When you discover the magic of life with a dog, the logical next step is to adopt or buy another furry pal - the more the merrier, right? Maybe you’ve fallen in love with another rescue dog in need, or perhaps your existing dog loves pup-on-pup play so much that you want to give them a furry friend. There might be a local litter of puppies looking for homes or maybe it's simply your lifelong dream to have a house full of happy hounds (we empathise!) However, there are several things to consider before introducing a second dog into your family, even for the most seasoned pawrent…
Will Your First Dog Benefit From, Or Tolerate, A Live-In Bestie?
The most impawtent question is whether your current dog is really going to benefit from a new furry family member. Is your hound an outgoing socialite or a timid introvert? If they’re the latter, bringing a new dog into their established territory is going to be a potentially ruff experience for them. If you’re hoping to encourage your dog to become more social by giving them a live-in pal, we’d advise you to consult a behaviourist first. Some dogs simply prefer human company and it’s not fair to force a canine companion onto them. It’s also important to consider the compatibility of the two dogs in terms of breed characteristics and ages. Your elderly fur friend isn’t going to cope well with the energy of a new puppy, just as your Shih Tzu isn’t necessarily going to be best pals with an ex-racing Greyhound who sees them as ‘prey’!
Have You Considered The practicalities Of Caring For Two Dogs?
As we explored in this blog, caring for one dog is expensive. Caring for two comes with additional costs, even if you’re simply adding a second pup to your existing insurance. There are extra vet bills and flea and worming treatments, and you’ll be doubling up on food, dog beds, toys and so on. It’s also harder to get day care or holiday boarding for two dogs and certainly more expensive, so make sure you have this covered before you commit to a second hound.
You also need to consider the practicalities in terms of the physical size of your home: do you have room for an extra hound, especially when your two dogs may need space to play? A one-bedroom flat with no garden isn’t going to be ideal for energetic dogs who want to chase each other around, but it might be fine for two elderly lapdogs. If you’re adopting a dog of the opposite sex, have both or one of them been neutered? If not, you might soon end up with more furry friends than you’d bargained for! And when it comes to walking your dogs, can you physically manage two, especially if one or both need to be on the lead? While your existing dog might be brilliant at walking to heel and have excellent recall, remember you’ll likely to be starting again with dog number two when it comes to training.
Tips For The First Meeting
The way that you introduce your long-term fur friend to their new furry sibling is crucial: a pawsitive first meeting will establish boundaries and set the relationship up for success. Zazie Todd, author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, advises pawrents to introduce each dog’s scent to the other before they meet, while giving them treats to establish a positive association. Blankets from their dog beds are ideal for this: encourage them to have a really good sniff! As for the initial rendezvous, neutral territory, ideally outdoors, is essential so that your existing dog isn’t put in the position of ‘guarding’ their home and your new dog doesn’t become the ‘intruder’. After all, imagine if some random stranger marched into your home expecting to stay, with no prior introduction! You probably wouldn’t get off the best start…
The Humane Society has some fantastic step-by-step tips for that first meeting, explaining that both dogs initially need to be walked quite far apart, on separate leads. That means single pawrents will need to enlist a friend to help out. Both of you should have high-value treats to hand (try some PACK food in a squeezy tube, your hound’s favourite plant-based treats or small pieces of vegan cheese or vegetables) and reward positive interactions as much as you can, whether that be calmly clocking one another from a distance, or – later – more active behaviours like mutual sniffing or play-bowing. Once you’re happy that the dogs have seen each other and aren’t displaying any negative behaviours (our blog here discusses some key body language indicators of fear and aggression), you can bring them closer, rewarding them all the time for calm behaviour. Allow one dog to walk behind the other, switch, then let them walk side by side. The final step is to allow them to have a good sniff of one another and, if they both seem happy, to play together.
If you do see one of the dogs appear fearful or displaying defensive behaviour, quickly and calmly interrupt the interaction by moving them further away or taking them out of the situation altogether for a ‘time out’. Once the dog is calm again, you can shorten the distance and start again. Don’t rush things; you might be outside with your dogs for a long time before they’re calmly interacting but reaching that stage before taking the new dog back to your house will avoid a lot of issues later down the line. If you don’t get there in one session, consider enlisting a friend to take the new dog for the first night and try again the next day.
Once back home, have a baby gate set up to separate the dogs and watch how they interact through the barrier, rewarding calm and friendly behaviour with more high-value treats. Keep your current dog’s toys separate and away from the new dog and feed the dogs in different rooms, so there’s no risk of resource guarding. Finally, don’t leave your dogs together unattended until you’re absolutely certain that they’re going to get along!
Practicalities aren't the only challenge that comes with the introduction of a new dog. Many pawrents aren't prepared for the conflicting emotions they might experience: the excitement of adopting a new family member coupled with the joy of seeing your two dogs positively interacting, but also an unexpected sense of guilt. Just as a mother with a new human baby might feel guilty that they're upsetting their firstborn, pawrents with new dogs often struggle with the sense that they're disrupting their original dog's life. Parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith describes this unique emotional response as a sort of grief: "grieving for the life you had just the two of you and the bond that you had." You might also feel guilty that you're a 'better' dog pawrent for your second dog, given all you learned the first time round. Or you might feel guilt towards your new dog because you don't have the time or resources to give them the same attention you gave your original fur pal. There are likely to be moments when both dogs are vying for your attention and you’ll have to choose who to respond to first, which can be really hard. For those struggling, remember that dogs are generally very adaptable and while your existing hound might be temporarily confused at the change, they'll soon adjust to life as one of two. In fact, both dogs will end up living fuller lives with a canine companion to keep them company!
Lastly, remember that your two dogs are going to have unique personalities. They might be the same age or even breed, but each one will be entirely their own pawson. That means you’ll have to relearn everything you thought you knew about raising a fur baby with dog number two! Keeping an open mind when it comes to your new dog’s likes and dislikes, training abilities, behaviour quirks and special needs is all-important. If you recognise from the start that they’re not going to slot neatly into your routine with your current dog and keep things flexible, you’ll be setting them up for success. The aim is to create a household where both pups can thrive, whether that means separate walks or family frolics, individual dog beds in ‘safe spaces’ or co-sleeping.
Your dogs may not even like the same food, which is why THE PACK have created a variety of flavours and textures to meet every pup’s unique tastes. Our mixed three-pack of No Fishy Dishy, No-Cluck Casserole and No-Moo Ragu is great way to taste test with your new hound, and we now also offer a baked kibble for those who prefer a dry dog food. So no need for your furry friends to fight over the dog bowl!
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