One good dog deserves another

Do you have or intend to have a multi-dog house hold?
I quite often get called for consultation because a new dog (puppy or rescue) was added to the household and what seemed to be a good idea at the time is just not working out all that well after all and the owners are becoming overwhelmed.
While there certainly are exceptions, I find that quite often the “old dogs” are in need of some refreshers in domestic manners themselves. For example Buster (the resident dog) is “ not all that good” at properly greeting visitors and tends to bark and lunge at the dachshund around the corner – and now the new dog is totally out of control barking at the dachshund, the cat across the street and just about anything that has fur – and he is totally flipped out whenever someone comes over.
The reality is that dogs learn from each other, and even if your new dog does not learn any bad behaviors from your old dog – are you using ( and are you able to use) your old dog as an example?
Years ago I was dog sitting for a friend for a week and I totally enjoyed watching my dogs teaching her dog “ How we do things around here”.
The perfect example was our habit of having to sit/stay and wait for dinner until released. Little Lola was used to just diving in. So the first evening I asked everyone to sit and put their bowls down. ( The “cousin dogs” were visiting too so we had five dogs plus Lola in the kitchen.)
Initially everyone sat – including Lola. I put the bowls down – everyone remained seated…Lola’s bowl was last – she sprang up in order to start eating ..I picked her bowl back up.
“ Ugh”, said Lola and tried again – bowl went down – dog got up.
By the forth attempt Lola had 10 angry eyes stare at her! She looked around at the others and stayed seated this time while I put the bowl down. After that she sat with the rest the whole time she was with us.
While not every learning experience will be that fast, dogs do learn by example – and that can be good or bad.
Do you already have a dog that is at times difficult to deal with? ( like reacting to other dogs and people ) – do not be surprised if the new dog – especially if he is a puppy – will pick up the same behavior.
I am not suggesting that you should not add to your household, but take a realistic assessment of your current situation. A lot of times just going back to basics with your current resident dogs goes a long way toward smooth sailing with the new acquisition. On the other hand sometimes adding to the pack might best be put on hold.
Dr.s Patricia McConnell and Karen London wrote a wonderful book called: “Feeling Outnumbered? – How to manage and enjoy your multi-dog household” which is full of good suggestions to help you enjoy your new canine addition.
So if you are thinking about adding to your household, my recommendation is to make an honest assessment of where everyone is at right now and maybe spend a little bit of time reminding all of the house rules to make the transition easier on you, the new dog and everyone else.