Do you really need (or want) another dog?

Tom & Renee have gone to the Agility Association of Canada’s National Agility Championship with Isis this week and Bella is staying at my house for an extended sleepover. What better time to discuss the ins and outs of adding a dog to your current canine crew! Whether you are adding another dog for a weekend or forever there are a few things you should consider.

Managing multiple dogs is something I do every day….BUT…there’s a huge difference between managing someone dogs at daycare outside of their home territory and managing dogs in your own home.  While I only have one dog, a few years ago, I cared for a dog named Sam for a friend of mine while she was in Regina training to become an RCMP officer. Before I agreed to care for Sam, I first consulted with my other half and then a few ‘dog’ friends. The result of these conversations led me to purchase a great little booklet by Patricia McConnell PhD and Karen London PhD called Feeling Outnumbered? How to manage and Enjoy your Multi-dog Household.  This 45 page book is filled with great advice on managing multiple dog households whether you are looking to resolve current issues or prevent future ones. My favourite section of the book includes a series of questions to ask yourself before adding a dog to your home and I have outlined them below.

  • How do my dogs get along with each other right now?
  • How do my dogs get along with new dogs that they meet?
  • Does the dog I’m considering get along well with other dogs?
  • Do I have the time to devote to integrating a new dog into the group?
  • Do I have the time to establish a relationship with the new dog by having just the two of us spend time together?
  • Do I have the physical set up at home to temporarily separate dogs at first?
  • Does everyone in the family agree that getting a new dog is a good idea?
  • Will getting another dog add unmanageable financial burden?
  • What will I do if it does not work out?
  • Do I want my spouse or partner to go crazy?

To this already great list I would suggest that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have the means to transport both dog safely in my vehicle?
  • Do I have the physical set up at home to permanently separate dogs?
  • How do my other pets get along well with dogs?
  • How does the dog I’m considering get along well with other pets?
  • How will breed and age differences affect the dog/dog dynamic in my house? (i.e. will your 10-year-old Shih Tzu appreciate your 8 week old Border collie?)

If you can go through this series of questions, come up with your own answers and still think adding another dog is a good idea – there’s nothing like a trial run to see how things work in practice. Offer to watch a friend’s dog or foster for a rescue group to find out what having another dog really means in your day-to-day life. The bonus is that you’ll be doing your friend or local rescue group a favour and learning a lot at the same time. I know I sure learned a lot from Sam staying with us and when he went back to his mom, our house did seem empty for a while. I had been thinking of adding a puppy to my household at that time and decided to wait once I considered how much work it was to add a well-trained adult dog to my home.

Sam and Bear taking a long winter's nap

Bella has been with us for two days and she has settled in like she has been here a hundred times before.  Credit for a dog that travels well and adjusts to changing situations goes to Tom and Renee because but it is also clear that the adjustment has been made easier due to the fact that the expectations for dog behaviour at Bella’s house are nearly identical to my own household ‘rules’ and are in place to ensuring the safety of dogs, kitties and humans under our roof:

  • Animals eat separately from each other to avoid the possibility of fights (Yes, even the cats go to their crates for meals!)
  • Dogs are in kennels when no one is home
  • Kitties are given dog free zones
  • Dogs are expected to show some self-control and sit before eating, getting out of cars and going in and out-of-doors.

As a trainer, I know I always tell students that dog training is about having a dog that you can live with. I now need to remember to remind students that training is also about having a dog that other people can live with because. You can’t be there every hour and every minute during every day of your dog’s life and you want to make things as easy as you can for your dog and whoever will be caring for Fido in your absence!

As I finish writing this post, Bear and Bella are squished up beside me: Bear’s head rests on the arm of the sofa with his eyes are slowly blinking shut and Bella has been snoring in the most unladylike but endearing way and I think…maybe, just maybe…I need another dog.

One tired dog...

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