Often we see a dog or young pup and it tugs at our heartstrings. We fall in love even with just a picture, and we tell ourselves that we absolutely must have this dog. But there are many things to consider when bringing another dog into your home, and deciding which dog is the right one. Unfortunately what you want and what will work with your household is not always the same thing.
First, let’s talk about gender. If you’re introducing a second dog to your home, especially a northern or working breed of any combination, the best chance for a successful outcome is choosing a dog of the opposite sex (if you’re going to be adding a third dog to your household my preference is one male with two females). With dogs of opposite sex, most times there is a mutual respect when it comes to dominance. Dogs of the same sex, however, can sometimes resort to aggression to establish dominance. In these situations, you can’t just let them figure it out on their own. You’ll either find yourself having to crate and rotate to keep them separated for safety, or, in a worst case scenario you’ll have to decide which dog to re-home, which is a heartbreaking position to be in.
What about age of the dog? It’s never a good idea to get litter mates, or even two pups close in age. Younger dogs, especially litter mates, will bond more with each other instead of with their owners. If this is allowed to continue, training becomes more difficult since building a strong bond with your dog is so critical to successful training. What about a pup or very young dog if you already have a senior dog? For some senior dogs a young one will liven them up and bring new found energy. For others it could be very annoying and possibly unfair, especially if the senior dog is unwell or simply has no patience for the energy of a young dog. I like to ideally have my dogs spaced out in age by about 4-5 years. A stable, balanced adult dog can teach some wonderful lessons to an exuberant puppy, and it also makes your life easier when one dog is already trained.
When is the right time to bring a new dog into your home? Each dog brings with it individual challenges and every dog takes time to show their true colours, some as long as six months. When getting a new dog you need to consider how long you’ve had your current dog. It’s best to be sure your current dog is fully bonded to you, settled in, and trained properly before adding a new dog to the household. It’s important to remember that bad behaviour breeds bad behaviour. I often hear of people adding a second dog to the mix to help the first dog deal with issues, such as separation anxiety. This can work, or it can go horribly wrong. Sometimes the new dog picks up on the issues of the other dog and you then have two dogs with separation anxiety.
How do you pick which temperament is right for your family? Are you prepared for a high energy dog, or would a low energy dog better suit your needs. Something well known with northern breeds is that the strongest survive. These dogs have often been left to their own devices and have had to fend for themselves in harsh conditions. This means they are tough dogs. Some dogs have never known structure from a human, or even love. This doesn’t mean that extra amounts of love will fix all their issues. You need to carefully assess if you can give this dog what it needs. If the dog has some issues are you willing to put in the time and effort needed, whatever that may be, to get the job done?
Finally, what if you have a cat in your home? Some breeds have a very strong prey drive. This can be helped with training, but it may also take management on your part for the safety of your cat.
Dogs are not always easy, but can be very rewarding if you are committed and make the effort. When picking a dog don’t just look at how cute they are. You need to be realistic in what you can manage and what will work with existing pets in the home. Be sure to ask the rescue and foster family about energy level, temperament, behaviour issues, and even how stubborn the dog is. Think about your own personality, energy and activity level. Weigh it all out before making your final decision, because this isn’t a decision you should lightly make. When you make the right choice using your head and not your heart you’ll have a better outcome in the long run.