Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A few weeks ago I posted about food cause many of my clients and friends recently addressed that subject. There is another recurring theme: the acquisition of a second dog. Quite a few of recent follow-up appointments, and questions I found in my inbox, dealt with if and how to integrate a canine sibling, or problems that arose as a result of the second joining the social group.
Here are some of my truths based on experience, clients’ and personal.
~ It doesn’t matter if the second dog is same or opposite gender. The most beautiful inter-canine relationships I encountered are between two females, and between an older resident male and a new female pup. The big brother syndrome played out that way can be quite endearing.
~ Ideally the dogs should have common interests, similar play behavior and energy requirements. Common ground allows for team activities and thereby team bonding.
~ Common ground does not mean same personalities. Especially two needy for attention and insecure dogs can be quite competitive for space and their owners’ love. Home life is less confrontational when a more submissive dog is teamed with a more confident one, or one laid-back dog with a bossy one.
~ Taking sides is a bad idea. Setting rules for both is a good one. That means that it doesn’t matter which dog is the dominant one. Fighting over resources, including the owner, is not allowed. All resources should be under the owner’s control, and therefore it doesn’t matter who gets fed first.
~ A confident second dog does not necessarily influence the behavior of an anxious resident dog for the better. Studies showed that social mammals are more receptive to stress signals than calm ones. If dog one is very stressed, reactive and anxious, likely dog two, even if a calm and grounded personality, gets stressed as well and the owner doubled the trouble. The human can bring out the best in a dog, and the incompatible or problem-ridden canine companion, the worst.
~ The same is true if an owner has an exuberant young dog who still needs training and hopes that an older, second dog clues him in, or tires him out. Likely the boisterous first dog will drive the newcomer nuts. It is unfair to ask a new dog to educate a youngster and it rarely works. Said that, an older and wiser resident dog can be a great helper in raising a pup who enters as the second dog. Help is the key word here – the primary teacher is always the owner.
~ A good way to introduce a second dog is going for walk together and then entering the house together. The first meeting is as casual as possible; if it’s a big deal for you, it’s a big deal for the dogs.
~ It helps if dog two comes with a dowry.
~ If there are initial squabbles over stuff, removing stuff increases competition. Better is to add stuff whenever the dogs are in the same proximity. That creates cooperation.
~ Signs that dogs are not compatible are: if there are injuries, especially ones intended to kill; if there is a lot of tension – still and stiff dogs, hard stares; if one dog changes his personality, becomes withdrawn, reactive or aggressive, or doesn’t want to interact in activities she enjoyed before; if one dog fears the other – slinks away or refuses to enter a room, a certain space, or coming to the owner; if the dogs are not seeking to be close to one another and interact with one another.

Two is company, if the company is compatible. In my home, it’s not good enough if dogs tolerate one another; they have to like one another. Imagine if you were forced to live your whole life with someone you don’t like?


  1. What great timing for your post as I just got Taffy's half sister last week. Teena is only 4 months older and they seem to a good match so far even though they are both very different personalities. THere has been no food agression and one waits for the other to finish before they lick each others bowl out. They sleep and play together and there does not seem to be any jealousy or possesiveness over me or resources. However, I do make a very conscious effort to give alot of eye contact and attention to both. I also have been walking them together and each separately so that they do not become co-dependant and It allows me to have special time with each of them. I know it has only been a week, but so far I think it has been great for both dogs and has really helped my original shy dog to relax. I agree with your comment about the benefit of different personalities. I find that one dogs weakness is the others strength so that I think they will gain alot from each other. I'm also pleased that you mentioned that two females can get along OK as I have had so many people tell me I was making a mistake in that regard. I have more faith in the feminine than that and believe us females can co-exist in peace.

    Thanks for your great article Silvia

  2. Interestingly is appears when stray dogs are observed female-female bonding rarely exists, but male-male ones do. I remember that when I volunteered for a rural shelter in AB, we once had a couple of female strays that were humanely trapped. Each had a litter and they were caring and nursing each other's pups - sharing in motherhood. Cause shelters are always lacking space, they put the two in one large run, assuming they get along great. Once the pups were weaned, the two mom-dogs attacked one another, inflicting intended "I'll kill you", type injuries.
    When cared by humans I encountered so many wonderful female-female bonds lasting a lifetime. It appears that'll be the case between Teena and Taffy, as it is with Will and Davie. Good choice.

  3. My two girls love each other and I was so scared to get two females. I think Sylvia may even be talking about my dogs. They have complimentary personalities, nearly the same interests and energy levels and are fairly close in age. I count myself lucky everyday. Excellent blog!!