My husband and I frequently debate about whether to add another dog to our family. We adopted Sasha, our Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, five years ago when she was three years old, and she’s brought so much joy into our lives. Wouldn’t two dogs be twice as fun? I think that dogs are pack animals and most would prefer to live with other dogs. My husband contends that Sasha would prefer to be an “only dog” and not have a canine sibling. I can’t tell if he really believes this or is projecting his anxieties about getting a second dog.
It doesn’t help that I volunteer for Copper’s Dream, a rescue organization that saves dogs from high-kill shelters in Central California and brings them to foster homes in the San Francisco Bay Area for adoption. I help post adoptable dogs on Craigslist, and at least once a week I fall in love with a dog’s smile or beautiful sad eyes. Like many of us dog lovers, I feel the urge to save them all.
I consulted with a couple of dog trainers to get professional opinions on this topic. It turns out that neither me nor my husband are correct (darn!). What it boils down to is whether the pet parents are prepared to take on the additional responsibility and how the introduction between the dogs is handled.
Gloria Post, a certified dog trainer with Hands On Dog Training, recommends that pet parents consider the following factors when weighing whether to add another dog to the family:
- Do you have the time to commit to another dog? For instance, time for walks and training?
- What type of temperament does your current dog have? What would be a good match for your dog? Does your dog like to run and play all day or is the dog contented to stretch out on the couch and relax?
- If you decide to get another dog who is the same age as your resident dog, you should consider that someday they will both be old at the same time. This might involve large medical expenses. Is that something that you’re willing to do? A three to five year age span seems to work best between dogs.
Post added that dogs of the opposite gender seem to be more compatible than same-gender dogs, and some rescue organizations or shelters may restrict adoptive parents to only adopt a dog of a different gender from their current dog. She says terriers are most prone to this sensitivity.
Once you’ve determined that you are indeed ready to adopt another dog, keep in mind the age, personality and gender of the dog that might be most compatible with your family when you conduct your search. When you find a dog that might be a match, set up a play date for the dogs. Marthina McClay, certified dog trainer with Dog Training for People, suggests you schedule one or two play dates and let your dog decide if he or she likes the other dog. “Go slow, don’t rush things,” she advises.
And don’t bring the new dog into the house (aka your dog’s territory) right away. Instead, have them meet on neutral territory and slowly check each other out. If things appear to be going well, then bring them to the front yard and later inside the house. This means that both dogs appear relaxed and neither dog is exhibiting rude behavior such as mounting the other dog. McClay advises keeping an eye on the dogs’ posture to see their level of acceptance with the new arrangement and that neither dog appears overly aroused, nervous, stiff or fearful. And above all, don’t lavish too more attention on the new dog, so that you’re resident dog doesn’t feel left out.
Have you introduced a new dog into your family? How did it go? Tell me in comments.
Read more on getting a new dog: