Adding Another Dog to your Family

Michael Baugh CPDT-KA, CDBC

Dear Michael:

Hello! I’m wanting to get another dog. I already have a German Shepherd who is 3 and he’s my world! But I would love another. The problem is he is very protective of me and literally never leaves my side. He IS my best friend and I don’t know how he’d react to another dog sharing my attention. What is the best way to introduce him to another, and is it best to get a pup or an older dog, bitch or male? I am very nervous of introducing them so would just like any tips or advice.

Thanks, Anna

Dear Anna,

The best indicator of your future success introducing a new dog to your home is your dog’s past success with other dogs.  Dogs, like humans, are social animals.  However, social behavior is like any other behavior.  The more you practice it, the better you get at it.  If your dog has a rich history meeting and playing with other dogs, then you’ll have an easier time introducing a new dog to your home.

If that’s the case with your dog, the best way to introduce him to a prospective housemate is at a neutral location.  I recommend letting them meet first on-leash, but make sure both dogs have plenty of slack on the leash so that they can interact and move freely.  Too often, people put too much tension on their dog’s leashes and this can lead to trouble.  This process will go much more smoothly, of course, if both dogs involved have experience greeting other dogs while on-leash.  If the dogs do well in that initial meeting, you can let them interact off-leash.  Supervise them closely for any signs of conflict, and make sure you have another person on hand if you need to separate the dogs from each other.

Juno with a stray dog who eventually found a new home.

That brings me to another point: the other dog.  I highly recommend adopting a dog from a shelter or a reputable rescue group.  Many rescue dogs will have lived in a foster home with other dogs, and in that case you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of how that dog gets along with other dogs.  Choose the most socially savvy dog you can find, regardless of age or sex.  You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s harder to teach a grumpy dog to be nice.  Besides, you and your dog deserve the friendliest companion you can find.

Most reputable rescue organizations will let you have a transitional period with your newly adopted dog.  You’ll want to give the new dog a chance to learn the rules of your house (I always recommend remedial potty training), while introducing access to the home one room at a time.  This is a good time to observe how your current dog is getting along with the newcomer (supervise all interactions).  Generally speaking, you’ll know if things aren’t going well in the first couple of weeks.

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