Last Wags & Whiskers Wednesday, you were all introduced to the newest member of my family, Amigo. As I mentioned in that post (and as his name suggests), we got him primarily as a companion for Buffy. Adding an additional dog to your “pack” can be a wonderful experience for your entire family – or a horrible disaster that can cause seemingly endless days of drama and stress. Unfortunately, I have witnessed some of these catastrophes first hand…so let’s learn from other people’s mistakes! Here is a list of things to discuss with your family (and most importantly with yourself!) BEFORE you start looking for your new furry child.
Know your dog. – You would be surprised at how many people don’t know their dog. I am serious. This was the most shocking thing I learned from working with clients and their pets independently. People are simply unrealistic about who their dogs really are. Some dogs were meant to be only children. Some dogs need to be the boss of the house. It’s ok – there is nothing wrong with that! If you are not honest with yourself about your dog’s personality, you WILL have problem when you bring a four-legged sibling into the picture.
Be realistic about what a second dog will do. – A second dog will not change your dog’s personality. I have seen this mistake made over and over. People that have dogs with anxieties get a second dog that is extremely calm. People that have a dog that doesn’t like to participate in outdoorsy activities get a breed that is known for their love of hiking and swimming. Unless you are Cesar Millan, this will never work. You don’t want to hang out with people who don’t have similar interests – your dog doesn’t want to either! You should always get a second dog that matches your current dog’s energy level.
Don’t rush. – I am always amazed when people say things like “I’m going to the S.P.C.A. tomorrow to get a new dog!” How could you possibly know that the perfect dog for you will be waiting there tomorrow? To me, that would be like announcing “I’m going to meet my husband tonight!” before you even walk into the bar. I know this can be especially hard when children are involved. They want a dog NOW! (Who am I kidding? We grown-ups can be like that too!) Visit a shelter, attend rescue group adoption events, send out emails inquiring about dogs you see on Petfinder, ask around to friends and family. Dogs are like soul mates – if you were meant to be together, you will be. Don’t force something just because you want instant gratification.
Timing is everything. – Do you remember what it was like going from a “no dog house” to a “dog house”? (If your first dog was a puppy, you no doubt remember this transition!) Adding a second dog will be no easier. Even if you are getting an adult dog, there will be late nights, accidents on the carpet, chewed shoes…are you sure you’re ready for that. No, REALLY…are you SURE?!? Are you planning a wedding? Heading into busy season at work?? Did you just move? Let’s face it – even if it’s something that isn’t going to be physically taking up more of your time (example – you just broke up with your boyfriend), mentally draining things will literally suck all the patience out of you. And we all know you need endless patience whether you are dealing with one dog or twenty.
Get everyone on board. – Just like with the dog you already have, it is imperative that everyone in your household is on the same page when it comes to pup #2. If your wife still isn’t too happy about pup #1…a second dog will only increase tension. If I were you, I would take it even one step further. I would make sure you have non-in-house family (or friends) on board as well. ”It takes a village” they say…well, maybe they weren’t talking about dogs, but it sure helps if your mom is willing to come check on your new pooch when you have an unexpected long day or your bro will swing by if the doctor keeps you waiting.
I am happy to report that due to my awesome dog skills, Buffy and Amigo got along from day one. Sure, they have argued over toys and sometimes they play a bit too rough, but that sounds like every brother and sister I know. My husband and I were realistic when it came to Buffy and what she needed in a friend. As much as we would have loved to get another “big” dog, we knew Buffy would still want to be the boss and therefore a smaller dog was best. We knew she needed a pup with lots of energy, but he or she would also need to know the value of a good nap. Above all, though, we knew that (even though we had fallen in love with Amigo) the final decision would lay with Buffy. We would never force a relationship.
Thankfully, we didn’t have too.