4 Tips for Bringing Home a Second Dog

Does your dog want a new BFF?. dezy/Shutterstock

Maybe it's the forlorn look of a puppy at a shelter. Or maybe you love your dog so much that you figure two canine buddies would be so much more amazing than one. Whatever the reason, you're considering bringing home a new dog or puppy.

Before you add a second dog, here are some things to consider.

Evaluate your current dog

two dogs tugging on a toy
Does your dog play well with others?. Konstantin Kolosov/Shutterstock

You're certain you want to add a new furry family member, but does your dog want a buddy?

One of the biggest mistakes Lisa Matthews sees is people "wanting to add a second dog to a household where the resident dog has no desire whatsoever to be with another dog."

"There are also many dogs who are not friendly towards other dogs," says Matthews, a nationally certified behavior consultant and professional dog trainer with Pawsitive Practice in Kennesaw, Georgia. "Imagine having a roommate move in with you that you didn’t ask for, don’t like, and can’t get to move out. The anxiety and stress of living with an adversary daily causes a multitude of problems for everyone living in the household."

How does your dog act on play dates or at the dog park? Is he excited to play or standoffish with other dogs? If you haven't had him around many other pups before, find someone with a friendly dog and see how your dog engages with him.

Pay attention to your dog's body language. If he gives warning signs like yawning, lip-licking, showing his teeth or growling, remove him from the situation. If he's picky about his playmates or has behavior problems, it's a good idea to work with a trainer before thinking about adding a second dog.

Matthews says it's a concern when a resident dog is already showing guarding behaviors and is protecting highly valuable items like food, toys and people. Bringing another dog into the home means an extra competitor, causing constant stress and anxiety.

And you may want to reconsider adding a second dog when your first dog is old, sick or dying.

"The psychology behind this is that adding another dog before the resident dog passes offers some tempered grief of total loss because there is still another dog in the home," Matthews tells MNN. This can sometimes help an older dog feel spry again. "But it can also backfire if the presence of the second dog causes a consistent state of overwhelm to the older resident dog. Highly-energetic puppies should not be allowed to overwhelm frail, older dogs. Overwhelm can cause the older dog decline faster under the stress of enduring an unwanted, overzealous housemate."

Select the right dog

big dog and tiny dog sitting in the grass
You may want to consider energy level, temperament and size when picking another pet. Elena Sherengovskaya/Shutterstock

When looking for a second dog, there are many things you can take into consideration, including temperament, size, sex and age. But there's no secret formula. Some people might say female dogs shouldn't be paired together or dogs should always have the same energy levels, but some dogs just hit it off. Every dog is an individual.

The most important thing to consider is your current pup's personality. If he's a dominant, bossy type, it probably isn't a good idea to bring in another dog with the same, in-charge attitude. You'd be better off with a dog that's more laid back. If your dog is anxious or doesn't have a lot of confidence, a more confident dog might help your dog.

Making introductions

two dogs greet each other on leashes
Let the two dogs sniff each other to get acquainted. Page Light Studios/Shutterstock

Before you bring a potential new dog home, it's a good idea to make introductions on neutral territory. Have a friend walk the new dog on a leash while you walk your dog. The Humane Society of the United States suggests walking the dogs at a distance and rewarding them with treats if they don't show any negative behaviors when they notice each other. Watch carefully for any negative body language, slowly getting closer if they seem relaxed.

"If you can't tell the difference between dogs getting to know each other and dogs who don't like each other, have someone there who does, like a certified dog trainer," Pia Silvani, director of behavior rehabilitation at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), tells MNN.

If they are reacting calmly, take turns letting them walk behind the other and then side by side. Take turns letting them sniff each other. If they seem to be getting along, take them where they can get to know each other in a supervised, off-leash area.

"The most important thing is to take this introduction slowly," says The Humane Society. "The more patient you are, the better your chance of success. Do not force the dogs to interact."

Once you get home

two puppies sleeping together in bed
Give your dogs separate places to eat and sleep, even though they might end up sharing. RedThinkHead/Shutterstock

When you've found a good match, make your home a safe and happy place for everyone. Install baby gates so you can separate the dogs in separate rooms when they need a break from each other.

Give the dogs their own space to sleep and eat. Feed them in separate rooms or in their crates at first. You may find that they don't care where they eat or they might growl. If that's the case, keep feeding them apart.

Make sure there are plenty of toys to go around and watch the dogs carefully when they play. Keep an eye on body language and be mindful if you give them high-value, long-lasting toys like Kongs or chews. Like kids, they'll always want what the other one has, and this can lead to arguments.

"Keeping their stress levels down (just like in people) is key, as relaxed dogs are more likely to get along in the home," says Silvani. "Try going for walks or to the park together so they can become familiar with one another in a fun environment. If the dogs get along right away, more freedom is suggested, but you still may need to separate them when you are not home to ensure that everyone is safe."

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.