Happy dogs, happy home
BY Denise Baran-Unland For the Herald-News August 6, 2012 4:32PM
ex and Sophie, clients of Smart Dog Training and Lodging in Plainfield, demonstrate how two dogs in the same family can happily play together.
Updated: September 8, 2012 6:08AM
You’ve owned a dog for awhile and the time feels right to add a second one to your household. How, you wonder, do you ensure they will play happily together and not fight?
Like their human sibling counterparts, dogs can experience jealousy and argue over food, toys, territory, pecking order and the amount of attention you, the owner, bestow on each one.
However, Kristy Dilworth, certified and licensed trainer and owner of Smart Dogs Training and Lodging in Plainfield (www.smartdogstrainingandlodging.com), has good news. By taking certain precautions, you can raise happy “siblings” instead of adversaries that fight like cats and dogs.
The first step, Dilworth said, actually begins before you start thinking about enlarging your canine household, and that entails resolving any lingering behavior issues with your first dog. Eliminate any bad habits and be sure your existing dog is potty trained.
“You don’t want to have two dogs running your house,” Dilworth said.
Next, create rapport between the dogs before you even bring the second one home. Take your first dog to the shelter or store housing the new arrival and walk the two of them together, with the dogs following behind you. This builds a pack-like rapport between both dogs and designates you as the leader.
“They need to become a team,” Dilworth said. “And building respect between you and your dogs will let them know you are the one handling discipline.”
When you bring the second dog home, walk both dogs together before you introduce the new dog to its new home. Once inside, with both dogs on leashes, let the second dog explore the space and his possessions.
Be alert to one dog acting possessive or guarding toys, bedding and food and water bowls. Also, as time goes on, be aware of any subtle behaviors on your part that might encourage future resentment.
For instance, don’t allow one dog to snuggle with you on the couch if you forbid the other one the same privilege. Set reasonable rules for both dogs and be consistent with enforcing those rules. And continue walking the dogs together every day; twice daily is ideal.
“They can have a tiny scuffle to set boundaries and hierarchy,” Dilworth said. “You just don’t want it to become a full-fledged fight.”
Quarrels between dogs might be uneven if you already own an older dog and then bring home a puppy. Puppies are naturally energetic and might attempt taking over the first dog’s position in the house and his food bowl. The older dog now has the right to make new dog “back off,” as long as he is not overly aggressive.
“It’s good to let them work it out so it doesn’t become an ongoing issue,” Dilworth said.
Sometimes when dogs have played well together, one might suddenly become aggressive for no apparent reason. This requires a trip to the veterinarian. A health issue, even a minor one, might be the cause.
“Even an ear or bladder infection might cause a dog to be irritable,” Dilworth said.
If your dogs are consistently fighting, physically separate them, crating them if necessary, and engage the services of a reputable dog trainer.