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.
I have 2, pit lab mixes that are 6 months old and r from the same litter. The first born male and the runt male. This last week they’ve been getting into fights so bad to the point where my boys and i have had to pry them apart and separate them fot an hour or more. I just bought prong collars for both with the hope this will help bteak the fight up faster. I also ordered shock collars and muzzles to helo reduce injury to the dogs as well as ourselves I cant get them neutered for another month as they need to finish their shots firat. I am now afraid to leave them together unattended while we’re at work as the fights have been bad. I don’t want to keep them separated forever but am interested in keeping the fighting to zero if possible. Any suggestions. ?
Carl Urzua says
I have a 4 year old Male Akira in 4 weeks I have a chance to get another Akira puppy my four year old is trained and is very mellow with the kids how long do I keep the puppy separated from the big the four year has his dog house out side I’ll let them play but I’ll have a crate inside the house when they are not playing
Hovik G says
I have a 9 months old husky/jindo mix.. nicest boy, no aggression and all he wants to do is to play I am thinking about getting a 2 months old husky puppy. is it a good idea now or should I wait until my puppy is a little older?
My puppy is very calm no destruction or anything, potty trained and all
Andrea H says
I really like the peaceful way in which you approach training your dogs. I have a question about bullying, but it is actually the puppy who is bullying the older dog.
I have a 4 year old Golden retriever (Zoey) who is very gentle and calm. My boyfriend recently adopted a puppy that we believe is part pitbull, part terrier, and part cattle herding dog. The puppy can be a bit aggressive when trying to get Zoey to play with her, but what concerns and bothers me the most is that she will go up behind Zoey and bite the back of her legs until she can get a response. The problem is that Zoey is too nice to really give her a reaction.
My boyfriend says this is because she is part cattle herding dog. When I see her doing it I always tell her no and if she doesn’t stop I push her away. We’ve tried telling her to kennel up when she’s doing it and she goes to her kennel and then returns and does the same thing over and over. It causes Zoey a lot of stress and I guess my question is what is the proper way to deal with this? And is this a form of aggression out of the puppy? My boyfriend definitely uses aversive techniques to discourage bad behaviors and I wonder if this is helping or hindering the puppy’s ability to learn.
Hello- We are having this problem here and I am wondering if you found any effective measures for this. We know the usual, keep em exercised, tired, trained, loved etc. But our new pup (9 months old – we’ve had her 2 months) bullies our 4 year old sweet-natured pup as much as she can. Time outs, separate play, together walks, even ruling out physical issues- still no luck. My heart hurts for my 4 year old. The puppy is a beagle/lab mix, the 4 year old a lab/cattle mix (we raised her from 8 weeks) . I can’t watch and referee this bullying anymore. Any ideas? What ended up working for you.
Thank you so much for the awesome articles! I have three: male Akita, a female Vizsla / Chocolate Lab Mix (newly introduced – she’s a rescue) and a female Chocolate Lab. Multi dog households are very challenging and I found this article to be most helpful. We are experiencing some aggression between the Vizsla Lab and the Akita. I thought I was the only person that kept my dogs separated when I couldn’t supervise playtime! Very sound advice and much appreciated. Much respect to you and your family for having three intelligent (but obstinate) breeds. You do an amazing job!
Hi i recently aquired A 8 week old male Belgian shepherd a few days ago.i already have a 9 month old male deaf border collie.my border collie loves dogs and puppies but sometimes he forgets his size.he has accidentally stepped on the puppy once and since then i am too scared to let them interact.how do i stop my border collie from stepping on my puppy and hurting him.Please help as i want them to be with each other 24/7 and not constantly separated…
You haven’t alowed your Belgian Shepherd to become mature. Two puppies at the same time is not great. You refer to the 8 week old as a puppy but your 9 month old is still a puppy. You cannot keep them separated as this will cause feelings that the pack has no stability. I would suggest supervision and crating the youngest for sleep and security when necessary. Your Border Collie is still a baby too
We got female Pomeranian as a present last year. We got her when she was 4 months I think. She is very friendly, clever and easily scared but she still chase after cats. I plan on getting a new pet, actually a husky. I prefer dogs that looks like a wolf. I am not very sure of my choice. Plz recommend and advice what kind of dog I should get.
