Many of us consider getting a second dog, in the hopes that she will help keep our existing dog busy and out of trouble. However, if our resident dog is not well trained, it is more likely that our new dog will pick up on his bad habits.
In the end, we will have two furry terrors, instead of just one.
I got Husky puppy Shania, one year after my first dog, Shiba Sephy. I waited a year so that I had time to bond with Sephy and properly train him. Only after I had solved most of his behavioral issues, did I consider getting another 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 new dog into our 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 their toys.
Often, Husky Shania will work diligently on her items, while Sephy will just lie around sunning himself. He will wait until she 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 second dog, it is natural to pay more attention and show more affection toward her, especially if she is a puppy.
However, we must resist that temptation, and try to treat both dogs equally.
If we give our new dog more attention and affection, we may create competition between our two dogs. This may later lead to conflicts and aggression. Instead, I make sure all my dogs follow similar rules, and get similar rewards for good behavior.
If we are too lenient with our puppy and let her get away with more, our existing dog will likely observe that, and pick up on those same bad habits.
I like doing group obedience training with my dogs. This helps them work together as a team, and be comfortable with each other around people, food, and toys. It also helps them to associate together-time with rewards and positive outcomes. I also do their grooming sessions together, including teeth cleaning and fur brushing.
Supervision is very important, especially in the beginning. I teach my dogs what the rules are, and what to do when under stress. In this way, they learn good play and interaction habits. In fact, 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 during play. 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 dogs to join in, so we do a brief group obedience session. These brief breaks help my dogs to calm down, refocus on me, 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). I do not want my Shiba practicing these types of behaviors. The more he practices it, the more likely he is to repeat it; possibly in an inappropriate context. 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 there is no bullying, and my dogs do not become fearful of each other. Since I am the one correcting their behaviors, my dogs are free to enjoy each others’ company, and need not use aggression. They learn to see each other as playmates and equals. If there is ever any trouble, they can come to me and I will take care of it. To me, that is what leadership means.
4. A Quiet Place to Rest
When I first got a new dog, I made sure that Sephy had a nice and quiet place to rest, away from the nibbles of a playful puppy. Like us, a dog may want some time to spend, in peaceful solitude. This is especially important if our resident dog is older, and tires more easily.
A puppy can be a crazy ball of energy and a big handful, not just for the people 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 she has a fixed schedule for meal-time, play-time, walk-time, and sleep-time.
When it is time for sleep, little Husky goes into her crate or puppy pen. In this way, my adult dogs get to rest, and so does my little puppy. Now that Puppy 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 whenever they want, and they also have access to the backyard.
If I am not home, which does not happen often, Husky prefers to stay out in the backyard and Shiba likes staying in the house. I still do not fully trust them to be alone together, because their play can get pretty crazy, they may get over-excited, and end up hurting themselves.
5. Conflict Over Resources
When we get a new 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 one dog is chewing on a toy, I am there to supervise and prevent stealing. If I am not fast enough and some stealing occurs, I usually replace what was stolen plus an added interest. The thief has to either go to his bed or go to timeout, thereby temporarily losing his freedom. In addition, I also reward my dogs for staying calm together, and for working together with me.
In summary, I try to maximize positive interactions with the new dog, as well as minimize bad encounters. The more positive experiences my dogs have with each other, the more they will accept each other as part of a team. The opposite is also true.
If we establish clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, our new dog will quickly learn what is expected of her, 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 new 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 much heftier.
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 she is away, he just spends his time moping around the house.
Thanks to Colleen and Reptar for bringing up this fun and important topic.