Choosing a Second (or Third! or… More!) Dog

Making the decision to expand into a multi-dog household is no small step. In today’s post, we’ll talk about a few factors that might be helpful to consider in choosing a second dog for your home, particularly if you’ve never lived with multiple dogs before. (Those of you who are old pros at integrating multiple dogs into your home, this one ain’t for you. We’re talking to the first-timers here.)

1. Consider Your Dog

The first thing to consider is how your dog normally behaves around other dogs. Does she go out of her mind with giddy excitement and want to playplayplaaaayy until the other dog’s climbing the walls to escape? Does she get snarly about other dogs showing an interest in favorite toys or chew bones? Does she even have any experience with other dogs showing up inside her home?

If the answer to that last question is “no,” it might be prudent to hold off on adopting a new dog until you can arrange a few visits from friendly dogs to see how your resident pet does with visitors on her home turf. It’s easiest to get started by bringing over dogs that she already knows and likes. Even if your dogs already know each other, it’s often a good idea to re-introduce them as if they were strangers, since the added factor of one dog being on her home turf can add a new level of stress. (TU’s “Let’s Be Friends!” has plenty of great tips on how to introduce dogs in the safest and least pressured way.)

On the other hand, if your dog does have a lot of experience playing canine social butterfly, then he probably has some definite preferences about dogs that he likes better than others, and how he interacts with different types of dogs. It’s useful to think about which of those combinations you’d actually want to live with: the nonstop high-energy playmate might be fun for an hour at the dog park, but do you really want that in your living room the other 23 hours a day?

2. Get Some Practice, and Be Prepared for Two Weeks of Chaos

Do you have any prior experience wrangling two dogs at once? If not, it might be a good idea to borrow a friend’s dog for a couple of days. Ask if you can dogsit (in my experience, friends and neighbors are often happy to have the offer — vacation boarding and dogsitters are expensive!). Or, if you really feel like doing a good deed, consider fostering for a rescue once or twice. You’ll get some experience running a multi-dog household and help out a needy pet at the same time, and since it’s a temporary commitment by design, there’s no need to worry about whether you’ve made a permanent commitment to something you can’t handle.

Many people, having never done it before, are surprised by how intensive the transitional period can be with a new dog. As a rescue volunteer, I’ve seen LOTS of second-dog adoptions fail within the first 48 hours because the new owners just aren’t prepared for how much supervision and management a newly introduced pet needs.

It’s intense, but it’s also temporary. Quite often I suspect that these homes would have been perfectly happy with a second dog if they’d been prepared for that initial bumpy ride and aware that things would likely settle down after a few weeks. But, since they don’t know that, they give up when the situation looks overwhelming. The new dog never really gets a chance to settle in, and the owners feel like failures, and it’s just not a great situation all around. A little practice, and a more realistic idea of what to expect (that bumpy transitional period does calm down!), would go a long way toward avoiding these outcomes. So, if you can, borrow a dog for a sleepover, or foster a homeless dog for a couple of weeks, before committing to adopting a second dog yourself. The experience will definitely come in handy.

3. The Default “Rules”

I’m putting this last because, in matchmaking as so much else, the specific always trumps the general. If you know that your own dog gets along best with bigger, older dogs of the same sex, then disregard the general rules of thumb posted below, because what works for your dog is always more important than what works for some nonexistent hypothetical dog. And if you know that you would lose your mind dealing with giant poofs of Sheltie hair making tumbleweeds across your floor, then it doesn’t matter if your dog likes long-haired fluffy dogs best. The first rule is that you have to make the choice you can live with.

