Eight things to consider before introducing a new pet to your resident pack
With so many people spending more time at home, dogs and cats are in demand across the country. Over the last year, thousands of households have grown by one four-legged family member, and with the holidays upon us, many might be thinking that now is the perfect time to present the perfect gift — a new pet!
If you already have pets, you may have all kinds of questions about what introducing one more might mean for your home. What if they don’t get along? Or both need expensive vet care at the same time? And what about all that extra…poop? There’s a lot to consider before adding another dog, cat, or critter, to your family.
The most obvious change is how it'll impact your wallet. The ASPCA estimates that the cost of owning a pet in the first year is nearly $1,500. That's definitely more than spare change. When it comes to a second pet, costs increase. Food, vet care, boarding, toys — all of it costs more when you have another best friend to care for.
We also asked our amazing social media community what they wish they'd known before adopting a second pet, and checked in with our expert trainers too!
Here are seven more things everyone should consider before bringing a new pet home.
1. Integrating new family members takes time.
This advice is spot on! While no two experiences are quite the same, animals need time to get to know one another and learn how to comfortably share the same space. Avoid letting all your pets have the full run of the house the first time they meet. The slower the introduction, the smoother it should go.
When introducing cats, make sure they have a safe space, free from other animals — especially dogs. Confine the new animal to one room with all their needs: water, food, toys, and litter boxes (if needed). Keep your pets separated for the first few days. (We strongly recommend taking your new animal to the vet before introducing it to your resident pets.) Feed your pets at the same time, on opposite sides of a door so they associate the new smell of the other animal with eating, everyone’s favorite activity. If you’re introducing a dog and cat, it’s a good idea to keep your dog leashed to keep the dog under control.
2. Different animals have different needs, and it's important you treat them as individuals.
This might be a no-brainer when comparing cats and dogs. But even in the same species, each animal has their own unique personality and needs, from eating to exercise and everything in between.
When getting a second pet, consider how the animal might fit into your life and everyone’s well-being. Have a calmer house? Find a calmer animal that won’t disrupt your household. Have a lively house? A calm pet might fit in, but it could also be overwhelming.
Someone did ask if it's important that the sex of the second dog is different from the first. Getting the same sex of dog or dogs with any amount of age difference is ok. It’s more important to focus on their personalities and needs, and overall compatibility. The only thing we don’t recommend is getting two puppies at once. Woof! That sounds like a lot of work.
3. Training is vital with more than one dog.
If adding another dog to your home, it’s more successful to have your resident dog trained to a reasonable level before adding in a second one, says Katie Heathcote, Behavior and Training Lead. Dogs learn from each other and it’s incredibly helpful if one pup can model good behaviors!
There isn’t any magic when it comes to a well-behaved dog — it takes time, patience, and often coaching from a qualified professional. Taking obedience classes is a great way to build your bond with your dog. It facilitates communication in both directions, builds trust, and the time spent together is irreplaceable. Remember, regular practice outside of the classroom is also important.
Learn more about our Training School and the classes we offer.
4. Resource guarding is a normal dog behavior, so be mindful of it (and don’t punish when it happens).
Resource guarding is a normal dog behavior. Some dogs don’t exhibit any guarding, and some dogs might guard their high-value items with fervor. If your dog is eating faster as you approach the bowl or moves their body to block you from it, if they freeze and/or become stiff, growl, or show teeth, they may be a resource guarder. This behavior often happens with high-value items like food, treats, bones, chews, toys, and even people.
Having multiple dogs in a household can be tricky when it comes to resource guarding. Keeping them separated when high-value items are available can help keep things calm, says Heathcote.
5. Polite behavior is more important to consider than dominance.
While we know this idea was submitted with good intentions, the notion that dogs overpower each other to prove dominance is outdated and disproven. Heathcote notes that dominance isn’t a factor when dogs socialize and live with one another. Dogs are social animals and dynamics of the group change depending on who is present, including humans. We know that the social group of dogs is flexible and the dog with the most friends tends to be the real leader.
Dogs who bully each other are just plain rude. That behavior can be damaging and scary to other dogs in the home, especially puppies. Your home, the spaces within it, and resources can be managed in such a way that the opportunity to bully is decreased. Better yet, you should teach dogs that a different (and preferred) behavior is more rewarding. For example, all dogs in the home have to sit and wait at their own spots for their meal.
6. More animals, more poop.
We totally get it. As a shelter that cares of 22,000 each year, we scoop a lot of poop. If you’re thinking of adopting a second pet, be prepared to commit extra time to cleaning.
Cleaning is also a commitment to your pet and community’s wellbeing. We don’t like to use dirty toilets, and neither do cats. Have one box per cat, plus one. Litter boxes should be scooped daily and fully emptied and cleaned at least once a month.
Dog owners can be good neighbors by keeping their yard and community waste-free. Bring several poop bags on walks to ensure you have enough. If you run out, either come back and clean it up later, or ask another walker if they have a bag to spare.