Our experience bringing home a second dog

We recently welcomed a new addition to our family – Luna, a beautiful black puppy from the folks at Exclusively Mongrels.

Being a dog owner for the past 2 years has been such a wonderful experience that we wanted to share our love with another furry one. Logistically, we were ready; we already had all the dog supplies and experience from having Polar, and we felt that all we needed was a leap of faith. How did we know which dog would be suitable for us as a family? For me, it all boils down to a gut feeling; that moment when you lay your eyes on that particular dog, there’s a soothing voice in the back of your mind that says this is it.

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Of course, it’s important that Polar gets along with the dog too, but given that Polar has had our undivided attention all this while, we expected that there would be some initial unhappiness on Polar’s side. Therefore, we came up with a rule-of-thumb: as long as Polar doesn’t growl or lunge at the new dog in their first meeting, there’s still a good chance of socialising them properly, and we’d be one step closer to having a new member of the family!

It’s only been one month with Luna, but because we never got “The Puppy Experience” with Polar, I feel that I’ve learnt so much and experienced so many firsts! Here are some things that I wish I’d known before taking the plunge, in case any of you are considering doing so!

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First things to prepare for

1. Set up pen areas

When we first brought Luna home, we engaged a professional dog trainer, Vivien from Evolve K9, for a 1-on-1, 2 hour session at our place to make sure there’d be a trained hand around while the kiddos were getting to know each other. Her first piece of advice was for us to set up two separate pen areas for them so that they each would have a safe zone whereby they can spend time apart safely. Each pen area should have its own supplies (for example, a pee pad if you train indoors, a water bowl, a bed, chew toys, etc.). We made sure to set up these pen areas before even letting the dogs into the house.

2. Walk in as a pack

In normal circumstances, it’s always best to walk the two dogs for a while on neutral ground outside the house, to let them socialise and get used to each other, before proceeding to bring them back in. This proved to be a little challenging for us because Luna wasn’t used to walking on leash yet. I decided to carry her into the house while walking Polar on a leash so that we would all enter together as a pack. We’ve been told to never simply bring a new puppy into your home without socialising with the existing dog first; it would be deemed by the existing dog as an intrusion of its personal space and chances are, they’d get really upset.

3. Feed separately

Food can be a sensitive issue for dogs. It’s instinctive for them to be protective of their food (even a dog as chill as Polar) as their ancestors spent thousands of years hunting and foraging for food in the wild. On one of the weekends prior to the adoption, we brought Luna home to spend some time with her and for her to get familiar with Polar. However, I made the mistake of feeding them treats while they were close to each other. Polar got atypically territorial and displayed a bit of food aggression, which scared the pants off poor little Luna!

Now, I feed them separately in their respective pens with their own bowls. For Luna, Vivien advises me to use her meal times as training time to get used to the leash, hence I hand fed her while holding the leash, and luring her around. Whenever we pass by Polar, I make sure to feed him treats too and to praise him so that he doesn’t feel left out.

4. Have a balanced pen time and out time

Vivien encourages us to get the dogs used to their pen time by associating it with good things like treats and pats. This would make it easier to leave them alone in their pens in the future. However, we can’t keep them in the pen forever so it is important to balance the time they have outside their pens. Letting just one of the dog out alone makes it easier to monitor their movements, but it’s important to let them both out simultaneously (existing dog first), and allow interaction under supervision several times a day. Eventually when the dogs are comfortable with each other, you can remove the pen.

5. Monitor interaction time

Vivien taught us how to spot signs of distress from Polar; for example: when his ears are pulled back, when he snots/scoffs, when he breaks focus on us and looks at her, or if he stares a bit too intently. It is crucial to be more effusive with praise for your existing dog for just tolerating. We constantly praise Polar for being such a gentleman and such a good boy, while constantly observing for signs of distress on his face. We also make it a point to keep them apart by an arm’s length to be safe.

6. Ignore the whining

This was the hardest part for us. Polar normally sleeps with us, but our new room doesn’t have enough space for them both. To be fair, we leave them both to sleep in their pens in the living room. The first night, Luna was whining constantly and it was really heart wrenching. Vivien advises to ignore the whining entirely. The worst thing to do is to give in to her whining, as that would subsequently lead to dependence and thus intensify the dog’s separation anxiety. Lo and behold, that same night, Luna eventually gave up and went to sleep. The key is to always ignore the whining, or give a curt “shh” and continue ignoring her. When she keeps quiet, consider giving her praise and reward.

That wraps up on the first few lessons we learnt from our new journey and we’ll blog soon on our progress!

Until next time, stay curious!

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*Note: This is not a sponsored post.

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