Pet owners are, if you’ll pardon the pun, a peculiar breed. They’re over-joyed to share their homes and their lives with animals, something that must seem very odd indeed to non-pet people. (I am told these exist, though I haven’t researched it thoroughly.)
There is a sub-category of pet owners who believe in the old adage, “the more the merrier.” Multiple pet owners are a demographic on the rise; in 2013, 44% of pet owners owned more than one pet, up 2% from 2012.
Perhaps you are considering bringing home a new pet to join your Labrador? Great idea! I’m a multiple pet owner myself, and my whole family benefits from the extra love and companionship our second dog brought into our lives. And so do our dogs!
Bringing a new pet home to meet your dog can pose some challenges. However, that being said, the transition can be made smoother by following just a few simple steps. And of course, we’re here to share them with you!
Read on to discover how best to introduce a new pet puppy or dog to your already resident pet Labrador.
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Choose Your Second Puppy or Dog Wisely
Once you’ve made the decision to bring a new dog into your family, do some research and shop around.
That might seem a bit too cold-hearted as one tends to choose a dog based on an emotional connection, but it’s important to choose the ‘right’ kind of dog.
How do you know what’s right? It’s impossible to know for sure, but there are some factors to consider.
Who’s Top Dog? – Temperament Matters
If your current Lab has a dominant personality, then another dominant or aggressive dog might not be a good fit.
If your dog is more the easy-going type, it’s less important to personality-match, but you need to be prepared to see your current dog get knocked down a peg. Your dog likely won’t be too concerned; it already knows where it stands in the pack.
Though it may be tempting to try and bolster a quiet dog and try to make it less submissive, or do the reverse and attempt to suppress a dominant dog, you’re best to just supervise and let them be what they are.
Dogs instinctively know who’s the leader of the pack and will sort it out for themselves. Your job is to make sure no one is getting hurt, physically or emotionally.
The Long & Short of Things – Consider Size Difference
While dogs of any size can get along with each other and coexist harmoniously, there are some inherent risks in bringing home a small breed dog to be with your Lab.
A Labrador can be a big, powerful, and very playful dog, and a miniature or toy breed will be no match for it if play gets too rambunctious.
How To Introduce Your Two Dogs
Once you’ve taken possession of your new dog, the first step is to introduce it to your current dog. This introduction will set the tone for everything that follows, so it needs to be done right.
Find Neutral Ground
Enlist the help of a friend or family member whom your dog knows well, and have them join you somewhere for a walk. Make it a place which neither dog is familiar with, if possible, so that neither has a sense of ownership of the place.
The dogs should arrive at the location separately. You take your Lab and your companion walks the new dog.
The reason for this is your original dog will see the person they know with the new dog, and that will make the new dog seem less of a concern.
Go For A Walk
Practice good loose leash walking so neither dog is stressed by pressure around the throat. Keep the dogs apart and start with your Labrador in the lead.
As the walk progresses, allow the dogs to get closer together, assuming they seem to be tolerating one another’s presence.
Allow them to sniff each other once they’re good and comfortable and as they interact, offer praise to both, and treats if you wish.
Getting Better Acquainted
If all goes well, try taking the dogs to a fenced in area where they can play. Keep them on their leashes at first, and if the signs are good, let them interact off-leash.
Of course you’ll be hoping to see them getting on like long lost pals, but that won’t always be the case. In fact, they may largely ignore each other. Then again, there could be some mounting involved. Both of those behaviors are natural and OK.
Here are some other positive behavioral signs to look for:
- Relaxed body movements
- Mouths open
- Back end wiggling/tail wagging
- Play bows (elbows on the ground and hind-quarters in the air) or other playful jumping/bouncing
Bring It Back Home
The next step is to take the new buddies home.
If you have a fenced yard, continue the interaction there before you bring them into the house. Let them run around and play until they’ve worn themselves out; they’ll be far more relaxed in your house if they’re tired when they head inside.
