Originally written for Dogster.com.
If you are like 40% of US pet owners, you have (or would like to have!) more than one dog. Before bringing a new dog home, there are a few things to think about.
It is a common misconception that you will be fine as long as you get a dog that is the opposite sex of your dog. While this is often a factor, it’s not the only one and is certainly not the most important.
The most important think to consider is personality. If your dog tends to be confident, assertive, controlling or pushy around other dogs, look for a laid back companion. Also, try to match energy level. If your dog is energetic, rambunctious, and playful avoid fearful or shy dogs – and vice versa. It’s common to want to get a puppy for an older dog to “help him feel young again.” This is code for “I want my dog to be young again” and should be avoided! Would you gift your grandparent with a toddler? Probably not. Senior dogs rarely want – or enjoy – puppies or adolescents. If you absolutely must get a new dog for your senior, consider an adult (or another senior!), laid back dog who will be company without being a pain.
After you’ve identified what your dog would like, you can take the time to think about what you would like.
When looking for a new dog, ALWAYS stick to local shelters, rescues or reputable breeders. Never get a pet online who you cannot meet first. On your first trip, consider leaving your dog at home. If the weather is appropriate and your resident dog enjoys spending time in the car, you may be able to bring them along just in case. As you look, focus on dogs that fit the criteria you already identified. Ask to spend time with them in a quiet area or outside so you can get to know them. Spend at least half an hour getting to know each other. Don’t let barking or jumping deter you if you are look for a shelter dog. When you meet a shelter dog, you are seeing the “worst case scenario” in terms of energy! Let them get out their yayas, and then really get to know them.
Once you think you have found a candidate or two, the final decision is always up to your pooch – whether you like it or not. Make an appointment to come back with your dog, or go grab them out of the car. If your dog is stressed out by the area, you won’t get an accurate reading of how they feel about the potential new pup. You may even have to come back multiple times before your dog gets used to the location. Alternatively, some shelters are willing to meet you in a place where your dog is comfortable. Still other shelters will let you take the pet home for the meeting.
Regardless of where the first meeting takes place, here are a few simple things to try.
Make sure both dogs have had a chance to relieve themselves, investigate the meeting area, and burn off some steam.
Walk them into within sight of each other. Whoever is with each dog should praise and treat their dog.
Bring them closer, but keep them far enough apart that they can’t reach or sniff each other. Walk along side each other for as long as it takes for both dogs want to meet each other. If either dog is avoidant or pulling to get away from the other dog: do not proceed. If either dog is lunging at, fixated on, or staring at the other: do not proceed. You may wish to try again another day, but unless the issues change, this is likely not the match.
Once you can walk both dogs alongside each other without incident, allow the occasional sniff. I call this “drive by sniffing.” Oh, and don’t get upset about genital sniffing! They are dogs, not humans, and in their world this is important. Do interrupt prolonged sniffing (to any part!) by continuing on the walk. If either dog freezes, get both dogs moving. Never punish or scold either dog for anything they do during the initial meeting, to avoid associating bad things with the other dog.
Continue the pause, sniff, and walk routine until either 1) both dogs engage in play or 2) both dogs have sniffed each other to their hearts content and are happy to walk along next to each other.
Now go home! Allow both dogs to come into the house, but prevent “bunching up” in the doorway as this is a common spot for altercations. It doesn’t really matter who enters first, but if one wants to go first, let them.
Keep both dogs on leash as you walk them around the house. If things seem to be going well, you can let the leashes drag until the dogs have been fed near each other, been on the furniture together, and played with each other’s toys. This may take minutes, hours or days. Let the dogs interact at their pace.
Over the next few days, monitor all interactions. If you can’t be there, confine the dog that appears to be the most laid back and non-controlling.
Expect a skirmish or two, as the dogs get to know each other. The vast majority of issues will be resolved quickly with a noisy and exaggerated display. Never scold or baby either dog. Just ignore them both. If however, you encounter something concerning along the way, feel free to reach out! I'm always here to help.