How do we add a second dog into the mix?
July 19, 2014 10:16 AM   Subscribe

This is Hendricks - he's a 55 lbs. hound/shepherd/mutt that we found at a local shelter back in January. He's pretty chill, except for a love of hunting bunnies that go across his back yard. Hendricks needs a friend - how do we start approaching this, and how do we find him a friend that will work for him and us?

I've never been an animal person, and my wife always grew up with two dogs in her house. Back in January, once she started being able to telework at least four days a week, she talked me into getting a dog. Well, wouldn't you know, I love that little jerk.

Hendricks is a two and a bit year old hound mix that we found at a local shelter. While it's been taking some getting used to, I've really loved having him around. We're realizing, though, that we think he'd be happier with a friend, especially when my wife and I are busy and unable to rough and tumble with him quiet as much as he'd like.

I've heard lots of things about this, and I figured the HiveMind would be a great place to get more opinions. Some have suggested a younger, female dog so that he'll still feel "in charge." Some people say we have to take him to the shelter with us so that he can meet his new friends. Some say none of that really matters and that it's sort of a complete craps shoot.

What do we need to know? What's worked for you, and what would you have done differently?

I've scoured the archives, and I've found some good advice, but I'll take whatever I can get. I'm still new to this whole animal lover thing, so I feel like I need guidance.
posted by SNWidget to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1) Don't get another dog thinking they'll nanny each other. If you're busy and the dog is taking up more time than you like, remember that having two dogs will likely double the amount of time and attention required of you rather than reduce it.
2) It would be good to take your dog out and about socialising to see what kinds of dogs he gets on with and which ones he doesn't. Does he get intimidated by larger dogs? Aggressive to other males? Go into prey mode with little fluffy dogs? Aim for a breed type, gender, size and energy level that will be compatible with his.
3) It is absolutely important to introduce the two dogs before you force them to live together. Shelters should invite you to bring Hendricks along when you meet a potential pup to see what their immediate chemistry is like. However bear in mind that neutral territory is not the same as home ground, so make sure you take the in-home introductions carefully.

It all might end up a crapshoot, animals are unpredictable, but there's plenty you can do to make that outcome less likely.

Reading this will give you some ideas about what you might expect..
posted by mymbleth at 10:44 AM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ah shoot, gave you the wrong link and missed the edit window. Meant to link this blog post. Though that video is worth a watch for any pet owner too!
posted by mymbleth at 10:51 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the ideal playmate would likely be a dog that's similar in size and within a year or two in age, with a playful, outgoing but not super overbearing temperament. Most dogs are capable of learning to live with most other dogs, but if you specifically want to foster a net positive, playful relationship and not just mutual tolerance, those factors will come into play.

I think a male-female combination is a good idea--not because the male will automatically feel dominant over the female but because they are less likely to see one another as direct competitors. You're just as likely to find the female is more interested in acquiring and maintaining status within the household. However, two laid-back neutered males can work just as well. The trickiest combination to get right is actually multiple females--there's a reason the word for a female dog is also a word for a person with a nasty, uptight, aggressive personality.

Some shelters may require you to bring in your current dog to meet the new potential housemate. This page has a good primer about dog language that may be helpful to you in figuring out how your current dog feels about other dogs in general, and about potential new dog in particular.

It can happen that a pairing just doesn't work out, but in general even dogs that aren't too keen on outsider dogs can learn to get along with other dogs once they accept them as part of the same household. When we got our second dog, I was really worried that Number One Dog (large paranoid alpha neutered female) would have a hard time accepting Number Two Dog (secure but submissivish small recently-neutered male), but the rescue owner reassured us that in her experience overseeing thousands of adoptions, she'd only had one that didn't "take" because the new dog and existing dog could not reach a state of truce. And it was true! Number One Dog, who can be super aggressive toward other dogs on leash, did not so much as even give a bark or growl when we brought in Number Two Dog--she just did a lot of seeking of attention and reassurance to make sure that she was, indeed, still Number One Dog. Dogs truly are pack animals, and unless their psyche has been pretty badly damaged by traumatic experiences, they are able to learn how to get along with members of their own in-group.

If our goal had been to have a playmate for Number One Dog, we would have sought out a dog her size rather than what we got, which is a small fluffy lapdog. They don't play together at all. (Since our goal was, rather, to get a small fluffy lapdog, our goal was accomplished by the particular choice we made.)
posted by drlith at 11:15 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

The downside of taking your dog to the shelter is that there is SO MUCH SMELLS and barking and fear and people that you really don't get much in the way of useful information. If the shelter has arrangements to get around that - like a volunteer bringing the dog to a park to meet you - that can be more useful.

My primary bit of advice is to not get a dog the exact same age so you reduce the likelihood of losing two dogs in one hard year. (I have three all the same age. We're so dumb. It's going to hurt so much.) And know that the dog you choose may turn out to be a bad match and if you see that this is true after a short adjustment period* you take them back so they have an opportunity to meet a new family.

*I have two fighty dogs and it didn't emerge until they got older, so you never really know, but some dogs it's obvious from pretty quickly that there's a conflict that you're always going to have to manage if you keep them together. Don't force it.

If you want a fuller picture of the kind of dog your dog is drawn to (or very much not drawn to), take him to a doggy day care a couple of times and tell the staff you're profiling him and want them to spy as best they can. (A potential upside of this methodology is when they report back to you that he's love-bonded with someone's foster dog who's looking for a home.) This seems to work better when they're on neutral ground and you're not there to be loyal to/worried about.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:16 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some have suggested a younger, female dog so that he'll still feel "in charge."

