Adding a second dog to your household can be unnerving but can end up being the most fun you've had in a long time. Multi-dog households take a lot of planning and preparation as well as serious thought.
If you have an older dog and plan to introduce a puppy or a dog, you'll have to consider the older dog's needs. Are they arthritic or otherwise unwell? Do they happily engage with other dogs regularly? Older dogs may experience pain and stiffness, as well as have a greater need for more sleep and "me-time". While a new puppy or dog can really breathe some life back into them, it also has the potential to cause a fear-response, frustration, irritation, or even double the crankiness if they get jostled or jumped on.
If you have a Cranky Canine (a dog who is reactive to dogs), an asocial dog (one that avoids contact with other dogs), or a selective dog (one who is very selective about the dogs with whom they engage), then adding another dog can be very problematic. For example, if you have Cranky Canine with a bite history, adding another dog to the household, especially a young puppy) is not likely to be a good idea, since the risk is high for another bite. This would not be fair to the first dog, nor the new dog.
If you have a social dog who craves the company of other dogs, adding a second dog may be a fabulous surprise, especially if they share well and do not show guarding tendencies around food, water, toys, chews, furniture, and resting spots.
If you have a dog with isolation distress, more often than not, adding a second dog is not the answer, but is worth a try if all signs point to "yes". A foster-to-adopt situation might give you the opportunity to gauge the success of this plan without the commitment in stone.
How to integrate the new puppy or dog into the home:
- Introduce them on neutral ground (not in the home or on the property) - most dogs will feel territorial of their home, yard, or even street. Try an open field away from other dogs. Utilise long lines (20-30ft) so that they have their space to engage or not, and you can reel one in if there's a problem brewing.
- When it's time to come indoors, let the new dog go in first and get settled behind a gate or pen and then bring the existing dog in. This has nothing to do with hierarchy - it can reduce the likelihood of the existing dog feeling territorial. If the other dog is already there, the existing dog may accept them faster than if s/he watches them come into their space while they're comfortable.
- Separation is key for the first little while, so be prepared to keep them separated by baby gates, exercise pens, and crates until they're comfortable. Slow and steady wins the race!
- Plan to feed them separately for the foreseeable future or at least the first month or two. There is no need for dogs to eat close to one another - this is a normal human behaviour - definitely not normal dog behaviour.
- Any interactions should happen outside for now, with the new dog (or both dogs) dragging a long line so that you can reel them back if they're too much for the other. Ideally off the property for now - again reducing the territorial behaviour until they are comfortable together and willing to share space.
- Gradually you can allow them to interact in the yard, same precautions.
- Eventually (and this might be weeks away) allow them to interact freely in the home with no food, toys, chews or bedding down. I like to ensure there are two or three bowls of water (to provide abundance and prevent guarding). Short and sweet - end it when it's going well rather than when it goes awry.
- Ignoring each other is okay! Watch for signs of avoidance and stress and be ready to intercept or separate them for breaks frequently.
- Fixation or snarkiness from one or the other is a sign that more management (separation) is needed for now and that you need to reach out for help!
- While they're separated by a gate/pen, be armed with snacks. You're going to create a pattern where the new dog (let's call her Fluffy) is fed a treat and then the old dog (let's call him Fido) gets a treat. Say "Fluffy" and feed Fluffy one treat. Then say "Fido" and feed Fido one treat. Wait 10 seconds, repeat. We want the new dog (Fluffy) to get the treat first and that predicts great things for the old dog (Fido)! This prevents "jealousy" and creates a positive association with the new dog getting a snack. It also teaches the new dog their name REALLY darned fast. BONUS!
- Give each of them one-on-one time at home and on walks so that they both learn to grow independently and separation anxiety from one another does not start brewing.
- Do not leave them loose in the home, unattended for any length of time for the first few months as they get comfortable.