We often begin to think of adding to our canine family when we get to the adult stage with our first dog and he or she seems the perfect dog!!. You are having lots of fun and you love each other to bits! Surely it can’t be too much work to add to your canine family or can it?
First, you need to stop and consider what you would need to be able to offer your second dog, so they had the opportunities that your first dog experienced.
Secondly, what is the real impact on us and what do we need to do differently in those early months.
Top five rules of owning a second dog
1. Pretend this is your only dog
This is always the most surprising of rules about adding a second dog to your family. Research suggests that second dogs are much more likely to develop a dog-dog aggression problem than ‘only’ dogs in the home. We often assume, and assumption is the cause of many of the problems we experience when we add a second dog, that this dog will gain social confidence from its buddy at home. We follow that assumption through with thinking that leads us to believe that they will need less socialisation with other dogs outside the home. Sadly, the exact opposite seems to be true. A new canine addition to your home where an older dog already exists means that your puppy needs more socialisation with other dogs, not less. But most importantly he needs to do this on his own, without his new friend there to support him. He needs to learn his own coping strategies in a wide array of social situations.
2. Cuteness is not a rite of passage
All puppies need to learn how to respect older dogs. If you have a strong-minded, mature bitch already at home, this rarely proves a problem! These kinds of dogs offer you the opportunity to relax a little and let them act like strict Aunts – telling the puppy off when they are out of line. However, it is a different story if you owner an all-tolerant male, or a young and playful female, then you need to take more care and a different approach. Just as children need to learn that they cannot always get their own way, so puppies need to be taught restraint and respect and learn the canine signals that mean ‘back off’. Also continually biting their new bestest friend all over is not doing them a favour! Cuteness and age do not give them permission to pester an older dog that won’t tell him off. The outcome of this exchange is that your is simply telling your puppy that this is acceptable behaviour with all other dogs – and is going to get him into trouble in the park before he’s too much older.
If your existing dog can’t or won’t tell off the new puppy appropriately, then you must step in and break up the action when it gets too much.
A positive intervention approach needs to be frequent and consistent – and the urgency for your pup to meet less tolerant dogs in the big, bad world is dramatically increased.
One of your main priorities is to not only protect your pup from learning bad habits, but to maintain your older dog’s routine and bond with you as close as possible., Many older dogs are less than happy when a new puppy comes into the home. Unless carefully manged they often find themselves coming second in their owners’ attentions and affections. Maintaining time and contact with your older dog is of the upmost importance as your first dog is the reason your just got another one!!
3. Tough Times
One of the pleasures delights of getting a second dog is that you will be able to enjoy exercise and being out and about together, as a family. However, it is essential that you get your puppy out for exercise, training and socialisation without your older dog being present and often this does mean walking them, training them and socialising them separately! This is because you need build your pup’s social confidence as an individual dog – out from under the shadow of their new companion. We have seen many new puppies on the first night of puppy class without their older canine friend and they are nervous and fearful of other dogs. This is because their pup has an older dog to rely on at home, and that he or she cannot cope without him.
4. Remember your new pup is a one off
We often get another dog because we are utterly addicted to the breed of our first love! Many second-dog owners that we see in puppy classes have chosen to get another dog of the same breed as the first and in many cases, they have returned to the same breeder. We often say to ourselves that this has the advantage that ‘I know what to expect’. But here is the absolute truth about this strategy. You must treat each dog as an individual – and to try not to compare them against each other, any more than you would compare your children.
If your second dog is of a different breed or type from your first, it is also important to recognise the differences between them. While puppies often do pick up the habits of older dogs that they live with, individual breeds will inevitably develop in ways that they are driven to by their genetic potential. So, if you do choose to get a Terrier after owning a herding breed remember you may have to learn new training skills and ways to motivate you new dog!
5. Play means you need rules
Human sanity can often be sorely tested by the play of two canine companions enjoying each other’s company! Play between dogs is a form of arousal – and as such it can easily tip over the top into aggression and quickly. More practically, but just as important, is the fact that it is also highly enjoyable – even addictive. The consequence of this, is that playing with their new canine buddy may become your new pup’s focus – and that can be to the exclusion of you. Building a real bond with your new pup, and not just acting as a poor substitute for your other dog is your initial goal. To build a good relationship with a second dog we must overcome the natural laws of social animals where they will choose to play with their own species first. This means making ourselves more important than another dog – so interrupting and even limiting the amount of play they have together is essential. Stairgates make control and management strategies easier.
Finally, having two dogs can be a wonderful experience, but only if you treat them as separate entities at the start. Only once your puppy has built a strong bond with you, they have learned to cope with all the daily challenges of our big world and has discovered how to stand on all four paws when meeting other dogs, do you deliver your vision of owning two dogs!