December 12, 2011
How to Play Mutt-Matchmaker
Several years ago, I brought a new puppy into the family “to keep my older dog company.” That backfired because they fought constantly. The older one passed away a few years ago, but now I’d love to add another dog to my family.
What is the best way to introduce a new dog into a family with another dog while avoiding what happened the last time?
Geez, I hate when setting up a mutt-match backfires. As you’ve learned, arranging relationships between two or more dogs living in the same home takes more than just pointing to the cutest nearby pooch or making the decision based on who you think your dog would like.
Speaking as an inquisitive canine who currently resides in a single-dog household, allow me to point out a few tips I’d want my folks to use if I ever decide I want a sibling. (Yep, that’s right, I said “I.”)
Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
Know Your Animal(s)!
In this case, know the likes and dislikes of both your own dog and any potential dog you wish to bring into your home. Some dogs are total social butterflies, loving each and every dog they meet. Then there are those who prefer to hang out with pooches of a specific breed or appearance, gender, age, and/or personality (a.k.a. temperament). And finally, there are those like myself, who enjoy being the one and only fur child in the house. Although, I am drawn to beagles, so if the opportunity ever presented itself …
Anyway, if your dog is more the type who wants to meet and play with all other dogs, then you’ll find it a bit easier to play matchmaker — as long as the potential sibling feels the same way. If your dog is more the loner type, then unless you want to take the training steps to create the pawfect relationship, you might want your current situation to stay as is, knowing you can continue to keep the door open, auditioning potential pals until you happen upon a best bud for your other best bud.
Now, if your dog falls somewhere in the middle, enjoying the company of another dog who fits into his or her ideal picture, then it’s best to watch and learn: Keep an eye on your dog’s body language and how he or she communicates toward dogs who float their boat — or, in this case, raise their paws. That’s one way he or she will let you know if it’s a match made in heaven (as opposed to that other place).
What’s your goal for bringing in another dog? Because you want more? You feel guilty about leaving your dog alone? Or because you think your dog is lonely and needs a friend? Self-imposed guilt is not a reason for getting another dog. Also, hiring one non-human animal to babysit another non-human animal is not always the smartest plan — as you quickly learned the first time. Doggy daycare, pet-sitters, dog walkers and arranging play-dates with other dog friends or human friends are reasonable options for creating a more fulfilling, and less isolated, life for your dog.
If your main reason for wanting another dog is because you need an extra fix, how about volunteering at a local shelter? You can get your fill of dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds — including us mutts. This way, you can meet your wants, while at the same time not having to deal with the extra responsibilities and expenses. It’s also a great way to meet and greet lots of other dogs (or cats or bunnies), keeping your eyes open for a potential mate.
Set the Scene — and Reward, Reward, Reward
So let’s say you decide to adopt another dog. What’s a great approach to help make this relationship work? I suggest the following:
- Creating scenarios in which both dogs are enjoying themselves, each other’s company and the overall situation. This is especially true for the initial meeting — first impressions are key!
- Allow the dogs to set the pace at which they want to go, making sure they’re able to communicate in their normal doggy language while still having fun together!
- Let them know they’re on the right track by telling them. Reward them with all things us doggies love, such as being pet, yummy treats and hearing, “Good dog!” I do believe many dates you humans go on involve consuming beverages and/or meals together? Well, you can create a similar situation with dogs, as I can assure you, most all of us love a good pawty too!
What exactly are you and other members of your family willing to do in order to start the relationship out on the right paw, and keep it going strong? Besides the initial meeting steps, you’ll want to maintain a happy home while also preventing disasters from happening. You can do this by:
- Encouraging, recognizing and rewarding both dogs for any and all behaviors you want, such as showing interest in one another and interacting nicely
- Allowing them to set the pace for how quickly they want the relationship to progress, establishing their own canine boundaries
- Supervising interactions for at least a few weeks before leaving them on their own
- Maintaining your resident dog’s regular routine as much as possible, since change of any kind can be stressful
- Providing individual attention for both dogs — after all, everyone enjoys being mama’s boy or daddy’s girl now and again
Paws and Reflect
Before you go and fetch yourself another dog, first determine your reasons for wanting one, then decide if it’s the best choice for all involved (including the dogs and the humans). Then, figure out what you’re going to want from your dogs, and what steps you’re willing to take to help establish a meaningful and loving bond between the two of them.
Finally, keep in mind that when it comes to creating a relationship, it’s important to allow those involved to have at least some, if not all, of the say. Oftentimes, the one animal who’ll be spending the most time with the new resident should have the last word…or in this case, woof.
Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. He and his mom work together running the family business, providing dog training services to other inquisitive canines and their humans. For additional training and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog.
Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly.