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Double the Dog—Adding a New Member of the Family

Adding a second dog to the home is a lot of work—but the end rewards are worth it!

After recently getting a second dog, I started thinking about my decision.

Key word—after.

I thought to myself, “Dear God, what have I done?”

It was the first night Chance came home from the Animal Rescue League and after a somewhat calm introduction to the almighty alpha she-dog, Bailey the Jack Russell, things looked promising. We wanted Bailey to have a friend after leaving her at home with a long face many, many times. As soon as we got home from the shelter with Chance, the calm turned to chaos.

Bailey has never been happy to have other dogs around. In fact, she completely flips out on walks by the sight of another dog. (I am well liked in my neighborhood. People love those encounters at 8 a.m.) But, she acted so much better around Chance, so we...gave it a chance. (I know.)

My stress level was through the roof as we struggled to get both dogs adjusted to their home. I screamed, I cried, I stupidly broke up fights—and I got bit. This growth process was painful in just about every way. I knew we had to act fast, so we immediately started working with training treats and got advice from our amazing adoptions counselor, Claire Carr, and Nina Wolf, owner of Animal Nature. I have told both of them that we probably owe them consulting fees at this point. Their kindness is truly a blessing.

Whenever the dogs had a positive interaction, we immediately gave them a small food reward. We began taking them on walks together to create our new pack, and soon, they began trotting along side by side, doggy smiles and all. 

After one week in, I noticed that Bailey was no longer growling at Chance at every turn. Chance would lick Bailey’s face as if to say, “I know you’re in charge. And that’s cool.” A few days later while working in my office, I turned to the futon and saw that they were cuddling. It lasted about 10 minutes, but hey, from where we began, it felt like a miracle.

During one minute on Chance’s first night home, I experienced a moment of panic. What if these dogs were going to be miserable forever? What if they never got along? What if I never enjoy my dogs again because of this decision? And instantly, I remembered a blog post by Nina from Animal Nature. It was a dog’s Christmas wish list that read, “Don't leave them, ever. If the time comes, you hold their head and paw until they are gone. Never ever abandon them, never make them find their way without you. Never allow them to be afraid and alone.” 

I looked at Chance, our brand new 11-month-old in the crate, and said to myself, "I made this commitment and I am keeping it forever. We’re going to make this work."

It's a few weeks later and my new favorite thing to do is walk two dogs at the same time. It is such a joy to see Bailey and Chance appreciating each other’s company—even if they still do get into a scrap or two every once in awhile. Bailey also has found that she loves to break her new friend out of the crate every time we leave home so they can play!

The key to adding a second dog to the home is patience. The second key is love. If you take this route and find yourself overwhelmed, don’t panic. And don’t rush back to the shelter that first night. Do not leave your dog—he is adopted, and he is yours now. I know in some instances, it just doesn't work out. But give it time to discover everything it could be first.

The reward in the end is more than anything you could ever imagine.

Nina Wolf February 17, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I'm so proud of you, Stephanie! I know how upset you were, how afraid that this was not going to work...and you saw it through, did the work and loved those dogs enough to make it happen. And you did some really smart things: got on top of the situation right away, and found help. I wish every companion animal could end up in a home like yours! It would be a far better world.
Stephanie Rex February 17, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Thanks Nina! :-) You're awesome. Thanks for answering my millions of emails and calls hahaha!
Kate Grannemann February 18, 2012 at 12:10 AM
My two dogs came together - a father / daughter duo - so I didn't have these challenges. I will say that two dogs are very entertaining as well as such good company for each other. I'm glad they had to be adopted together. Sounds like yours are working out, Stephanie. Thanks for sticking with it and I bet your pups thank you too! Chance got a good home and Bailey got someone to play with. What could be better?

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