What they don’t tell you about adopting a second (or third) dog
Our first dog as an adult is a magical experience. We raise them and we train them. We rehabilitate the rescued and love the abandoned. We discover what it is to love, and be loved unconditionally.
It’s a huge part of our lives and there really is nothing on this earth quite like it.
Logically, another dog could only double the enjoyment, right?
I am not here to burst your bubble – two, three or even five dogs is heaven. But there are a specific set of skills required to get there.
This is what they don’t tell you about adopting a second, third or even fourth dog and my top tips on managing a large pack.
The pack dynamic will change
When you adopt a second or third dog, your pack dynamic is bound to change.
This is similar to when families have more children – a new character and re-jig of routine will change the dynamic of the family as well as develop the personality of your current kids. The same concept goes for dogs.
Puppies and rescue dogs come to us with very little understanding of the world. It’s our job to help them learn manners, experience new things and develop emotional stability. If you have another dog (or two) they will also need to learn how to function as part of the family.
Fortunately, dogs are pack animals and hard-wired to be in groups.
You’ll find that after the new dogs settle in, there will be a not only a connection, but a conversation between all dogs that rumbles on silently in the background of their new relationship.
It’s important to make sure you’re prepared for what could change.
Competitive pack behaviours could develop
Social media has an awful lot to answer for.
Just scroll through dog videos on instagram or Youtube and I guarantee you will see behavioural issues left right and centre, particularly risky competitive behaviours between dogs around high-value food and other resources.
“But it’s only puppy behaviour, isn’t it?”
Puppy behaviour is oftentimes hilarious but as humans we see the world through a lens that is shrouded by our own psychology. We humanise dog behaviour without meaning to.
If you think you are starting to see “jealousy”, “bullying” or similar behaviour between your animals, it may be high-time to book a consultation with a dog behaviourist.
Your older dog may see a threat
Try to keep in mind that your current dog, as friendly as they may be, has become accustomed to having you to themselves. All of you. Maybe even your bed too.
How much in a single day to they practice sharing? Or taking turns?
A new dog can introduce competition in a huge a variety of ways; from your affection, to food and even physical space.
This is especially true if the new dog is more energetic than your current dog.
If you’re building a pack for the first time, consider the qualities your current dog would appreciate in a new family member. For example, if you have a very chilled out senior dog, you may want to consider a breed that is known for being gentle with good spatial awareness.
If you have a very playful, high-energy dog, consider an easy-going breed type that can keep up with their physical stamina but also be a positive influence on behaviour.
If you’re adopting from a rescue centre, the dog handlers will be able to help advise you on a good match, with the additional luxury of meeting the new dog several times over before moving in.
Reduce dog-to-dog threats by ensuring your original house rules and boundaries are met by all dogs as consistently as possible. It takes patience, encouragement and training but in the end, it is always worth it to have a loving pack of dogs.
You might not realise you’re giving affection in unequal measures
A new puppy often causes a strong case of baby brain. That is to say, we forget what the hell we’re doing.
The novelty and joy of a new puppy cause cause us to completely disregard the rules of the house that seemed so concrete before the car journey home.
“Darling, I thought you said no dogs upstairs?”
Although they still apply to our “old” dog, somehow we let the newbie get away with murder (often, I might add, in the spirit of comedy);
The puppy pushed the old dog off the sofa.
The puppy stole the other dog’s food.
The puppy pushed the other dog out of the way to get a cuddle.
Dogs are hilarious, but keep your behaviour hat on – ask yourself: “Is this causing friction between the pack?” and “Should I intervene?”
The teeny-weeny exceptions made for one dog and not the other add up, causing competitive behaviour between the animals. This tension can lead to fights, so keep an eye on these little tell-tale signs.
Your old dog may not train your new one
I am often asked “Jarvis, surely the old dog will train the puppy to be just as good?”
To a point, yes. If your current dog has a good knowledge of commands, manners and a good temperament, these are all good signs to encouraging your new dog to do the same. This technique is commonly seen in working collies training up the newbie.
Be warned, this technique only works if you are still quietly managing the expectations of the pack as an entity in the background. Training is still 100% required.
Careful management and encouragement is required to keep everyone on an even keel. By cutting the reins loose completely, you might find the puppy only responds to your current dog, or worse – noone!
Impulse control is your (other) new best friend
Training impulse control is a good starting point to making a smooth transition.
Impulse control is essentially setting boundaries by asking your dog to put what they love on the back burner for a little while when you ask them to.
For example, if it’s time for walkies and they’re super excited, lots of dogs will bark incessantly, jump up or barge past their owners to get out of the door first.
- They want to go on a walk
- They’re excited
- And they don’t understand (yet) that you have boundaries concerning the door.
We control the impulse by asking our dogs to sit and wait while we exit first. The dog is then rewarded by both their favourite treat and also, going through the door which leads to exciting adventures.
We control the impulse to charge.
This can be applied to manage the expectations of the pack in all areas of your day-to-day life together.
Your dogs will quickly begin to understand that they have a routine which revolves around listening to you in order to get what they want in the long run.
What you’ll find is within 18 months, the new pack is second nature to you and your pets.
If you’re thinking about dog number three or four, this will all start again! Keep your training hat firmly on and you won’t go far wrong.
If you want your dog to learn how to integrate with a balanced pack in preparation for a new dog, why not enrol them for day care? Give your dog a boost in their social skills and teach them how to function as part of a larger family at Jarvis Dog Boarding.
Don’t forget to comment below and tell us about your experiences with more than one dog!