You love your dog, so much so, getting another will be twice as much love and fun….right? Like potato chips, you just can’t have one…. Possibly, some pit bulls do quite well with other dogs; others maybe not so much. Adding a second dog to your home needs to be thought about very carefully. The dog you select needs to be carefully chosen to fit with your current dog and your lifestyle. Having multiple dog households require owners to be much more diligent in their dog management and very consistent with training. We’ve put together some thoughts to help you with this decision.
Your current pet
- As an owner, you need to consider observing your dog in different situations with different dogs. Does your dog like to play? What is your dog’s play style? Is your dog the wrestling type or the chase and tag type? A relaxed and mellow dog? Is your dog interested in other dogs? It’s one thing to be social and it’s another to want to play with other dogs. Which type of dogs does your dog get along with more, smaller dogs, larger dogs, younger or older? How are your dog’s social skills? It is important to distinguish between wanting to play and pushing dominance displays. A good example would be: “My dog always wants to play with other boy dogs, the play is rough and tends to get pretty physical, sometimes the other dogs snaps at him, I don’t know why, he’s just a rough player”. More than likely the rough player is overstepping the bounds of good behavior and is being corrected by the other dog. These are important distinctions to make regarding your own dog’s behavior. Does your dog elicit negative reactions to his greeting style? This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a second dog, you just have to be careful in your selection. You would want to choose a dog that compliments your dog and one that could help your dog gain social ground instead of lose it. You would want to look for a calm and confident social butterfly that is very forgiving of dog etiquette mistakes. You would not want to add a dog that has similar social difficulties as that could end with serious issues. Just as adding the right dog can sometimes improve your dog’s social skills, adding the wrong dog can do just the opposite.
- Is your dog a resource guarder? Does he hoard or guard toys? Treats? Other high value items? These are things that need to be addressed and considered before adding another dog. Many dogs do not like to share high value items. You truly can’t expect two mature dogs to share a food bowl without the potential for conflict.
- Consider going to a park alone. Yep, alone. Take time to observe other dogs playing so you know what normal play looks like. Be careful what you observe though, as there is a lot of bad behavior at dog parks, too, from rude to down right nasty. As a dog owner, you need to know what good play looks like as well as bad play. You should be able to identify how play might begin to escalate into bad play and catch things before they get out of hand. PBRC as a general rule does not recommend taking your pit bull to a dog park because there are not usually a lot of guidelines for behavior and a lot of owners don’t truly understand dog behavior. If your dog were in an altercation at a dog park - your dog (the pit bull) would shoulder the blame regardless of how it started. We realize it’s “profiling” but we want you to understand and keep your dog safe, for you, your dog AND the breed. If you have access to a good trainer who does puppy classes, you should see if you can watch their “free play” time. Become familiar with your breed’s play style. Pit bulls can play rougher than other breeds. If you have different breeds in your house, understand how each breed enjoys playing so you can head off possible negative encounters.
- Consider opposite sexes when considering another dog. Opposite sexed matches tend to do better as well as a difference in ages. If you have a male dog, you should consider a female dog and vice versa. If you have a young dog, consider a mature dog, if you have a mature dog, consider a younger dog. Every dog is different, these are just generalities. There certainly are cases where two same sexed dogs have gotten along, there are also just as many if not more dogs that have lost a home for not getting along with a same sexed dog. We receive mail every day from owners whose dogs aren’t getting along anymore. Generally, across all different breeds, there is less competition between opposite genders.
- Think long and hard about getting another dog. Are you sure that your dog will welcome another into the pack? Not all dogs do well in homes with multiple dogs. If your dog doesn’t really seem to like interacting with other dogs or has not done well with other dogs in the past, don’t think you can change your dog by starting with a puppy. Make sure if you add another dog that you want the other dog and you are willing to do what it takes to keep both of your dogs healthy and happy, even if it means housing them separately. Or you can choose to shower all of your love on your current dog and enjoy the fact that they like being an only dog.
- Consider training. Is your dog trained? I don’t mean house broken and sits for a treat. Is your dog obedience trained? Do they know more than just a few basic commands? It is important before you consider getting another dog that your current dog be fully trained. Training helps build a bond between dog and owner so they understand each other, work well together and that your dog will listen to you in sticky situations. Your dog doesn’t have to achieve its Canine Good Citizen, but it would be helpful. Having a well trained dog aids in the transition with a new dog. Your new dog probably won’t come with training. If your dog has no skills and you bring in a new one, things will be much harder. Check the recommended reading section at the end for PBRC recommended books.
