Recently I adopted a second dog into my family, because I’m starting school soon and I wanted to find a companion for my first dog. Remy was such a sweet-natured dog even in a kennel at the pound that I knew she would be a good fit for my hyper and confident Agent Scully B.S., M.D. Though this was a good start for their match, the weeks following Remy’s adoption I learned having two dogs is different than just one.
1. Know as much information about the new dog as possible before adopting
Was the dog previously abused? Did the dog have any previous social issues? Does it like children? These are all things that will soon be on your plate and it’s important to know what you’re getting into before the adoption.
2. Do a health inspection and test its social skills
My new dog Remy begging for treats right after a checkup at the vet where they plucked off a lot of the bugs.
Check the dog’s ears and fur for ticks, the gums for any infections and ask if the dog needs to be spayed or neutered. You should also take it on a walk and also see how it interacts with other dogs. The first time I pet Remy she felt like corn on the cob because of the many ticks that were burrowed underneath her fur. I knew that I’d have to treat her for the insects as well as get her tested for diseases that come with ticks.
3. Look for temperament compatibility
If your current dog is dominant, find a mild-mannered dog and vice versa. The shy dog will feel more confident with its friend and the dominant dog will like having the company. Agent Scully is dominant and looking to play, so my goal was to find a dog that was submissive but not indifferent.
4. Make sure they meet before the adoption; it can be a bit tense but it’s OK
With the help of a friend, have both dogs on loose leashes and separated by 20 feet, and then come together periodically to allow them to sniff each other (especially the butt) and then walk away from each other for a break. Speak happily to encourage the dogs to be excited about the experience.
5. Pay attention to body language
If ever one dog becomes stiff, stares at the other, hair stands up on end, it bares its teeth or licks its lips intervene before the behavior escalates to aggression. And on the contrary, look for a play bow (a “downward dog” pose), friendly roughhousing, happily wagging tails when the dogs are playing. Being aware of your pets’ behavior will allow you to understand and intervene when needed. Agent Scully growled at Remy when they first met but I got her attention by clapping my hands and correcting with an audible “no” so that she would know that was an inappropriate behavior.
6. Separate dogs while you are out in the beginning
While you are still learning the personality of the new dog and the compatibility with your old dog separate them while you’re out of the house as a precaution. Remy was sick the first five weeks of having her, and she spent her time sleeping on the couch. My concern was that she would have a burst of energy while I was out and I wouldn’t be there to observe the interaction with Agent Scully.
7. The new dog will affect the old dog, for better or worse
Whenever my first dog Agent Scully B.S., M.D. is on the couch Remy is always eager to get right beside her.
Dogs learn from each other, which can make training much easier, but they can exchange bad habits too. Be sure to have defined limits for what you do and don’t want for your pack and seek a trainer when needed. In teaching Remy the “stay” command she was able to grasp it quickly with Agent Scully participating too. It’s funny because when I have Remy alone and we practice she won’t hold the stay as long as when she’s with her sister.
8. Their needs can be different too (dog food/exercise level)
The new dog may need more or less exercise, have different dietary needs and may need to go to the groomer at a higher or lower frequency in comparison to your other dog. I believe if the technology was available Agent Scully could power a medium sized city with her ability to play fetch, whereas Remy prefers to spend her time cuddling.
9. They will have fun together without you, but they can both pine for you too
Remy and Agent Scully B.S., M.D. having a great time playing together. Eeyore, not so much.
As the dogs bond you may feel like the third wheel, and other times it seems like they are both in competition for your individualized attention. Arrange to have one-on-one outings to ensure that each dog independently gets attention from you so you can strengthen your relationship. When together do not allow one dog to become more dominant for your affection as this can lead to resource guarding.
10. Be patient, two leashes are overwhelming
Agent Scully B.S., M.D. and Remy patiently sitting as we break up our long walk with a fun trick.
Especially if the new dog is not used to proper leash walking, it can feel like an insurmountable task to walk both together. Train him or her separately and walk them together once you feel comfortable with their progress. Bring treats or a favorite toy along to make it an enjoyable experience. Remy caught on quickly that if she focused on me instead of the amazing new smells surrounding her she’d be rewarded with food.
11. Share treats because research shows that dogs get jealous
Dogs know when they are getting shortchanged, so when giving out treats make sure that each dog has the same amount of goodies. Also, feed them both at the same time so no jealousy arises. Look out for resource guarding with food too.
12. Manage dog outings
If you often bring your first dog along with you while running errands, be sure to look for opportunities when you can bring both dogs, or schedule separate outings so that each dog is experiencing new situations. If one dog prefers many people then a busy local coffee shop with a patio might be a good learning opportunity. If the other is more shy, then consider visiting a hardware store on a non-peak hour to seek adventure.