a second dog, there is a lot of uncertainty. Everyone in the family is learning how to interact with puppy, and puppy is learning how to interact with everyone else.
Conflicts may arise between our two dogs, when they both want the same thing, at the same time, for example, food, toys, sleeping area, or our attention and affection. An effective way to keep the peace, is to be clear about resource ownership, and teach them how to resolve conflicts without aggression.
For example, if a dog is chewing on a toy, I am there to supervise and prevent stealing. If there are conflicts, the dogs get my attention, and I try my best to resolve the situation, in a fair and consistent manner. If there is stealing, I usually replace what was stolen together with an added interest, and the thief has to either go to his bed, or go to timeout.
In addition, I also reward my dogs for staying calm together, and for working together with me.
If we establish clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, our new dog will quickly learn what is expected of him, and our existing dogs will also know what to expect from the new puppy. This reduces uncertainty, reduces stress, and helps everyone to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Second Dog – Double Trouble or Double Fun?
So which is it?
Is a second dog double the trouble or double the fun?
I think if properly handled, a second dog can be a big enhancement to everyone in the family.
I am very glad Shania joined our family. Everyone has a happier, much richer life because of her spirit, exuberance, can-do’ness, and overall awesomeness!
However, she was a lot of work, especially in the beginning, and the dog bills are now double what they were before.
Still, Shania gives a thousand-fold more than she gets, and Sephy will be the first to say that he loves her more than words can say. When Shania is away, Sephy just spends his time moping around the house.
Thanks to Colleen and Reptar for bringing up this fun and important topic.
If you have second dog stories, tips, and advice, please share them with us below.
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