Many people enjoy having two or more dogs, but finding dogs that like other dogs, and can happily live together, can be tricky. According to Amy Shojai, a certified dog behavior consultant and author of ComPETability: Solving Problems in Your Multi-DOG Household, while you can make some decisions based on breeds, it's important to also find dogs with compatible energy levels and temperaments.
Socializing puppies and planning careful introductions can also make the difference between doggy rivals and best friends.
Dog Breeds that get along well with others
Some breeds are more likely to be friendly and accept new members of the family easily. In general, breeds that have been bred as “pack hounds” tend to get along well with other dogs. Because of their group hunting style, they tend to see other dogs as part of the team, rather than threatening their dominance. Some pack hound breeds that get along well with others include:
Another dog-friendly group is the hunting and retrieving group. Not all hunting breeds are tolerant of other dogs, but the breeds below were selected for hunting because they are calm, obedient, and enjoy companionship with humans or other dogs.
Dogs that have a harder time making friends tend to be breeds that are more aggressive, dominant, or independent. Herding dogs can have strong dominance or aggression traits if they're not carefully trained and socialized early on (the Bernese Mountain Dog excluded), and dogs that were bred for protection or fighting may have problems making nice.
Is it the Breed or the Dog?
Some dogs, such as Kerry Blue Terriers and Pit Bulls tend to be more aggressive by nature, but in many cases the breed isn't enough information to determine if your dogs will get along. Pit Bulls have been known to get along well with other dogs, if introductions are careful and the Pit Bull has been socialized.
To truly get along, it's important to find dogs that have a similar energy level or temperament. Few dogs can get along with an aggressive dog, but semi-patient dogs with similar energy levels could become best friends. You probably shouldn't bring in a high-energy puppy when your senior dog is slowing down. While you may miss energetic play once your senior dog has reduced mobility, your senior dog may become frustrated and aggressive toward the puppy. Another adult dog might make for a better pairing.
Matchmaking Dogs for Harmony
In addition to trying to match energy levels, dogs of similar sizes tend to get along better. Some dogs, like Terriers or sighthounds (Greyhounds, Afghan Hounds) may have a tendency to chase small animals. A tiny puppy could be at risk of being chased or hurt if paired with these dogs.
Another good way to ease doggy friendship is to spay or neuter dogs so that they aren't competing or trying to impress each other. Some of the best matches are between fixed dogs of the opposite sex, avoiding competition altogether. Bringing in a younger dog (assuming the energy levels are not too far off) can also help maintain the current social order.
According to Amy Shojai, socializing puppies early is the key to raising a dog capable of getting along well with others. Puppies learn in the first 6 to 12 weeks how to interact with others, and also what to consider “normal.” Many puppies learn from their mother what is safe and normal, but as a pet parent you can select key experiences and provide rewards for positive interactions.
Not only can you introduce puppies to other dogs, but to important people in your life, common noises, tools, and experiences--like car trips and kennel visits. If puppies see and smell a variety of other dog sizes and breeds, they are more likely to get along with dogs of all types when they're older.
Proper introductions can also make a big difference. It's important that dogs first meet on neutral territory, so that the resident dog doesn't feel threatened. It may be safest for them to do the initial sniffing with a fence between them. Once the dogs seem comfortable with each other, they can meet again in the home yard and you can slowly work on going inside the house.
Dogs are quick to determine social order and get used to each other. With some careful planning to match breeds, temperaments, size, sex, and providing proper introductions, your dogs should get along well. Soon you'll feel like they've been friends forever.
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