The following is a guest post by Jacqueline Bennet of Yellow Dog Blog.
Thinking of adding a new furry family member to your pack? Or maybe you’re a first-time adopter thinking it would be nice to take home two dogs at once so they can keep each other company.
Adopting an animal is a big decision, and when there are multiple dogs involved, it’s important to have your bases covered. From keeping peace in the pack to preventing illnesses from spreading, we’ve got the expert tips to keep your pet siblings healthy and happy.
Dogs don’t just shake paws and accept a new roommate. When dogs are just getting to know each other, they will establish a hierarchy and that can get physical. The first and most important step to preventing this type of fight is to make sure you introduce the dogs properly—outside while they are being walked.
“I would recommend a friend walking your existing pet while you walk the new member of the family,” San Francisco based dog trainer Dan Perata says. “While walking, let both take turns sniffing each other. If possible, do this while walking or moving. Then, walking side-by-side, do not allow the two dogs to interact. This teaches both dogs the handler is making the decisions.”
Even if your dogs are introduced correctly, there is still a chance they will fight.
“One dog will inevitably try to instill its dominance,” Perata says. “This is normal, but it must be controlled through proper training and establishing solid boundaries. Establish that you are the full-time decision maker for both dogs.”
Perata thinks it’s important to pick a dog that not only fits your lifestyle—think exercise and space needs—but also one that meets your current dog’s personality.
“Size and weight could be a disaster if you brought in a Tibetan mastiff to live with an elderly maltipoo,” Perata explains.
If you’re bringing home a puppy, introduce the two outdoors and see how your existing dog reacts to the puppy.
“Make sure this is carefully supervised,” Perata says. “Even the most docile dog can become aggressive in this situation.”
In both circumstances, Perata recommends keeping a slack line on the leash so corrections can be made.
Keeping bugs from spreading
If one dog has it, chances are the sibling will get it. Viruses can spread easily in multi-dog households, and if you’re bringing home a shelter dog, it’s likely he will have some type of illness. A 21-day quarantine may be necessary to keep bugs from spreading; no sharing space, water bowls, or food bowls.
“Space limitations can make separation impossible,” Dr. Brandy Vickers of Avenues Pet Hospital in San Francisco says. “And sometimes even if you separate your pets, they will all get ill anyway.”
But you can protect the other dog from more serious illnesses. Make sure the new pet has been de-wormed and get a fecal parasite exam done to make sure there are no intestinal parasites. And even though it’s not directly contagious to other pets, it’s a good idea to have your new pet tested for heartworm disease.
Also keep in mind your current dog may pick up on the new dog’s illness and see it as a weakness.
“Some dogs will attack or antagonize a dog in a weakened condition,” Dr. Vickers says. “If your new pet is recovering from injury, do not let him rough house with other pets.”
Addressing sibling rivalry
“Each dog should absolutely get quality one-on-one time with the owner,” Perata says.
This is a time commitment that must be factored into your decision to be a multiple-dog household. Dr. Vickers suggests 30 minutes of exercise a day—at a bare minimum. Do you have time to walk each dog for 30 minutes every day? If not, you may see behavioral issues arise as the dogs vent energy.
Competition over food and toys is also possible. The existing dog may start “resource guarding” and snap at the new dog coming too close to food, toys, or even you.
“Resource guarding is a tough issue, as it is in the spectrum of aggression,” Perata says.
What should you look out for? Stealing toys the other dog is playing with is an early sign.
“You have to step in right away, at the earliest signs, and spend time on the floor with your two dogs,” Perata explains. “Let them chew toys on either side of you and take the toys or chewies away at random intervals and switch them. You can also take them away entirely.”
Watch for growling or change in behavior when you try to take food or toys away, or if the existing dog starts to growl or bite if you go to pet the new dog.
Dan Perata Training suggests this exercise: throw a toy across the floor or have someone ring the doorbell. Make sure you dog is watching the toy or the door and is not focused on the other dog. If his focus is the other dog, you need to snap him out of it.
“A sharp sound such as a clap of the hand of stomp of the foot will redirect the dogs’ thoughts,” Perata says. “A spray bottle is also effective.”
The bottom line
Being pet parent to multiple dogs can be a blessing but it can also be a burden if you are not prepared.
“All of these issues are usually avoided if your dog is trained, socialized, confident, and trusts you as the decision maker,” Perata emphasizes.
Check out Dan Perata Training for more expert tips on training!
Jacqueline Bennett is a journalist and TV meteorologist. After becoming a first-time pet parent to two rambunctious puppies, she was inspired to launch Yellow Dog Blog, a one-stop dog website with expert health and training tips. Jacqueline lives in San Francisco with her boys, Yellow Dog and Sundown, and recently added a third Doxie mix, Mocha, to the pack.
Photos © Billy Poon.