But if you’re not sure what that is, or there’s a wide range of acceptable choices and you want to narrow them down, these are the default recommendations that work for most dogs in most situations with the greatest chance of success:

  • the new dog should be of the opposite gender (especially with female-female pairs in breeds known to be prone to same-sex aggression, and where one or both of the dogs is still a puppy, since dogs that get along when one of them is a baby will not always get along when they’re both grown, regardless of how they were raised);
  • the new dog should be somewhat smaller than the resident dog (25% or so is a good rule of thumb, although that may not be possible if we’re talking about Chihuahuas!);
  • the new dog should be somewhat younger than the resident dog;
  • the new dog should, ideally, have been fostered with dogs who are roughly similar to the resident dog in personality, size, and — if possible — age and gender;
  • the new dog should, if possible, have been evaluated for resource guarding against other dogs in a home environment.

None of those “rules” is set in stone, of course. All of them can and should be adapted to your individual situation. But those are the most common guidelines that are most broadly appropriate for most homes.

Okay! So that is an introductory primer on preparing for, and picking, a second dog. Now, how do you actually live with a multi-dog household? That’s a topic too big for a TU post (yes, even one of my multi-thousand-word monstrosities), but never fear, Patricia McConnell is here! Her booklet “Feeling Outnumbered?” is a wonderful resource on the subject, and like all of her booklets, is concisely written and reasonably priced. I strongly recommend that anyone considering a second dog get it and read it. It’s a tremendous help and well worth the time.

Pearl’s Tale

Long time readers may remember that I work at a low cost spay/neuter clinic in NJ, and that my boss, the vet, runs a dog rescue that rescues, rehabs, and finds adoptive homes for Satos, Puerto Rican street dogs. The rescue continues to grow, and much of my boss’s farm has been transformed into climate-controlled housing for pups in need. With adoptions numbering in the hundreds each year, it is an organization that does an overwhelming amount of good. For the most part, my involvement in the dog rescue is limited despite the fact that I spend three days a week at the clinic, working as a tech.

I do volunteer my photography services to the rescue. When dogs come in, I am the one who takes their adoption photos. It’s a rewarding job because a good photo is often all it takes to find a lead for a homeless dog. It is also a fun job that involves lying in the grass in the sunshine, waving squeaky toys, and getting licked by puppies. Often times, I see the dogs once or twice between when they arrive and when they get adopted out. In fact, many of the puppies have homes lined up before they even fly stateside. Usually, I don’t get names or back stories on any of the dogs. I take the photos, edit them at home, and send out a mass email to all the parties involved in finding forever homes. The files go on my external hard drive and I almost never even look at them again.

Once in a while, however, a dog comes along whose story I can’t ignore. Sometimes, dogs come in extremely sick, and I hold them for diagnostics and treatment. I change blankets and flush IV’s and take temperatures. I snuggle pups whose bodies ache and who need a comforting hand to keep them quiet while they heal. Most of the time, the dogs recover and go off to live happily ever after. I can count on one hand the number of dogs we’ve lost in the four years I’ve been volunteering with the rescue. Still, sick dogs break my heart, and I don’t have the heart to write about their ailments.

This year, a dog came along that was special in a different way. This is Pearl’s story, and it’s a feel-good tale just in time for the holidays.

Meet Pearl:
12096555_10100760299141469_2816486152682750296_nPearl is a chi-weenie, or, at least, that’s our best guess. Like 99% of the dogs we take in, she was found wandering the streets of Puerto Rico. She was emaciated, full of heartworms and other parasites, and very, very pregnant. Pearl had been on her own for so long that she was completely terrified of people. Thanks in part to the fact that she was so incredibly sick and weak, the rescuers in PR were able to wrangle her and get her to safety.

It wasn’t long before Pearl delivered a litter of four teeny, tiny puppies.

The babies were healthy, but mom had given them all she had and was very, very weak. The puppies were supplemented with formula to take some of the strain off of Pearl. She was a good mom; a very good mom. She cleaned and nursed her babies and was very protective of them. Unfortunately, this made socializing her even more of a challenge. She barked and snarled whenever anyone came near her litter, and she even tried to bite on several occasions.

We received this photo with a plea, “Will you guys take these four puppies and their mom?”

