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Tips for the First Few Weeks with Multiple Dogs

It is important to set the rules and remain consistent when introducing a new dog in your home.

Multiple dogs can multiply your household's fun. However, during the first few weeks of having a new dog in the house, you will need to take some steps to ensure that your dogs will also enjoy each other. Most dogs take at least two weeks (some longer) to settle into a new environment. Multiple dogs will initially require many alterations in your lifestyle.

You will need to consider each dog's individual personality and needs as well as how to approach them as a group, or pack. There will be the need to offer enough bedding, toys, and dishes to allow them their own space and possessions. While having more than one dog helps with overall stimulation, they still need your time, individual attention, and training sessions.

In order to ensure harmony, the two dogs should learn to work together and defer all decision-making to you. This requires working with them in tandem and controlling them when they are with you. When the dogs are fully integrated and know their place in your home, you will be able to relax your guard a little more each week.

First Two Weeks' Regimen

Treat the dogs both as individuals and as a pack. They need their own space during certain times of the day, while enjoying each other's company at other times.

Here's a few times that the dogs should be separated:

  • Meal time: Prevent rivalry as the dogs eat. Pick up the bowls when they are finished. Note: Keep as many bowls of water as you have dogs out at all times.
  • Bed time: Each dog should have their own bedding area, such as a crate or adjoining rooms where you can place a baby gate in the doorway so that they can see each other but not physically interact. Being able to see and smell each other will aid in the bonding process.
  • Nap time: It is important that the dogs get plenty of rest, as over-arousal can sometimes turn into assertive play, which can also turn into an outright fight.
  • Training time: The dogs should have each have individual and tandem training.
  • Whenever you are away from home: Prevent inappropriate play and other activities.
  • Time out: If one or more of the dogs begin to become bullies (such as growling, humping, placing a leg over the shoulders or bowling the other dog over), place them in their separate bedding areas for an hour, or until they relax and rest.

Some Dogs Like Lots of Activity, Some Do Not

Many senior and geriatric dogs enjoy a little bit of play, but not a lot. Dogs with old injuries and arthritis can be jostled during play, making them lose patience with the other dog.

Be sure to take this into consideration, especially if you are bringing home a young dog with lots of energy. While some senior dogs will tell the youngster that they're not up for a game, others will hope you will take the lead and control the new arrival. It is up to you to control both situations, regardless of how your older dog behaves. These first two weeks are crucial in setting precedents for the new dog - what is, or is not, appropriate behavior.

If your older dog has had enough of a young newcomer, here are a few behaviors that will communicate this to you:

  • The older dog lifts his lips; he might snarl or bark.
  • The older dog yelps (if the younger dog touched a sore area).
  • The older dog snaps at the younger dog.
  • The older dog appears depressed - head down, ears low, body low.
  • The older dog leaves the room where the younger dog is playing.
  • The older dog looks at you and pants hard as the younger dog tries to play with him.

If you see any of the above behaviors, be sure to separate the dogs for a while so that your older dog can rest peacefully. While bringing home a young dog can revitalize the older dog, they still cannot keep up with all the activity. Over time, the older dog is likely to gain some desire to be more playful and interact with your new young dog.

Tandem Interactions

With two or more dogs, you need to consider who to feed and offer attention to first. You also need to control their behavior indoors to prevent any scuffles or possessiveness. Regardless of how much dogs grow to accept and prefer each other's company they will always be competitive, much like human children.

Competitive behavior will arise in a variety of situations such as:

  • Attention
  • Toys
  • Treats
  • Training times
  • Preferred bed
  • Preferred spot closest to their human companions

Depending on the dogs, their competitive behavior can be as mild as pushing in closer and blocking the other dog from an object to as serious as an outright fight. It is up to you to prevent even a minor altercation, proving that you are the one who sets the rules. This is especially important as you are setting the behavior precedents during these first two weeks.

General Handling of Two Dogs the First Two Weeks

It is nearly impossible to adhere to total equality with multiple dogs. You should set up a schedule of who receives the preferred treatment. For example, decide who will be fed first or given a treat first. In general, it would be good to offer preference to the first dog in your residence to reduce his feeling threatened by your new dog.

These are situations in which your first dog should receive preferential treatment (i.e., first dibs):

  • Feeding times
  • Training times
  • Attention when they both come to you at the same time
  • Going through a doorway to go outside or inside
  • Given a new toy

You can be certain that your new dog won't feel left out, as it is normal to have a hierarchy within a dog pack. Eventually, your new dog will become the older resident dog and it will be his turn when another new dog is brought home.

It is important during the first two weeks with a new dog to set the rules and remain consistent. This will ensure a smooth transition into a multi-dog household so you and your dogs can enjoy all of the benefits of having more than one dog.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Introducing New Dogs

Benefits of Multiple Dogs

How to Cope with Canine Anxiety and Fear by Using Adaptil™ (Formerly called D.A.P)

Teaching Your Dog to Come

Teaching Your Dog How to Sit

Training Tips with Treats

Caring For Your Senior Dog

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