We want to add to our pack. Second dog… yes / no? Why?

This is an everyday question. None of us want our pups to live alone. Often times, we don’t feel like we can give our pups the time and attention they need. Using our basic reasoning skills, we deduce that by getting our pup a playmate, we will somehow solve the problem. The reality is, it usually adds to the problem, making the situation worse.

When we have a one dog household, we can put protocols in place to quickly change the dog’s behavior. The only outside influences are people, sights and sounds; all of which can be controlled and adapted to. A second living, breathing, thinking creature, that can’t reason or make healthy decisions is harder to keep under control. Just like with unhealthy relationships in our lives, you will find that the good dog does not make the bad dog better. The bad dog always brings the good dog down.

I don’t want you to think I am innocent of the things I teach. A lot of this stuff I learned from personal experience. Here is just a bit of my story. About four years ago my dream dog, Banjo, a Black and Tan Doberman, passed suddenly at the age of 4 ½ from an aggressive cancer. As far as I was concerned, she was the perfect dog. She was the dog that launched me into dog training. This dog was more than just a pet, she was part of my income. So what was I to do? I had a great idea. I will get two this time, so I will have a backup. This was a great idea as long as it was an idea. I searched long and hard and found two Doberman pups, a male and a Female from separate litters, and in separate states. Their birthdays were only a few weeks apart. When I got both the pups home, the challenges began. I kept asking myself, what have I done? The first year was the hardest. If it wasn’t for the help of a dear friend, I am not sure how I would have done it. I would call her and she would take one or both pups for a couple of days so I could get a little rest. It was not a fun time.

My second great experience was only about 16 months after I got the two Dobies. My family had found a One year old Newfoundland on Craigslist. It was in a very undesirable situation. With no warning to me this dog shows up in my living room. We had had Newfie’s before and they are so sweet and docile, right… WRONG!! This Newfie was neither sweet nor docile. I hadn’t been in the door for five minutes before he charged my male Dobie. So now I have two 100lb + dogs trying to kill each other in my living room. In all of the commotion, I got trapped between the sofa and the dogs and went to the ground. Now the dogs were on top of me going at it. I put my hand up to shield my face and the Newfie got my right pinky where it attaches to the hand, ripping the skin and severing the tendon. I was able to make it to my feet and I called my Dobie off and laid on the Newfie until he gave up. Then, off to the hospital I went. This is the only dog that has ever caused enough damage to warrant stitches and a minor surgery.

As you can imagine, I was not happy. I didn’t ask for the dog and we were not keeping him. The decision was made before I even got back home. As soon as I walked in the door I made the official proclamation, the dog must go!!!!! My son, 12 at the time began his pleading. I gave him all of the reasons that we could not keep the dog, and he gave me no good reason why we should. Then he made this statement, “ Dad, if you fix other people’s dogs, why can’t you fix Gunner? He has had a hard life and just needs to be taught how to be good.” So how do you argue with that? VERY LOUDLY!!!! After much calming down and talking about it, I agreed to let him stay. The agreement was that my son had to work with him every day after school until he could live peacefully with the other dogs in the house. This process took about a year, with many dog fights in the process. Now Gunner is a therapy dog and I also use him to work the aggressive dogs I get. Even though Gunner is rehabilitated, we always have to keep in mind that that aggressive behavior is still deep inside him.

So to answer the question, When should we add another dog to the family? When the dog you have now is under control. That usually isn’t after just a few training sessions. If you notice in the story above, I was able to call Rambler, my Dobie, off of Gunner. Rambler was about 1 ½ and he was completely off leash and obedience trained. He knew the “out” command, so when I gave it, he would let go and stop fighting. If that weren’t the case, one would have probably killed the other. If you think for a minute that you can get two 100+ lb dogs apart, you are kidding yourself. Having one dog that was beautifully trained made the situation doable.

My advice is, be patient. Wait until your pup is 100% trained and under control. When you bring in the new pup, do it cautiously. Once the first fight happens, it harder to stop future fights.. Keep both dogs on a leash and allow no rough play for a while. Create a calm environment for both dogs. Feed and treat separately. No toys around each other. Don’t allow them to immediately run free together in the yard. Make sure the same rules apply for the new pup. If it is a rescue, don’t feel sorry for the new pup and over do it with affection. Take it slow……Use a crate to create structure.

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