How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Fur Baby
Whether it's the "I <3 My Rescue" bumper sticker or the dog hair that accidentally accessorizes every outfit, there's no question—you're a dog lover. We asked veterinary behaviorist Stephanie Borns-Weil, D.V.M., D.A.C.V.B., from Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine how to introduce a new dog to your pack. If you're thinking about getting a second pup, consider this advice.
Think About Your Current Dog's Needs
You may be pining for another four-legged friend, but before you head off to the shelter, Borns-Weil says to ask yourself: would it be a plus for my dog? A pooch who seems lonely or bored may want a friend. Behavior to look for includes a lack of interest in activities that he usually likes, poor appetite and excessive neediness. (These can also indicate illness, so take your dog to the vet first to rule out a medical problem.) This may be especially true if he previously had a good relationship with another canine who isn't around anymore. "But some dogs are just not interested in other animals," she says. In this case, you need to respect your dog's personality.
Try Fostering or Pet Sitting
Fostering a dog or offering to host a friend's pet while they're away can give you a good idea of how your pet will act when another animal is getting attention from you. "If your dog pushes the other animal out of the way or acts differently than he normally does, he may not want a companion," says Borns-Weil.
Match Your Dog's Personality
Should signs point to go, check the fit on a few fronts. First, consider exercise compatibility. Most owners don't have time for two routines, like a short stroll around the block and a long run. (But be prepared for an activity level shift down the line if there's an age gap.) Second, make sure the temperaments click. Borns-Weil says to ask the shelter or breeder if your dog can meet the pup you're considering so you can see if the duo hits it off. Tails wagging at a second meeting is a good sign.
Focus on Space and Consistency
At home, make sure each pooch has his own area for crates, beds and food and water bowls. Stability for your old pet is important too—if he always curls up on the right side of the couch, make sure he has first crack at that seat. "Sudden changes may cause stress and problems like depression, anxiety and resource-guarding, which can trigger fighting," Borns-Weil explains. This also applies to shifts in his relationship with you. While it may be tempting to lavish your new pet with affection, play with your old dog too. His belly isn't going to rub itself!