- Have you crate trained your dog? Are you going to crate train your new dog? PBRC does not recommend leaving dogs together unsupervised. There are so many things that can go wrong when owners are not there to manage behavior, especially in a multi dog or multi pet home. While PBRC recommends crate training, we also recommend that dogs get sufficient exercise and training out of the crate so they are happy and healthy. The crate is a training tool and like all tools, it can be used for good and bad.
- Behavior problems? If you are currently having behavior problems with your dog, these need to be fixed BEFORE bringing in a new dog. Don’t think for a minute that getting another dog will solve anything. They will only get worse. Behavior problems often exacerbate during times of stress and change such as moving or adding a new dog. Not only that but your current poorly behaved or stressed out dog will teach these behaviors to your new dog. For information about finding a trainer near you, PBRC suggests you go to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website: www.apdt.com.
- Have you thought about whether you can afford another dog? Add up what you currently spend on your dog for food, toys and vet bills and double it. Owners need to be financially prepared for additional expenses. There will be twice as much waste to scoop from your yard or common area if you live in an apartment. There will be additional training costs for a second dog. Also, each dog will need to have exercise and social opportunities. They need to each spend quality time with their owner. They will not “exercise themselves” to save you time and energy. Having a second dog is twice the work of having one dog. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
- As mentioned in the bullet point above, each dog needs individual time with its owner. Having a household with more than one dog makes for some time management issues. Your dogs will be better behaved if they are treated as individuals instead of a group. Address your dogs singularly with training and social time. You will need to find twice the time you needed with just one dog.
- When you bring a new dog into your house, you have to be prepared for there to be an adjustment period. Realistically you should read some information about a “two week shutdown” if the dog is coming straight out of a shelter. The dog is going to need a few weeks to a month to adjust to your routine and your expectations. Going into it, you should be willing to separate the dogs for the first week and gradually introduce them. The new dog should have plenty of time to rest and recover from their previous life and slowly be introduced to what you expect. Interactions with the other pets in your home will need to be strictly supervised with you observing their behavior. If there are behavior signals that are negative, you may want to back up and take things even slower. Or, this may be a signal that it might not work out.
- What happens if things don’t work out? Think about this and discuss it with your family before bringing a new dog into the house. Will you keep this dog and house it separately or will you return the dog? You need to be aware of the shelter/rescue policies before you bring your dog home. Will they take the dog back? Or will they expect you to find it a new home? Some rescues offer trial adoptions before things become official. A reputable rescue will always be willing to take their dog back if the new home does not work out (this does not necessarily mean they will be there for you in 10 years if you change your mind). There are times that no matter how much preparation you have put into bringing a new dog home, it is just not the right match.
Things to consider about the new dog:
- Is there a history available? How much can the rescue or shelter tell you about the previous owner? Was the dog an owner surrender or a rescued stray? Was the dog a seizure or cruelty case? If a history is available, it is important to understand where the dog came from if possible.
- How dog savvy is the staff of the shelter or rescue? What have they observed while the dog has been in the shelter? Has the dog been in a foster home? If so, what can the foster parent share with you about the dog’s personality and training needs?
- Does the shelter or rescue provide you with a temperament evaluation? Are evaluations performed on the dogs in rescue?
- Does the shelter or rescue require a dog to dog introduction prior to adoption? If not, you should suggest one. Introductions can take several meetings on neutral territory. A rescue should be experienced and have a volunteer to help you. If they don’t mention doggie introductions, you may want to consider adopting elsewhere.
- Will this dog come with any basic skills? How much socialization has the dog had during its shelter stay or foster home stay? Depending on the foster home or shelter time, the dog may or may not have interacted with other dogs. It may not have had much interaction with shelter volunteers. You need to know what this dog is bringing to your home and how hard you will need to work to help the dog settle into a routine.
- What medical history is available? What has been done to this dog prior to your adoption? As an adopter, you should receive copies of all of the vaccinations and medical records for your new pet. A responsible rescue will have a dog fully vetted including spay/neuter. Your new dog should be spayed or neutered prior to you adopting it - if not, this is not responsible behavior on the part of the rescue and it should require an explanation as to why this hasn’t been done (health, medical, advanced age, etc).
- A knowledgeable rescue or shelter should be able to answer your questions about the individual dog as well as the breed in general. They should be able to point you to additional resources and be available to help you during the transition into your home.
- A multi dog home can be challenging. Be sure to see our reference pages and reading list suggestions for more information.
- Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
- Leader of the Pack by Dr. Patricia McConnell
- How Many Dogs?! Using Positive Reinforcement Training to Manage a Multiple Dog Household by Debby McMullen
- Feeling Outnumbered: How To Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household by Dr. Patricia McConnell