Multi-Dog Households

There’s an old saying that pit bulls are like potato chips—you can’t stop with just one. The first one steals your heart, and pretty soon, you’re thinking about getting another one (pit bull, that is—not heart).

STOP!

Pit bulls can be addictive, but they aren’t the best candidates in a multi-dog household. As with many terriers and several other breeds of dogs, pit bull-type dogs are not always dog-friendly. They are people-dogs, not dog-dogs.

This isn’t to say that once you have one pit bull, you can’t have any more dogs. Many, many people do have multiple dogs, including two or more pit bulls! But you need to be aware that multi-dog households, especially a multi-dog household with one or more pit bulls, are an enormous amount of work and require an extraordinary amount of management. The amount of work required increases with each additional dog.

Before you get a second dog, seriously consider the following:

  • Do you mind spending twice as much money at the vet (or possibly more, if your new dog has health issues), and on food, toys, and other supplies?
  • Can you divide your time equally between two dogs? You may have to increase the amount of time you spend with the dogs in order to give them both the individual attention they need.
  • How will you train the second dog? It seems pretty straightforward, but consider your first dog’s perspective—this second dog, especially if it is a puppy or totally untrained, is going to consume a lot of your time and attention. Your first dog is going to see you spending tons of time with the new dog and giving the new dog lots of treats and praise.
  • If your first dog isn’t trained yet, do you have the time and energy to properly train both dogs at once? Again, this isn’t as easy as it sounds!
  • Do you have space for a second dog? Think about the second dog’s bed, crate, dog run, bowl, and so on. Having some personal experience with ownership of two large dogs, I can say with confidence that finding a good place for two large crates was no easy task—and I live in a 2000 square foot house with no kids!
  • Will you be okay with scooping that much more poop?
  • Will you be able to go on twice as many walks per day? Most people are not physically able to safely walk two large dogs at once.
  • What will you do if your dogs end up not getting along? Remember, dogs are not disposable; when you adopt (or buy, though I sure hope you adopt), you are making a lifetime commitment.

If you have answers (serious answers) to these questions and you’re ready to make the leap into multi-dog ownership, you will need to do the following:

  • Consider fostering a potential new dog before making the adoption commitment.
  • Pick a new dog whose sex is opposite your current dog. If your current dog is male, get a female.
  • Pick a new dog whose personality is compatible with your current dog. If your current dog is dominant or assertive, don’t get another dominant dog! Get a submissive or calm dog.
  • Spay/neuter both dogs before you bring the second dog home.
  • Introduce the new dog to your current dog s-l-o-w-l-y and gradually. Don’t just throw them together in a room and let them “work it out.” Spend a few days, or even weeks, on a crate-and-rotate routine so the dogs can get used to each other being in the house. Some good advice on introductions can be found on PBRC’s website at http://www.pbrc.net/dogintros.html

Thinking about getting another dog? Pit Bull Rescue Central’s page on adopting a second dog lists considerations before you adopt, with additional pages on introductions and crate-and-rotate routines.
http://www.pbrc.net/second_dog.html

BADRAP’s “Living Peaceably in a Multi-Dog Home” contains a wealth of helpful information and tips, whether you’re still thinking about getting a second dog, or you’ve already got one.
http://www.badrap.org/rescue/multidogs.cfm


Help! My Dogs are Fighting!

Perhaps you have had the second dog for a while, and are suddenly experiencing trouble in paradise. Perhaps your dogs have started fighting with each other. This may be especially surprising if you got the second dog as a puppy, and things seemed fine for almost a year. Why are they fighting now?

As dogs mature, they can become less tolerant of other dogs. Usually, this applies to strange dogs, but some individual dogs also grow intolerant of familiar resident dogs.

For pit bulls, maturity can hit anywhere from eight months to two or three years of age. So you could bring home a cute little pit bull puppy, have no problems for months or years—and then the puppy becomes an adult dog and starts getting snippy with other dogs.

Also, adult dogs tend to be more tolerant of puppies than other adult dogs. So it is possible that once your puppy becomes an adult, your original dog will become more aggressive toward it.

If one or both dogs start behaving aggressively toward each other, doing nothing is the worst possible move on your part. It is important to put a stop to aggressive behavior immediately, before the dogs have a chance to rehearse fights. Aggression is a learned behavior; don’t give your dog(s) the chance to practice!

Crate and rotate is the best option for a household whose dogs are getting into fights. Crate and rotate keeps the dogs separated so they do not have the opportunity to get into fights. This can be a temporary solution if you intend to get professional assistance from a behavior counselor or trainer, or it can be a permanent one if you are unable to resolve the aggressive behavior.

You can read more about crate and rotate on PBRC’s Crate and Rotate page: http://www.pbrc.net/rotate.html

Next Page: Can You Trust a Dog?
Previous Page: Aggression

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