Bringing home a new family member can be a joy

One of my fellow moms at our preschool was telling me about her family’s terrific dog. He’s a 10-year-old rescued lab who, once a nightmare, has become the perfect pet (after years of care and training, of course). The family has been considering getting a second dog and this mom wants to know if it’s a good idea.

There’s no easy answer to this question, as circumstances vary with each family. The best I can do is present the types of questions that should be asked and offer some suggestions for finding a good fit should the ultimate answer be, “Yes.” The first step is knowing the following:

  • Is your dog healthy? Before you start looking for a new addition to the family, make sure your dog is up to it by visiting the vet. Blood work will help rule out any expensive and time-intensive health problems that may be surfacing. A thorough physical exam can rule out arthritis or other painful condition that may make your dog touchy around other, younger dogs; there’s nothing worse than having a playful newcomer jump all over you when you hurt.
  • Is your dog good with other dogs? Is he the life of the party at the dog park? Does he react well when your friends come to visit with their dogs? Does he share toys and food with kids and other dogs without showing signs of aggression?
  • Does your family have the time to integrate a new dog into the pack? If you choose a puppy, there is all the housetraining, teething, etc. that require so much coaching. If you rescue a young-to-middle-aged dog, there may be some baggage you’ll need to deal with to make him feel at home in your home. So, if you’re a very busy family that’s already wondering where the time goes, a new dog may not be a great idea.
  • Is your household prepared? Does every human family member support getting a new dog? Do you have enough space? Do you need to get the OK from a landlord or your neighbors?

If you feel comfortable that your answers support having a new dog, it’s time to start looking.

Here are some simple guidelines for your search:

  • Consider whether you have age, gender, size, or breed preferences for your new dog. Your lifestyle may dictate whether you choose a high-energy Dalmatian puppy, a mature miniature poodle, or a three-year-old St. Bernard. Or, you may be one of those rare families that’s completely open to any and all possibilities.
  • Decide whether to purchase from a breeder or rescue from a shelter or breed rescue organization.
  • Make sure your whole family (all human and canine members) chooses the newcomer. Do not adopt from an organization that won’t provide the time and space for your family and current dog to socialize with your prospective adoptee.
  • If you have other types of pets at home, try to make sure your top candidate gets along well with those species. Ask whether you can see the dog interact with any other types of pets. Many shelters will introduce the dog to cats, birds, and sometimes even rabbits to see his or her reaction.

When it’s time to bring home your new dog, be sure your current one gets the majority of attention at first. This will help smooth the transition and ease any territorial behaviors. You may even find that your current dog helps you to train the new one in where to eat, play, sleep, and potty.

If you take the time to do your homework, the addition of a new dog can be a joyous event for all involved.