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Monday, August 22, 2011

Ask The Dog Trainer:
Adding Another Dog to Your Family

by Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC
© courtesy Earthwork via
Accepting a Friendly Greeting
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.

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. 

If your dog doesn’t have much experience with other dogs, I recommend you get him some doggie friends before you commit to adopting a live-in friend.  Introducing him to other people’s dogs in a safe and gentle way will do two things.  1) It will give you an idea of how he behaves (good, bad or indifferent) around other dogs. 2)  It will also build his social skills, which are essential to his long-term success with a housemate.  If it turns out that your dog doesn’t much like other dogs, I suggest you hire a qualified behavior consultant to help.

I know the strong desire to want another dog.  I’ve felt it before.  We love them so, and more always sounds better. Add to that, so many dogs are homeless and in need.  That said, please take this to heart.  Your primary commitment is to the dog you are living with now.  If he’s not cool with other dogs, especially the idea of living with one, then do what’s right for him.  When my last dog got into her senior years I made her a promise.  “It’s just you and me from here on out.”  I knew that meant when she died I’d be alone.  Still, it was the greatest gift I could give her, a hassle free life with the person who loved her the most.  I don’t regret the decision one bit.  She gave me the love of a thousand dogs.  I bet your guy is the same way.

© Robyn Arouty
Michael with Stella
Houston dog trainer Michael Baugh CPDT-KA, CDBC is the director of training and behavior at Rover Oaks Pet Resort.

You may reach Michael at the link for a personal consultation, or write to him at our Ask the Dog Trainer Column @ Michael's advice   here on the blog does not replace an actual consultation with a qualified trainer.

Read more of Michael's Posts here:



bichonpawz said...

Oh Carrie! This is such an excellent post!!! Having been through the whole introduction phase with new adoptees and rescues...this is great advice!

Jane Cooper said...

Talk to the vets available online at They will properly guide you the way they have guided me. I also had the same situation where I wanted to get another dog. But now both my sweeties are doing so good, they are like the best buddies.

Dawn said...

"it’s harder to teach a grumpy dog to be nice"... that sounds like Sephi! Sephi was six when I got Maya and a grouch. I wish I had read this post before I decided to get another dog.
That was four years ago and all is well now. But it was a rough start. Very good advise to follow and if I ever get another dog, I will be sure to do just as advised.

Mark said...

Hey all, just wanted to let everyone know that is giving away free pet food for a year! All you have to do is sign up, here is the link:

Peggy Frezon said...

I have that desire for another dog too. In part for myself, and in part because I think my dog would like a friend. However, my dog Kelly doesn't always get along well with other dogs. I've considered that maybe she really just wants to be an only dog, however a part of me keeps wondering if she'd be happier with another dog to romp and play with. We recently met a dog we were considering adopting, and Kelly was indifferent to her. Sadly, we didn't end up adopting her, but we keep looking for the right fit for all. Hopefully Kelly will make it known. Thanks for some tips for introducing them.

Cassie said...

Thanks for a great post (and blog). I feel sad that I can't rehome more than one dog, but my new rescue dog, Holly ( isn't good with other dogs and it wouldn't be fair on her. I agree with Michael that you have to put the dog first and do the right thing. Lovely to connect with fellow dog lovers.

Brian@Dog Training Manual said...

You are right.if your dog has rarely comes contact with other dogs then it will take some time for the new dog in your home.It will enjoy the company after some time.You have to keep patience and train them accordingly.

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