Dec 05 , 2019
Are you thinking about getting a second or third dog? Keep reading for our tips on how to safely add a new dog to an existing pack!
Don't feel like reading? Watch our YouTube video below and visit our YouTube channel for more where that came from!
It's easy to meet a dog and fall in love, but this is a big decision! Dogs are a lifetime commitment. They can easily live upwards of 12 years, so plan to spend at least the next decade together. It's best for all parties involved if you don't make a decision based on emotions alone.
So, let's talk about the practical things first:
Making the Decision
Can you afford it? The least popular, yet most important question. Can you afford to add another dog to your pack? Dogs can cost well over $1000 per year, and one trip to the emergency vet may set you back as much or more. Is that a financial hit you can take? Pet insurance is also an option to mitigate these costs.
Do you have enough space for the type of dog you want to bring into your home? Some dogs do well in small apartments, and others need acres of land and tons of entertainment. The energy level of the dog matters much more here than its size and weight.
Often, you'll hear people ask, "well what's one more?" But the reality is that "just one more" is literally one more. It's one more meal, one more bowl, one more leash, one more to walk, one more vet bill (or several more), and so on. You'll spend more of your energy taking care of multiples, and there is more opportunity for illness and injury.
There's a saying in the dog world that "two is a pair, three is a pack" which speaks to the pack mentality of dogs in groups. A pair of dogs is less likely to resort to primal instincts (like reactivity, food aggression, and so on) than a group of three or more.
Alright! Now that the not-so-fun stuff is out of the way, let's talk about the more exciting parts of getting a new dog.
Picking One Out
When getting a new dog, make sure the new member gets along with the current members of the household, four and two legged alike. We know how easy it is to fall in love, but try not to pick based on emotion alone. Focus on the dog's personality and energy level rather than the breed, color, size, sex, or age. The best thing is to let your current dogs pick their new friend.
Another dog can help your other dogs feel less lonely. When transitioned properly, adding another dog to the family can ease existing separation anxiety. A second dog also helps with picky eaters. This new perceived threat of another dog eating their food can encourage a picky eater to be a little less picky.
If you want to do a trial period with a new dog, we think that's a really smart decision! Ask about fostering with intent to adopt. But make sure you are indeed interested in the dog you foster. It's harder on the dog the more times he's bounced from place to place before landing in his forever home.
How to Do It
Plan ahead! Think about how the first day will go. How will you do introductions? Follow the usual suggestions for introducing dogs: two people, dogs leashed, neutral ground. Take them on a nice, long walk together so they get used to each other's presence.
Never leave dogs together unsupervised if they don't know each other well. Have a way to separate the dogs while you are gone, at least in the beginning. A crate is usually the easiest, safest way to accomplish this. Each dog will need to know that they have a safe zone if they need it. Personal space is important to dogs, especially when they are getting to know each other.
Similarly, you'll want to feed them separately at first to avoid any minor or major disagreements. The best way to accomplish this is to feed them in their respective crates.
Spend some quality one-on-one time with each of your dogs. Don't let your older dog feel left out or forgotten. You don't have to completely separate them to do this. In fact, some dogs won't like that. A few minutes of cuddle time on the couch one at a time or playing a game of fetch is sufficient for most dogs.
Whatever you do, don't rush the process of bringing a new dog into your existing pack. Introductions need to be done at the pace your dogs pick, as does the adjustment period while all parties settle into their new digs. This timeframe can last from a few days to months. Some anxious, skittish dogs can take well over a year to feel safe in their new environment. They need you to commit to patience.
Be calm and quiet and matter-of-fact in the first week. Try to avoid too much excitement. A laid-back environment fosters a smooth transition into a new lifestyle.
Have you employed any of these tips while integrating new members into a pack? We’d love to hear your story! Please share it with us on social media.