We have a 5-year-old retriever who's been with us for three years and is very comfortable in our family. Recently, we've started thinking about adding another dog to our home, but we're not sure how the first dog will react. How can we tell if our dog will accept another pet in the family?
You're wise to wonder how your dog will handle a new family member, but there are a number of factors involved. How does your dog behave with other dogs — does he hang out at dog parks or in doggy day care? Has he had doggy buddies visit your house? If you don't know, find out. The best way to start is to enrich his experiences with other dogs. I don't recommend dog parks for this as they can be a bit overwhelming for most dogs to start with. Ask friends who have dogs if they'd be willing to arrange play dates or walks where the dogs can be together.
Even if your pup likes other dogs, remember that two dogs are three times the work of one dog. You'll need to train, exercise, and spend time with them individually and together.
If you decide to move ahead, look at your dog's energy level. Does he just laze around the house all day or is he bouncing off the walls? Head to a shelter and find several dogs within a few years of his age and try to match his energy. Have several dogs in mind and let the dogs make the final selection. Let them meet on leash and spend a little time getting to know each other. Don't rush it. Once home, go very slowly. It may take weeks or longer before the dogs can be loose in the house together. It would be wise to keep them separate when you aren't there to supervise.
This week's expert is Amie Glasgow, behavior and training coordinator with the Maryland SPCA. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.