“I think she needs a friend.” This is a pretty common line of thinking with single-dog households. At some point, we start to wonder if our dog would be happier if she had another canine to run around with. The answer varies from dog to dog – some dogs seem to adore other dogs and do wonderful with them, and other dogs seem to not really even notice the existence of other dogs. Then, of course, there are a few who make it known that, under no circumstances, do they ever want another dog around!
Even with the best trained, most dog-loving dog in the world, adding another dog to the household could cause problems. These problems can certainly be corrected, but it is important to know that, like humans who live under the same roof, dogs who share a house can find themselves in occasional disagreements.
The addition of another dog may even bring out sides of your dog that you have never seen before. This may show itself as toy or food guarding, attention hoarding, withdrawl, dominance, or aggression. Sometimes it is healthy and perfectly acceptable to let dogs work things out for themselves. For instance, the occasional growl or snap to signal that one does not wish to play at that moment, or that the other is much too close, is just fine. True fights, guarding of resources, or overt displays of dominance, however, will require some leader intervention.
My dog, Karma, and I recently took in a foster dog from the Southside Animal Shelter. Bandit is her name, and while she is a little shy around people, she loves other dogs. Karma is used to dogs coming and going in our home, but all of them have a tendency to bring out different sides of her.
Ivanna, our first foster dog, brought out Karma’s annoyed and “don’t mess with me” side. Jacob, the next foster dog, brought out her toy guarding side. Others have turned her into the annoying little sister who begs for play, or into the aloof big sister who doesn’t wish to play. All of these issues can be, and were, solved pretty easily.
With all of that fixed in Karma, Bandit has shown me a side I never expected of Karma. You see, I spent about a week telling Karma that we were going to get a foster dog and that she would be Karma’s responsibility to entertain and to help me train. I guess it went to her head.
Karma started showing signs that she believed she owned Bandit. This includes dominant stares, prolonged holds during play, keeping other dogs away from Bandit, pushing in between Bandit and myself while I was petting Bandit, rushing to be first out the door once released from Stay, etc.
Bandit is not innocent in all of this. She never once stood up for herself. She let Karma walk all over her, which led Karma to believe what she did.
I am quite happy to report now, that the two dogs are perfectly at peace with one another. Bandit has learned to tell Karma, “No,” in an appropriate way, and I have managed to show Karma that she in no way, shape, or form owns Bandit. It is very clear that they care about one another and they have a fantastic relationship.
A few things to keep in mind when introducing a new dog to your household:
- Introduce the dogs in a neutral territory – If neither dog recognizes where you are as “home,” they will much more readily accept one another as a playmate, instead of as a threat.
- Make sure your current dog has rules – It is important to already have a leadership role with your current dog, and to have some rules that they must consistently follow. This could be waiting patiently for their food, not jumping on furniture, sitting to have the leash put on, or anything else.
- Teach the rules to the new dog immediately – By showing the new dog the ropes, you will be teaching him or her that you are the leader. Your current dog will also be learning the same lesson, and will view you as fair, making it less likely that your current dog will lash out at your new dog.
- If you notice any issues between your dogs, consult with a Certified Dog Trainer – Often times, my clients come to me with problems dealing with multiple dog households where the issues have been occurring for years. Catching problems early makes for easier fixes and a stable household for years to come.
If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Every week, Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle one of the submitted questions. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.