11988239_1682675145288089_4447317928649180359_nWe also got this photo of Pearl looking completely mortified at the prospect of meeting more strangers.11988578_1682677018621235_3842343674468044919_n

How could we say no?

As soon as the puppies were old enough to travel, we arranged to have someone to travel with them as carry-on, and Pearl got her “Freedom Flight” to the States.12043216_1684853775070226_2895413968664326285_n

After a plane ride and a car trip, Pearl and her pups arrived safely at the farm, where Pearl began treatment for her heart worm. A few days later, I took adoption photos of her and her pups. I had to stay outside the ex-pen because Pearl would try to kill me any time I got too close to her pups. She was fiercely protective of her babies and tried to bite anyone who tried to come near them, including the doc!

Juggling Pearl and her pups over the next couple of weeks was tough. Of course, the adorable puppies found homes immediately. It was just a matter of waiting for them to be old enough to be weaned. Thankfully, they’d been handled by people since birth and were extremely friendly.

Once the puppies were weaned and adopted, the real work began. Without her motherly instincts kicking in, Pearl stopped being aggressive, which was a relief. However, she was painfully shy. The vet took her inside her house to get her used to cohabiting with people. Pearl started getting used to my boss, but still barked at her son and hid from him. Pearl was quickly getting attached to the doctor, but that wouldn’t help her get adopted.

One day, the vet brought Pearl into the clinic, and informed me that the little dog would be “working” with us every day. It became my personal mission to befriend the terrified chihuahua mix.

It wasn’t easy. Pearl hid from me. She barked at me when she felt cornered. She shook. I tried bribing her with human food and cat treats, tricks that have worked with many dogs over the years, but Pearl’s fear was greater than her appetite. She resisted even the most delicious treats (Dunkin Donuts hash browns!) even when I left them far from myself.

Gradually, however, she started to come around. She started taking food that I left on the floor for her. Then she’d eat it from a few inches away from me. Eventually, she took it from my hand if I sat completely still. After a lot of time and patience, I was able to pet her while she ate, and eventually pick her up.

The weather worked to my advantage. Once the temperatures started to drop, hairless Pearl from the tropics started to realize the benefits of a warm body to cuddle. I would have her sit in my lap while I invoiced and did office work at the end of the day, and it wasn’t long before I caught her following me around the mobile unit as long as I didn’t make eye contact with her. Slowly, she was coming around.



In the mean time, we discovered that Pearl was a great little farm dog. She never strayed far. She came when she was called. She got along with the other dogs and cats on the property. She was quiet, unassuming, and obedient. Gradually, very gradually, she started to come out of her shell. She looked right at home.


The hunt for an adoptive home began in earnest. Where were we going to find someone with the patience and quiet nature this skittish little girl needed? She deserved a home to call her own. A few people came to look at her, among them an elderly couple who wanted a small dog. One after another, they passed Pearl up in favor of the cuter, friendlier, more appealing dogs on the property. The weeks flew by,and still Pearl lived on the farm and hung out in the clinic with me.

Eventually, Pearl adapted enough to go to PetSmart with the other available dogs. There she would gain more exposure to life and people. PetSmart also increased her chances of someone noticing her.

And notice her they did! A family came in who wanted a project dog, someone whose affection they would have to earn. Pearl would be perfect. It was love at first sight!


Next thing we knew, the family had passed the application process and was ready to take her home. Best of all, we got to receive updates on our little friend in her brave, new world. She was probably pretty overwhelmed at the size and newness of it all.


We waited with bated breath to see if the home would stick. It has been five weeks now, and it doesn’t sound like Pearl is coming back to us at all. In fact, we just got this photo of her living the good life in her new home. Doesn’t she look like she owns the place?


Wine and Hot Dogs – Riss and Cherry’s Guide to Perfect Pairings

Cherry is a five year old American Staffordshire Terrier and hot dog connoisseur.  I am a 40 year old dog trainer with bright blue hair and a lover of cheap wine.  The great variety in both hot dogs and grocery store wines can make it difficult to choose the right pair for your training plans.  That’s where Cherry and I come in.  We have done our research (“Are you buying more wine?”  “Yes!  It’s research for my article!  Pass me that cork screw…for science!!!”) and put together a few possible pairings for your dog training adventures.