Don't rely on this. The people saying it's a crap shoot are right. Absolutely take your current dog to meet the new dog before you bring the new dog home. Let either foster folks with rescue or shelter folks at a shelter help you figure out if the dogs really like each other.

Dogs have personalities as varied as people.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 12:21 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

When we decided to re-add a second dog (after our dog Daisy died), we got in touch with a local rescue and told them about our lifestyle, our home, and our existing dog ("The Beag" - she's almost 12 years old) and our herd of cats. I was really worried about how The Beag would cope, about the rambunctiousness of a younger dog, and about whether the new dog would try to eat our cats.

After some emails back and forth, the rescue brought one of their dogs over to meet with The Beag. We went on a group walk (like a pack!) and they got some quick sniffs of each other and there was a lot of barking and I got the nervous-sweats. Things went well though, so we scheduled a second meeting inside our home and I did less nervous-sweating and there was less barking and then we agreed to foster Cadet, the new dog, for a few weeks to see how he settled in with us. And... now he lives with us!

I very much recommend rescues that have their dogs in foster homes - they tend to know their animals really well in terms of temperament, energy levels, personality, training, habits, etc. A lot of the foster homes have other dogs, or cats, or children - and that's reassuring if you already have any of those. Sometimes it costs more, but a good rescue will also stand behind their dogs - the one we went with stays in touch via email, came over several times to help out with getting Cadet to stop chasing the cats in the early days, and is really responsive and caring about their dogs.

They were also really good about helping us to introduce the dogs in a way that kept everyone (relatively) calm - starting with a walk where they weren't anywhere near each other (half a block apart), slowly getting closer, allowing them only a quick sniff and not much nose-to-nose time, then walking separately again. Then walking together, but with humans between them. Eventually walking together, side by side. In the past, I've just sort of let dogs sniff each other a bit and pulled them away if they got too aggressive, repeat, repeat. This new way was more work but WAY less stressful for everyone, including the dogs. It really helped.

We have adopted from shelters in the past (and it was fine) but with an existing set of animals, I was really hesitant to go with the 'wildcard' of a dog with a lot of unknowns. Animals in shelters can be 'not themselves' if they've been there for a while, cooped up and missing out on socialization time.

Two dogs is definitely more work in all senses of the word (from the poops to the feedings to the grooming) but it's nice to have a 'pack', I think.
posted by VioletU at 1:44 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about the "in charge" nonsense (and whoever told you to get a female so your male would stay in charge is off base since males who aren't crazy will ALWAYS defer to a female, and dogs decide for themselves who fits where). Dogs are generally very good at getting along as long as humans don't interfere too much.

Opposite sex and at least two years apart in age is the best choice for peaceful coexistence.

But yes, I agree that you shouldn't get another dog to entertain the dog you already have.
posted by biscotti at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't believe the younger female dog won't feel in charge idea. My female Maltese used to have my brothers 2 older pitbulls bluffed & they bowed down to her will at every turn be it treats or who won at wrestling and she was a little fluffy white dictator.

A lot of shelters will let you take a dog on a weekend visit or as a short term foster to see if the 2 dogs get along, or find a rescue group that does fostering. It will mean you can have a couple of visits before hand, in a neutral none stressful environment, to make sure everyone gets along.

I think getting another dog is a great idea, we had a dog with a lot of anxiety & fear issues & having another dog around to show him the ropes really helped. They are not really that much more work, though getting the hang of walking 2 dogs at once without getting in a tangled mess of leads takes a bit of practice.
posted by wwax at 3:12 PM on July 19, 2014

Don't get another dog to be friends with your current dog. Get another dog because you have enough love, money, space and time for two dogs. It really can be double the work, fyi.

I have 3 dogs, and they do not entertain each other. They get along just fine, and occasionally chase each other around and get into mischief together, but it's not like I can say "Hey, Jack, I'm busy now, go find Sugar and play, will ya?" If one dog wants your attention, it's very likely the other dog(s) will follow his/her lead, and then you've got two or maybe 3 dogs up your a$$ all freaking day ask me how I know this omg...

That said, to answer your actual question, I volunteer in dog/cat rescue, and this is what I've learned. (I'm assuming you would adopt the second dog as well, and not buy from a crappy pet store or backyard breeder, because that would be bad and you would be a bad person to do that.) Your best bet is to go to the shelter without your current dog, and tell the shelter staff your living and working situation, and all about Hendricks. The staff should then be able to suggest some of their dogs that might be a good fit. Then you and your wife meet some dogs, on your own. If any of them catch your eye, THEN come back later and bring Hendricks. (In fact, a reputable rescue/shelter will not adopt out a dog without all members of the household - human and canine - meeting him first.)

I don't think the genders or even breeds of the dogs matters much. My female is IN CHARGE around here, and my two males know this.

Try and start reading the descriptions, looking for dogs that are known to get along well with other dogs.

Remember that vets don't give volume discounts...

On preview, what VioletU said about foster homes - ditto!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:13 PM on July 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Start taking your dog to the dog park to see what kind of dog friends he prefers.
posted by Neekee at 6:34 PM on July 19, 2014

You could volunteer to become a foster family for your shelter for a while. It would be a great service to them, and the foster dogs. You would get the benefit of finding out which dog clicks best with yours. At that point, to be a fostering failure, and keep whichever foster you fall in love with.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 12:42 PM on July 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

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