I have 4 dogs, yes 4… Buddy is a 9 yr old Coon Hound mix, fixed, non-aggressive towards people and has been raised around cats and many other dogs with no issues, have had him since 8 months old. Poe is a 3 yr old male intact, cocker spaniel mix, non-aggressive towards people and most other dogs, loves cats, and I have had him since 3 months old. Both Buddy and Poe get along GREAT, they are best friends and do everything together. Poe is a love bug, licks, cuddles, sits on lap, Buddy is more a loner, he enjoys being petted and being near everyone, but will sit by himself. Recently (3months ago) we added a 3 year old female fixed English Bulldog, non-aggressive towards people, and she has been getting along fine with the boys, was even beginning to play with them outside. We recently added (1 month ago) Fiona a 3 MONTH old female NOT FIXED English Bulldog, they all were getting along GREAT! really no issues even around food ( I feed them in separate rooms) Recently, within the past 10 days Patty has been staring down Buddy and lunging aggressively at him, and I have had to break up some fights. We can NOT figure out why this sudden change in behavior. She is not acting this way towards the other dogs or towards people at all. I would HATE to get rid of any of them, as I love all of them. I was thinking of trying a shock collar.
I have never used one and have concerns.
Nv Nikki says
Hi… Just wondering if anyone ever got back to you? I am having problems getting answers with a very similar situation in my own home if so please reply and let me know any suggestions you might have from your own experience thanks a bunch… Nevada Nikki and her family of…. A 14-year-old giant Alaskan malamute wing a healthy 175 pounds and an eight week old golden retriever… Very concerned my malamute grew up as the baby of three older dogs… Never a problem until I brought the puppy home… He seems happier but is now showing aggression after just two weeks with the puppy in the home
Hello! I have a one year old bloodhound, Annabelle, that we have had since she was 9weeks old. Two days ago we brought home a six year old Pomeranian, Chica, from a rescue. Both have basic training. Both are absolutely awesome dogs separated, but Annabelle is overly curious about her and wants to play.
I think Annabelle is more socialized than Chica is. Chica growls and attacks her if Annabelle comes anywhere near her (it’s not Annabelle’s size, because Chica has no issues coming into Annabelle’s space). Chica has laid claim to all the toys and unless I am playing with Annabelle with a toy, Chica won’t allow Annabelle any where near a toy. She has even gone into annabelles crate and removed toys. Chica is starting to even have human possessiveness.
I really don’t want to re-home Chica again, as I’m pretty sure it has to do with her issues. I was more concerned with Annabelle handling another dog in her space, but she is VERY welcoming and even tolerates Chica’ behavior unless Chica attacks. I would like to work on these issues now before they become habit
Any advise is welcomed. I really want these two fabulous canines to have a forever home with us!
Hi, I love your dogs. They’re so cute and I’ve actually always wanted a husky myself! But I need help with my own dog. I was given a four year old Chihuahua dachshund mix this August. I observed a few issues he had that his owners pretty much ignored almost completely. These issues consist of food guarding, horrible insecurity, and fearful aggression. These problems did not seem that bad, and they had five dogs and wanted to give him away so I thought why not, I’ve worked with a few dogs before and have a boxer who is very well rounded that we raised. I was definitely wrong. We brought him home and his problems seemed to get worse, he constantly attacked our other dog. What I could tell he was doing it out of fear, at least that was what his body language was telling me. He would not even let her sniff him without him just quickly going into a frenzy, and then once I got him to stop if there was any loud noise or anything he would just freak out and run and attack our boxer again, even if she wasn’t even doing anything or near him. After a long time and hard work I got it under control and it went from a attack or two a day to no attacks at all in months, he pretty much tolerates her now and will even run around with her and they get along pretty okay. But now my parents got a boxer puppy. He was doing a little okay with the puppy but then I noticed his pupils were huge, he was shaking and whining and trying to get up in the puppys face and I intervened by grabbing his collar and having him sit and he still wasn’t calm. When the puppy went to sniff him he would stiffen up and sit and give the puppy the same look he would give our other boxer before he attacked her. So I tried to snap him out of the fixation on the puppy but it was to late and his mind was already in fight or flight mode as I could tell, and he never chooses flight unfortunately. But he went to attack her so I pushed the puppy away quickly and got between them and just took him and put him in his kennel. How do I get him to tolerate her like I got him to tolerate the other boxer? Also when he meets new dogs he always runs up on them and gets in their space, but once the dog just goes to sniff him he does the stiff sit and then just attacks. I do not want him hurting this puppy whatsoever, I cant afford it because my parents would get rid of him and that means I failed to help him, once I realized how bad his problems were I told myself to not give up on him no matter what. He has bitten me to once when I got between him and the other boxer and I still don’t want to give up on him but I’m starting to loose hope! Please help me.