Very Casual Training

Remote fetch!  Good girl!!!It’s a just-the-two of you kind of night at home.  Grey’s Anatomy is on, you are wearing your best Batman pajamas (with the footies and the cape!), and Meredith Grey is having yet another angsty crisis that will be resolved in under and hour.  You’d love to change the channel, but the tv is way over there…with the remote sitting on it.  If only your dog could generalize that simple fetch cue to the remote—I mean, it’s sorta dumbbell shaped?  Maybe if you squint just a little?  Suddenly you realize you have a new mission for the evening, and it involves teaching your beloved companion to enable your future laziness.  Really, why bother to even teach the retrieve without a real world application?

Our recommendation:

Gwaltney Great Dogs  —  texture:  firm, if oddly shaped.  These hot dogs seem to conform to eachothers’ shapes in the package, which does have the convenient (if disconcerting) effect of flat sides.  These hot dogs don’t roll—very helpful when slicing them!  They are also, by far, the cheapest option, generally costing under $2 a pack.  I am sure they only use the best…um…parts of the various meats in these hot dogs.  They come in “chicken” and “traditional” varieties.  Cherry highly recommends them, not only for the economy (trainers are usually fairly tight on the cash, and she suspects the cheaper the hot dogs, the more generous the trainer), but because the spongy mystery meat flavor is somewhat reminiscent of that one glorious time she scarfed down a roadkill chipmunk before I could stop her. Fond memories….

Bota Box Wines - Boxed wine in a variety of fun flavors!  Don’t mess with a fussy cork and glass bottle.  Instead, keep one or two of these boxes in your fridge.  Note that it also comes in nifty little drink box sizes for your lunch time convenience (this may or may not be recommended depending on your level of self-employment….or desire for abrupt self-employment).

Both of these choices are economical and easy to find at any grocery store.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta train on a budget!  In your pajamas!

Hard Core Training Bender

Perhaps it’s the night before your first obedience trial…and you are a bit concerned about your dog’s potential performance.  Possibly you realized that your dog has a far more leisurely take on heeling than the judge would prefer.  And now, more than ever, is the time to break out the “big guns”.

Our recommendation:

nathans-hot-dogsNathan’s Famous All Beef Hot Dogs – Beefy taste and texture settle on the canine tastebuds, capturing your dog’s attention like a freshly sliced steak on a cold morning.  The tantalizing scent lingers in the air, caressing the canine nose leather, and inviting your dog to get that sit just a bit snappier…that down just that much more precise…and that heel….<click!>  Sure, they will cost the trainer a bit more, but a smart dog knows that you get what you pay for, right?  Want quality last minute training?  It’s going to cost you some quality hot dogs, baby!

Eppa!Eppa SupraFruta Sangria – Sure, this is one of the more expensive wines on this list, but hey—you’re already ponying up for those expensive hot dogs.  You might as well spring for some fancier wine to go with them!  And this stuff IS fancy!  It’s even organic and chock full of antioxidants–super healthy!  They’ve blended in lots of extra fruit juices to get that lovely summery sangria taste, but if you truly want the experience, I recommend adding a handful of frozen fruit (get it by the bagful in the frozen food aisle).  Just remember, you’re competing in the morning.  Go easy on the wine.  You can have the rest after your trial tomorrow (to celebrate or cry, depending on how well things went).

Date Night

Date night!It’s just you and the love of your life tonight.  Music is softly playing in the background, while the fire gently flickers in the fireplace.  You pour yourself a glass of wine and…when the moment is just right….you go for it.  Your beloved cheerfully swallows the hot dog you’ve tossed, and quickly tries to repeat the behavior.  Within minutes, you have that behavior on cue, and, within a few more minutes, on stimulus control.  It’s a good night.  And those plastic fireplace logs really do look fairly realistic.