Warning Signs That Things Aren’t Going Smoothly
Not every interaction is going to go according to plan. Some personality types just don’t mix – that’s true for dogs, just as it is for people.
Generally speaking, it’s pretty plain to see if two dogs aren’t getting along, but here are some red flags to watch for:
- Mouth closed
- Tail held high, and moving mechanically
- Standing stiffly
- Ears forward
- One dog trying to avoid the other
- Tucked tail
- Ears flat
These are all obvious signs that the dogs may not be compatible. You might need to rethink taking ownership of the new dog, if they don’t seem to get along. If, however, you’re in a situation where you have no choice but to take the dog, you’ve got some work to do.
You’ll want to have the new dog stay elsewhere for the immediate future, and try reintroducing the dogs on multiple occasions. If they still can’t get along, you might wish to enlist the help of a professional trainer.
Prepping Your Home To Be a Multi-Pet Household
Just because they’ve passed the outdoor test, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to start sharing the house.
Don’t forget, your Lab has already laid claim to all the best places to eat, sleep, and play, and sharing with the new resident might not be high on the doggy to-do list!
It’s important to maintain some separation between the new housemates for the first few weeks. This may extend as far as setting aside an entire room for just the new dog.
Use baby gates to partition your home in such a way that the dogs can see each other and interact, but can’t actually get at each other without supervision.
Your Lab should have free run of the home, but with the ability to check up on the new dog when it wishes to.
Even if your dogs seem to be getting along fine, jealousy can flare up quickly if the new kid on the block makes itself at home on the only dog bed! The same goes for favorite toys.
Purchase new goodies for your new dog and make sure both dogs know who they’re for. Keep these items in the separation area at first, so that your new dog can make them their own.
When the dogs are allowed to interact openly in your home, supervise them at all times during the early days. Praise both of them for good behavior and reward them with treats.
Should either dog become aggressive, verbally admonish the aggressor (or both, if they both act up) and then separate them for a brief period before allowing them together again.
It’s also important to spend individual time with each of your dogs, but make sure it’s distributed evenly.
Neither dog should be made to feel as if they are not the favorite. It may be a natural tendency to lavish attention on your new dog in an effort to make it feel secure and loved, but be mindful of your Lab’s feelings.
Training sessions can be enhanced by using one dog as a distraction for the other. Trust me when I say, there will be times when it will be useful to have one dog be capable of ignoring the other (nail trimming sessions come to mind).
But having said that, each dog will enjoy, and benefit from, individual one-on-one training time with you. These are the times that enhance the bond between you and your dog, and let them know they have a special place in your life.
Feeding time might just be the most important part of a Labrador’s day. Certainly my Lab is just as excited for every meal, albeit it’s the same stuff every time, as I am for a great dinner at my favorite restaurant. Maybe more so!
Naturally, meal times are a time of heightened alertness, too, since each dog is anxious to make sure it gets its share. Trying to feed your dogs in the same space can lead to a showdown.
They shouldn’t feel it’s necessary to compete for food.
Set up two separate feeding areas well apart from one another so there’s no interaction at all during the meal. Once the food is gone, take up the empty bowls so neither one goes after the other’s property. Yes, dogs will fight over empty bowls! Even my well-socialized dogs like to lick the other’s bowl clean, if allowed.
Eventually, the dogs will come to learn whose is whose when it comes to meal time, but it is always a good idea to keep them apart when they eat to avoid any possible agitation.
The Road Ahead
Even after the separation barriers have come down, and your dogs are sharing the home in harmony, it’s still good to let them have some space to call their own.
Continue to have multiple, separate beds and toys, so there’s less chance for jealousy. And maintain separate time-out spaces, including individual crates, if you have the space. It can be very hard to convey to one dog that it’s being bad if the other is trying to turn the situation into play time!
A multi-dog home can be a crazy, and patience-trying place at times. But for those willing to make the effort, it’s wonderfully rewarding. You get extra love at every turn, and your Lab has a companion when there’s no one home. It’s a win-win!
Now, if you’re planning on bringing a cat home…
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