Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Prepare your Dog for a New Best Friend

A recent post by Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes suggested that we should prepare our dogs for adventure, such as the sailing trip she's planning on taking with her golden retriever, Honey. Her thoughts can be extrapolated out to include more than just hiking or camping or sailing. When Pamela suggested that even adopting a new dog can be perceived as an adventure to our dogs, it hit a chord. How can I prepare Kelly for the event that a new dog will someday join our family?

Kelly: "Siblings are all right, as long as they know I'm the boss."
Kelly isn't good at sharing, and is choosey about other dogs, and as I wrote yesterday, she might even enjoy being an only dog. But does that mean that we have to remain a one dog family, if we have room in our hearts for another? My husband, particularly, sees Kelly as "my dog" and is longing for his own special friend again. Kelly has lived with canine siblings at least twice, having joined our family including our yellow lab, Hudson. They didn't exactly play, but they did sometimes cuddle and she liked to groom him. Then she was an only dog for about 7 years until Brooks came along. Kelly made sure that Brooks knew that she was the boss, and Brooks good-naturedly accepted that. But, when a new dog joins our family, we will have to go through the transition time where Kelly will test and teach the newcomer. A certain amount of this is necessary-- the doggy rules will have to be established. But what can I do to help Kelly with the transition, to make it easier and less stressful for all?

Here are the areas in which she will have to adapt:
1. Share living space
2. Share toys--she never did get the hang of this with Brooks, whether they were her own toys or special toys just for Brooks, etc...she had to have them all. The only thing she let him have was his precious tennis balls.
3. Allow the other dog to eat and drink-- I will always have to separate them at mealtime.
4. Allow the other dog to receive attention--Kelly can get jealous.
5. Walk together nicely--this is one thing she did well, although she got anxious if the other dog was faster and she couldn't be first. She'd rush to try to beat him.
6. Share a sleeping space-- this took some adjustment because she saw this space as hers, but eventually she allowed Brooks a corner of the bedroom.
7. Ride in the car together
8. Be affectionate to me instead of shutting me out-- When Brooks was around, he asked for attention by constantly crawling up and sitting in my lap, following me around, putting his head in my lap. Kelly used to be more like this when she was an only dog, but when Brooks was here she tended to retreat and give me the cold shoulder when I wanted to snuggle with her.

So what are your thoughts, is there anything I can do now that will help Kelly feel more confident and happy about sharing her home with another? How can I help prepare Kelly for the adventure of adopting a new dog?

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  1. Such a good question. We've always had two dogs - or at least for the latest 15+ years. The longest we went with just 1 was when Sally passed and then it was only about 2 months. So I think our dogs have always been used to sharing the household. I do work hard to match personalities though. Tino was very much a loner, so we didn't want a dog who was going to be in his face (especially since he was old & blind too). Then After Tino passed, we had Becca, who was older and had some real orthopedic issues, so we needed a dog who was not real playful. We got Jack, who was in your face, but not with Becca - he's a people dog, not a dog's dog and he ignored Becca (as he ignores Maggie). Then when Becca passed we got Maggie who is as quiet as a mouse, but Jack's exuberance has helped her get over her fears. I guess I subscribe to the tenet of you don't necessarily get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. I think that will hold true for Kelly too as long as you keep in mind her quirks and preferences and get a dog that's going to make accommodations.

  2. Great points. It is important to understand your dogs. I had a friend who has a house full of exuberant sons (5 of them!) and she adopted a retired greyhound. They thought they wanted an exuberant boy greyhound just like the boys. But it turned out he was not a good fit. They ended up with a gentle, quiet girl who brings an amount of calmness and peace to the family. So, the right match isn't always obvious but it is definitely so important to find.

  3. Pamela | Something WaggingMay 7, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    I've learned a lot from Carrie at Tales and Tails. She has four dogs and doesn't take all of them with her everywhere. Sometimes she takes one or two and leaves two at home to keep each other company.

    I wish I had thought of that when I had Agatha and Christie. Splitting them up sometimes and doing different things with them probably would have been good for them. And it would have been smart for me to get them used to being separated from a young age.

    Perhaps your husband will want to do some one-on-one activities with a new dog giving you time to spend with Kelly.

    If you work with a Golden Rescue or breeder, maybe you can let Kelly tell you who to bring home. Just be careful you don't fall in love before she gives her ok. :)

    Great post, Peggy. Sounds like you're doing all the right things to think of Kelly. Glad our adventure dog posting gave you food for thought.

  4. Good points. We found the best tactic was meeting outside and walking together
    Benny & Lily

  5. Woof! Woof! That's PAWsome that you are thinking to get another dog. My mom thought for a long time to get another dog but she never did. She felt she won't be able to give 2 dogs the proper attention. Now that I am a senior dog, mom thinks I need extra(more) attention. My mom says that's how she sense ME. Question to ask yourself is Does Kelly wants another dog or you do? Wish you the best. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  6. No words of advice but just sending you hugs and prayers that the right answer will come to you and make everyone happy :) Hugs! Touch decision but I love the advice a friend of mine tells me (a LOT)...remember that you don't have to make a decision about it right now :)

  7. That's a difficult question to answer. It's not like you can sit down and talk to them about a new brother or sister. My only advice is to try to get a breed like Brooks. Retrievers are generally laid back and don't mind so much that another dog takes charge. Perhaps a younger dog would be more accepting of Kelly's leadership too. I went through the same with Sephi who was the only dog for years. Then I got Maya, a young Labrador Retriever. They were never best friends. But since Maya readily accepted Sephi's leadership, there were few issues.

  8. Sampson is my heart dog, always has been, always will be. But Delilah needs more of my attention. I try and make sure that Sampson gets to do things that he enjoys (such as hiking, we had stopped that for a while when Delilah first joined.) Now I make sure that I take classes with Delilah and Sampson gets one on one time with his dad. He also has more privileges (such as being outside off-leash with his dad) than Delilah has. i think you have to find a medium that works for all.

  9. Something that would help her get used to having other dogs around--scent training (of a sort)--desensitization. Take old tee-shirts and find different, healthy dogs that she's not acquainted with and rub the dogs down well and include some drool. I'd get at least 10 tee-shirts for "having 10 different dogs around."

    Throw them around your house--I'd put at least 3 in the bedroom if that's a real contentious spot. She might attack some of the shirts, but at least she's going to become desensitized toward having the smell of other dogs around in HER house.

    Then, whenever your husband finds a dog he wants, if Kelly isn't a huge part of that process, try to give her a couple of days with tee-shirts from that specific dog in the house--especially in the bedroom--before you bring the dog home.

    Scent-desensitization works for many dogs with a lot of issues. It might work with her.

  10. Georgia Little PeaMay 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    I didn't realise Kelly was such a dominant dog. She sounds as bossy as Georgia!

    I imagine the process is much like introducing a dog to a new baby. I googled that once and found some neat ideas, like getting the dog used to spending less time with the family BEFORE the baby arrives. A little independence training ;)

    I like to let dogs sort out who's boss, and give them time and space to do so. A few snarls and hairy moments are part of the process. Although I have read advice like ...always feed the "older" dog first, or give him the coveted bedding position, in my experience, it hasn't worked and the dogs will sort it out for themselves.

    Letting Kelly choose her new buddy might be the way to go. Rufus had no one but himself to blame when Georgia took over ruling the house on her first night home ;)


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!