Our recommendation:

SmokiesOscar Mayer Smokies — Oscar Mayer is the gold standard of hot dogs.  You just can’t go wrong with them, and they even come with a cute jingle that gets stuck in your head!  But did you know that they came in many different varieties?  Cherry does!  And while she likes the cheese filled (I personally find them too messy to want to deal with), and the bacon flavor is always a winner, for those truly special occasions, Smokies are the clear choice.  That hardwood smoked sausage taste, that beefy texture–these hot dogs are the real deal, and Cherry is not shy about telling you how much she loves them.  In fact, she would like to offer her services to Oscar Mayer as an official spokesdog and quality control tester.  She dreams of one day riding in the Wiener Mobile.

Red VelvetCupcake Red Velvet — This wine, much like Cherry, is a beautiful dark red and just a bit spicy.  This is not my usual sweet wine.  It has a certain smokiness to it that reminds you that this is a grown up wine, suitable for grown up endeavors.  It’s the kind of wine you want to put in an actual glass, and drink properly.  Like an adult.  Instead of spending your training hours noodling with random one-off tricks for fun, you’ll want to make a training plan and document your progress.  For a meaningful night of training by the glow of a fake fireplace, this wine is perfect.



The Official Team Unruly Holiday Gift Guide!


The holiday season is upon us once again. How does this keep happening?! …. oh. Annual, you say? Okay.

Here at TU, we never seem to have much trouble coming up with ways to spoil our dogs. In fact, NOT buying them gifts is the much greater challenge. We also know a lot of dog-loving humans, though, and they can be a little trickier. We put our heads together and came up with a couple of good options for the dog-owned humans in your life.

1. Paws in the Patch Ribbon and Title Bar Holders.

This item is on TU member Danielle’s personal wish-list! It can be hard to find a good way to show off all those shiny ribbons your pup has earned. These snazzy ribbon holders can be customized with a silhouette image or a photo and your dog’s name, and will keep your ribbons hanging neatly. You can also get holders for agility title bars, too. These holders would make a great gift for any dog and handler team!

2. Friendship Collars and Bracelets

What is most important in life? To have fun and look good doing it! TU member Michelle found these cute matching collar and bracelet sets. They’re very reasonably-priced and come in lots of cute colors and patterns. They even have a “holiday collection” and the sets come in little Santa sacks!

3. Custom Pet Nose Print Necklaces

Looking for a slightly pricier gift for a special someone? This website offers custom nose print jewelry. Just like a fingerprint, your dog’s nose print is unique. These nose print pendants would be a lovely way to keep your best friend close to your heart at all times. They would make a particularly thoughtful gift for someone with a sick or elderly pet.

4. Cuddle Clones plush pet replicas

Sometimes you want to squeeze your pup and he’s just not in the squeezing mood. Or maybe you want to jam him in a suitcase to take on a trip but you heard the TSA frowns on that sort of thing (… as well as the ASPCA and all other animal welfare groups and reasonable people). Never fear! For the low, low cost of “more than any person should ever spend on a stuffed toy, ever, but I really want one anyway,” you can have a one-of-a-kind stuffed toy replica of your pooch! You just submit a couple of photos of your pet, choose from some other options (like ear and tail position), and bam – you got yourself a squeezable, packable, lovable pet plushie.

5. Dog Breed Puzzles

Let’s get back to some gifts TU members could actually afford. Lindsay C. recommends these dog breed puzzles. The link shows a German Shepherd, but a bit of searching on Etsy will turn up many, many more breeds. These puzzles look great on desks and bookshelves, and some Etsy sellers also have them available as Christmas ornaments. Check out all the other animals available, too – aardvark, anyone?

6. Wine

Do I really need to explain?


TU readers: any other suggestions? Please share your links in the comments – we would love to learn about other gift options!