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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Helping a Fearful Dog

Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC

(from All Things Dog blog)

Dear Michael:

My wife and I have a very sweet, intelligent, food-loving, 2 year old female Rough Collie.  She is great on a leash, eager to please, and generally very good in public.  I grew up with Collies and am familiar with the common tendencies of the Herding Breeds, but am having trouble succeeding with some of her training.

Lady gets very nervous when guests come to the house, especially strangers.  She does the typical barking and herding, but also has trouble relaxing for hours when other people are in the home.  She will nip at our guest incessantly when they walk around the house.  I know that she has watchdog qualities, but I worry that she will snap when we have guests (especially children) over to the home.

We have had her since she was 12 weeks old, and we have always had visitors.  She does not seem to be adapting at all.  How can we exorcise this nervous energy and enjoy having people over again.  Thank you for your help!
Bill H.


Dear Bill:

First, I commend you for asking good and thoughtful questions on Lady’s behalf.  I work with a lot of fearful dogs here in Texas.  I also know a lot of my training colleagues work similar cases around the world.  You are not alone; and yes there is hope for Lady.

Despite our best efforts socializing our dogs and familiarizing them with the quirky ins and outs of the human world, sometimes it’s just not enough.  As our dogs grow up, we begin to notice their developing sensitivities and phobias.  It’s important that we address these fears intelligently and immediately, but also gently.  You are correct to be concerned that fearful behavior can sometimes develop into offensive (aggressive) behavior.  That doesn’t always happen.  Nevertheless, the time to act is now.

I often recommend hiring a qualified behavior consultant at the end of my blog posts.  This time, I’m recommending it up front.  You don’t have to do this alone, and you probably shouldn’t.  Use the link above to find a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant in your area.  I also recommend you visit and download the e-book, Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog.

Certainly, my response here will not take the place of working with a qualified dog trainer / behavior consultant in person.  Still, I want to offer my thoughts and input.  Your goals with Lady when it comes to interacting with visitors are twofold.  1) Teach her how to behave when people come over.  Which skills you teach are up to you.  Sit, coming when called and stay all play a role in proper greetings.  I exclusively recommend reward-based training, and with good reason.  I’ll expand on that below.  2) Teach Lady that new people in general, especially in her home, are good news for her.  Something amazingly good should happen for Lady every time a person comes to your home.  The way to a dog’s heart really is through her stomach.  I often suggest visitors give my clients’ dogs “welcome gifts” when they arrive (New person = cheese or chicken).  Giving her a delicious stuffed Kong Toy when visitors are in the house is a nice approach as well.  Here is where your reward-based training comes in as well.  If you are using food to teach your dog basic manners when people come over, then she is also learning that it’s good news for her when people come over.  Training starts and the treat bar opens.  Win – Win!  The dog knows how to behave and loves every second of it.

(click here to read the rest of this column)



Potty Signals

Michael Baugh CPDT-KA, CDBC  (from All Things Dog Blog)

Dear Trainer:

Skittles’ quirk is her very quiet way of telling us she needs to go outside. I hear her because she generally sticks to me like glue. When I leave the house, Skittles does not do a very noticeable job of getting the message across to other family members. Sometimes we have accidents when I am gone. She will leave her surprises as close to the door as she can get, sometimes right at the door crack as though she wanted to put it outside but could not. Since I cannot make my family hear her quiet whine I do not know what to do. If you have ideas on how to help increase her ability to get their attention I would appreciate  it.


When I read your very good question I couldn’t help but think of how we humans sometimes behave with each other.  I thought specifically of the time I yelled at a very good friend, “What’s the matter with you?  Do you think I can read your mind?”  He didn’t miss a beat.  “I didn’t even know you could read.” He said.  It was the rhetorical equivalent of lifting his leg on my sofa and laughing at me.

I’m not suggesting you or your family learn to read Skittles’ mind, not exactly anyway.  I do have to admit, however, I’m not a huge fan of teaching dogs to give loud signals when they want to go outside.  Certainly, you could teach Skittles to ring a bell on the doorknob with her nose signaling her desire.   Clicker training would probably be your fastest path to success.  She rings.  You click.  She goes outside for some treats, fun and potty (we hope).

Here’s the rub.  You’d be teaching Skittles to ring the bell when she wants to go outside, not necessarily when she has to go potty outside.  I dare not teach this to my dear Stella.  She’d be ringing our bell from now until the cows come home (actual cowbell optional).  It’s bad enough that she stares out the door now with her newly emptied bladder and bowels.  I digress.  Suffice it to say, the whole bell-to-go-outside thing is a bit of a slippery slope.  You may not necessarily be teaching what you want.

My guess is, you just want Skittles to stop doing two things in the house: number one and number two.  The idea, of course, is to teach her to hold it until she goes outside.  Go there, not here.  Teaching potty training is just a matter of setting Skittles up to win.  When she’s learning she should always be supervised or safely confined.  You should never ask yourself the question, “Where’s Skittles?”  (Just call me; I’ll tell you.  “She’s squatting in your dining room.”).  Supervising means you also go outside with Skittles.  Praise and treat her as soon as she’s done eliminating, right then, on the spot.


(Read more at All Things Dog Blog)