Having a dog is a wonderful experience, full of laughter, love, and hijinks – and like a lot of things in life, sometimes life is better with two!
But how do you introduce a second dog to your home?
Although dogs are largely pack animals, not all pups are happy to share their space, toys, or humans – and even those that love being in groups can get aggressive or upset if their territory is encroached on.
Getting a second dog isn’t something that you can just do and expect immediate results – there are, of course, steps you can take for the initial meeting, but integration is something that takes time, patience, and a bit of effort.
We’ve put together four top tips to help you introduce a new dog into your pack!
1. Introduce the Dogs in a Neutral Environment
Regardless of how old your current dog is, or how long they’ve been in the home, it’s quite likely that they’ve already identified the entire place as ‘theirs’ and when you arrive with your 2nd dog, that means you’re bringing an outsider into their territory.
This could lead to aggression, bullying, depression, and stress.
By choosing a neutral environment for the dogs to meet, you’re putting both dogs on a level footing – your current dog won’t be trying to protect their home, food, or toys, and your new dog can get to know his companion.
Make sure both dogs are on an equal footing when they meet – if one is on the lead, they both should be; otherwise, it could interfere with their interpretation of each other, and disrupt the balance of the pack hierarchy. By having the dogs meet on lead means that should they get a bit aggressive, you’ve got the means to quickly and safely step them back away – a strong collar or harness will help you manage this!
If you’re not able to introduce them in a neutral area (such as a park), then the next best alternative is to make use of an outdoor space that has enough room for both dogs to roam and get to know each other without feeling trapped.
You’ll want to avoid small, enclosed areas, where there is nowhere for the dogs to back away from each other – if either dog feels cornered, this may trigger the instinct to fight.
When bringing them into the home together, it’s a good idea to prepare before hand – put away toys (especially if your dog has a favourite), blankets, food bowls, etc – these are items which your first dog may feel possessive over, and it’s a good idea to put these back a few at a time, let your first dog see that they need to share certain items (such as a water bowl).
2. Have Separate Toys and Food Bowls for Both Your Dogs
As we’ve mentioned, jealousy and aggression can be real problems when introducing a second dog to your home – and just as people don’t like to share their personal belongings, dogs can be just the same.
Resource guarding can be a problem, and you should pay attention to your dogs’ body language, especially if you’ve got a normally placid pup, who you wouldn’t expect to react to anything.
Some of the key indicators of an incoming issue include:
- Showing of teeth
- Stiff straightened tail
- Wide eyes
- Ears back
- Raised hackles
- Unusually still and tense posture
It’s important to calmly but firmly diffuse the situation – put feeding bowls at opposite ends of the room, try not to use your first dog’s bowls for the new dog (they can smell their scent on it, and will assume that you’re giving away ‘their’ food), and even if you have to step in, don’t get angry or aggressive yourself – if your dog starts to associate your new dog with aggression on your part, they’re going to react accordingly, and it’ll be even harder for them to get along!
Toys can also be a problem – especially if your dog has a particular favourite. As discussed, when you first introduce them, taking away all the toys is a good start – but they shouldn’t remain out of reach for too long, and make sure both dogs have a toy to play with and reward them appropriately.
The Lickmat Tuff Buddy can be useful in these sorts of situations, as they’re getting a treat that requires effort – but again, place these away from one another, so they can focus on what they’ve got in front of them, rather than being preoccupied with what the other one has. If one finishes their treat before the other, subtly distract them – don’t allow them to approach your other dog until they are finished as well.
3. Be Prepared for Toilet Training Accidents and Marking
Whether it’s deliberate marking, nervousness, or over-excited behaviour – there’s a good chance that your new pup is going to wet on the floor at some point, and once they’ve done that, there’s also the possibility of your first dog going in the same spot.
Dogs sometimes use urine or faeces to mark their territory – the scent lets other dogs and animals know that the area belongs to them. Urine can also signify a reproductive status of a dog, and their ranking in the pack, so when you bring another dog into the home (especially if they’ve not been neutered or spayed), this may prompt the dogs to relieve themselves where they wouldn’t normally.
It can be frustrating and upsetting to have the dogs toileting in the house, but it’s important to stay calm, and not punish them – having cleaning materials, and some poop bags on hand (which you can store in our fantastic Poop Bag Dispensers) will make clean-up a lot quicker and easier.
Make sure your dogs have plenty of access to their normal toilet area, and they’re praised for using it – in a way, it’s like a refresher course on toilet training them – once they’re more relaxed with each other, have established routines and patterns, and know where they’re supposed to go – the accidents should decrease and stop.
4. Be Equal with Your Time, Your Praise, and Their Treats
Having a new pet in the house can be exciting, and it’s too easy to accidently focus too much attention on the new addition. It’s important that your first dog doesn’t feel like they’re being replaced, and that they can still have your love and affection.
It is important that both dogs have their own space, PDSA recommends not putting the dogs beds together, as this can ‘be a bit intense and might cause conflict’ – but you must make sure that if you’re spending time with one, that you spend an appropriate amount with the other.
The same is true with treats – the last thing you want is food jealousy to become an issue, where one dog gets aggressive, sullen, and guarding of their food – as this often leads to antisocial behaviours (such as snarling, snapping, and biting), and can cause your dog to become depressed.
Praise is another important element to remember – it might be that you have a few issues with your first dog as they get used to sharing you and their home with another; but even if they act out and misbehave a little, you can’t just constantly tell them off or discipline them.
Yes, you need to correct bad behaviours – but you must reinforce this with praise and rewards (such as bite sized biscuit treats for dogs and fuss) when they do something right. Too much negative interaction can, like with food and toys, lead to jealousy, aggression, stress, and depression.
At the end of the day, the way your dog behaves is going to depend on their personality – although this may be influenced by their age, breed, and background (if you’ve rescued your first pup, then it may be more difficult to introduce a second dog, depending on their circumstances).
Time, patience, and equally sharing the love between the doggos is going to make integration and a happy family come around a lot faster than frustration, shouting, or aggressive behaviours on your part!
If you’re struggling to integrate the dogs, or your not sure your dog will get along with a companion, it’s definitely worth seeking advice from your vet, or local dog charities (such as the Dogs Trust). You should also spend some time researching your potential second pup – so you can see if there are any quirks with their breed, determine their personality (and any potential triggers), and make a plan that takes all this into account.
It may take a bit of time and effort, but that’s part and parcel of being a responsible pet owner, and will benefit you and your dogs, so you can all have a happy home life together.