Often a situation arises where a dog owning family or single pet person decides to introduce a friend for companionship. Reasons may include the readiness of the person in charge to acquire a second responsibility; sometimes a child reaches an age when he/she wants a companion animal of their own; when some people are more committed time-wise away from home they feel that the resident dog should have company to compensate for their absence; sometimes an established pet develops behaviour problems based on solitude and a compatible friend is usually decided upon to alleviate boredom and hopefully cure the anxiety disorders. Some pet owners wake up to the fact that their pet has never been socialised and adopting or buying another dog is the cure-all for altering fear and lack of social skills.
Introducing a second dog to one that has issues is usually not a suitable proposition based on the fact that the newcomer will most likely adopt the same unacceptable behaviour patterns. It is usually successful if the long-term resident is an unruly male and a bitch is introduced. In the vast majority of these introductions the female will very quickly put the male into his place, control and discipline him in all social activities. The difficulty here is for bonded humans to change their allegiance to the new female and ignore the male in the bitch’s presence which is merely respecting her authority in the hierarchy and avoiding her having to reprimand him whenever people do not obey the rules of the pack system.
The most important step in selecting a compatible second dog must not be based on irrational emotion. The proposed second dog must be of a compatible breed or cross-breed – of the opposite gender! Having two dogs or two bitches has a very good chance of causing inter-canine conflict because of similar status, genetic make-up and purpose. It is not impossible for same-sex companions to function but it is a minority and those that do work do have tensions which most owners cannot read in their body language.
Why choose an incompatible animal of the same gender and create serious angst in the home and most likely have the dogs fighting with each other? – then no one is happy! Ideally, we all want harmony, happiness and good vibes. So, by seeking advice from experienced reputable animal behaviourists, veterinarians, dog trainers and/or kennel owners one can get a good idea of which breeds are most compatible for the existing pet. As an example, the gundog group get on well with most other groups. Some hounds, working breeds and toy dogs get on well. An established Staffordshire Bull-terrier, Boerboel, Chow-Chow or Bull terrier, for example, may never tolerate a new introduction. Not only will they not put up with the new pup or dog but may even attack and kill it if the resident dog has no social skills from never having attended a full course of puppy socialisation and basic obedience classes in its first year of life. Dogs may be gregarious but some fighting breeds require early positive impressions with socialising in order to be a reasonable and trustworthy pet. There are so many different breeds available in this country why select two with a poor chance of compatibility?
A knowledgeable dog trainer or behaviourist will supervise the meeting of both dogs on neutral turf and determine the characters of both, as well as predict any potential issues. Taking the newly introduced dogs for a power-walk after which the owners must retract themselves for a week to ten days to allow the dogs space to get to know each other better without human interference. Under these circumstances, people need to refrain from giving the newcomer, whether puppy or adult, pedigree or mixed breed any attention whatsoever in the presence of the established dog. Nearly every dog-lover cannot resist kissing and cuddling the cute pup or the new adult dog feeling sorry for the latter’s past and trying to compensate in anthropomorphic terms. Many introductions have failed because people cannot discipline themselves and show temporary restraint. These same people cry when the one gets injured and has to be rehomed or gets killed in a status aggression fight. Humans must not interfere. Dogs are better off socially without people around to mess things up.
The newly acquired dog cannot have unearned privileges such as sleeping on the bed, eating in the same area as the established dog until the hierarchy is sorted out – by them! Going for walks is a wonderful destressing exercise and allows dogs to bond in sharing a pleasurable privilege. When more than one dog lives in the same house feeding has to be separate – not just separate bowls but different locations where a door or more separates them. This is to prevent active or passive food aggression. While some people claim that they have no problems feeding all their dogs together they are not really understanding the body posturing between the various dogs. It is uncomfortable for some dogs to eat in the presence of a food dominant individual. Why put pressure on the food submissive dog – just separate them!