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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adding A New Dog To Your Home

Finn
Adding a New Dog to Your Home
Author, Bob McMillan



There
are perfectly sane reasons to have more than one dog in your household. No,
really.


You
may want a companion for your first dog. You may decide to adopt a second pet
from the shelter or bring home a roadside stray.


Maybe
you’re an animal behavior enthusiast and want learn more about your dog by
seeing it live with and interact with another dog. You may think your dog needs
more exercise and another canine will certainly encourage that.


Whatever
your reason, know that there are complications more than higher vet and food
bills when you live in a multi-dog home. Just as with every person you add to a
household, every new dog will change the chemistry of the mix. Not all dogs
will mix well. Time and techniques can sometimes overcome their differences. Sometimes
they can’t and a newcomer has to be re-homed to keep your dogs from hurting
each other and for you to hang onto a shred of sanity.


There
are general guidelines for adding a dog or dogs to your home. Dogs of different
genders tend to mix better. Same-sex canines often compete for status. Dogs of
similar size and temperament make better matches, too. For instance, a
greyhound and a daschund might be an unfortunate combination.


Guidelines
are useful, sure. But every dog’s a unique individual and your dog probably
hasn’t read the guidelines.


I
live with four hounds: two Scottish deerhounds, an Irish wolfhound and a beagle
and, while I started out with careful planning, life threw its own curveballs.


Cuchulain
was our first, a male deerhound who was soon the size of a highland pony. A
born runner, he needed walking every day and I drove him to a nearby farm
regularly to run off-leash. He was a great athlete, highly intelligent and
comical and we bonded closely.


After
two years I was in love with large hounds. Since I wanted another dog just like
Cuchulain and he was alone much of the day, I decided he needed a companion —
and hopefully a mate. Gracie, also a deerhound, joined the pack. Gracie is
lightning-fast and has a high hunt-drive. Did I mention I had cats? They worked
it out while she was still a puppy. They lived on top of doors. She ruled the
floor and chairtops.


Gracie
adored Cuchulain. As long as she left his food, bones and favorite sleeping
spots alone, he regally ignored her. Until she went into heat, when he turned
into a mindless, drooling Romeo ... and Gracie ignored him. Puppies did not
happen. I stood two more years of twice-yearly madness and gave up on puppies.
Deerhounds are notoriously hard to mate, I belatedly learned. For the sake of sanity
— hers, ours and Cuchulain’s — I had Gracie neutered.


There
was harmony in the household. Cuchulain and Gracie played and walked well
together. They worked out who ate first (Cuchulain) and who got first choice of
sleeping spots (Cuchulain). I had plenty of time to train and play with both
dogs. Deerhounds sleep 16 hours a day between naps, thank goodness.


Enter
the wolfhound. Cuchulain was 8, ancient for a deerhound. He’d gone grey and
wobbly on those long legs. I feared I wouldn’t have him with me much longer
when I learned of a litter of wolfhounds here. Irish wolfhounds are the stuff
of legends. And I thought Gracie would soon be alone.


I
got a puppy. Which Gracie, who’s normally nurturing and sweet-natured, decided
she wanted to eat. I was shocked.


Our
home became a gated community. We kept Finn in a large kennel in the living
room for puppy training and walked him regularly. Cuchulain and Gracie got the
back of the house behind an infant gate when Finn was reliably potty trained
and needed more space. I walked Finn and Gracie separately. Cuchulain was
content to stand outside on a long leash, sniff grass and wobble. Finn ate
alone safely in his kennel.


It
was finally Finn who brought down the Berlin Wall. He adored the two older
dogs, even though Gracie repeatedly demonstrated that she considered him
edible. Wolfhounds are steady and sociable. I read that. What I witnessed with
fascination and horror was an incredibly brave puppy approaching the gate time
and time again to say hello to Gracie and her teeth.


I
fed them both treats on either side of the gate and praised Gracie when she
stopped growling at Finn, but it was Finn who relentlessly charmed her. By
spring he was bigger than she was — and she’s taller than a collie. Charm and
bulk won her over. She decided one day that she wanted to play with Finn. There
was harmony in the household.


To
exercise two large hounds and a larger geriatric hound, I fenced in my large
back yard. Finn and Gracie ran like stallions and the sight of it stirred
Cuchulain to ratchet his ancient bones into a lope behind them. They were three
giant, happy hounds and my bank account was considerably lighter.


Enter
Sully, the beagle mix. My daughter found him on a roadside in Nashville, but after one long night of
barking in her apartment, she turned to us at the House O’Fur. It was us or the
shelter. So, it was back to the kenneling and gates in the McMillan household.


But
not for long. Cuchulain ignored Sully, a four-month-old puppy. Gracie soon
surprisingly accepted him. Finn enjoyed a playmate he could roll across the
floor like a hot dog. And Sully turned out to be a party animal who fit well
into the household. When they walk, he skitters around under their feet.


He
eats in his kennel, Finn eats separately still because he’ll share his food
with anybody and Gracie and Cuchulain graze from the communal bowl that’s full
most of the day.


I
now have an SUV that’ll fit any two of the hounds at a time for trips to the
vet. I walk Finn every day and Sully and Gracie less regularly. Cuchulain
stands in the yard, sniffs grass and wobbles.


Having
four dogs works for us, but then we have no life other than work and our dogs.
We only travel with Finn and Sully (Gracie gets nervous and carsick) and only
then on day trips. If you have kids or expect to leave home for more than a
day, more than one dog could be unmanageable.


We’ve
been lucky because (eventually) our dogs meshed into their own family. That
doesn’t always happen. And we introduced new dogs after the previous ones were
well-assimilated into the family.


I
don’t use the term “pack” because that’s often misused, based on the outdated
idea that dogs are watered-down wolves who work out a pecking order under the
rule of an “alpha dog.” Recent research has found that wolf packs are wolf
families led by parents, not the biggest bully.


Dog
groups work out their own dynamics. In our house, Cuchulain is the pushiest and
eats first. But Sully, the smallest and youngest, ends up with the best toys
and bones because he’s quicker. He’s also the song leader, initiating the group
howl two or three times a day. They all know they’re going to get treats and
time with us equally. Sometimes Gracie still snaps at Finn — when he leaps on
the bed beside her and crowds her. Mostly, there’s harmony in the household
again.


Not
everyone lives with their dogs inside. We choose to because dogs are social
animals and we don’t have the heart to keep one outside away from his family.
We’d rather juggle our household than have a dog and not know it well and enjoy
its company.


With
gates, careful attention and patience, more than one dog in the house is
do-able. But go slowly and ask yourself often, how much do I love dogs?
In our case, a lot. But I’m pretty sure our limit is four.




Bob
McMillan is an editor and columnist with the Cookeville Herald-Citizen
newspaper and lives on a mountain with several giant hounds and wary cats.
This
column was originally printed in the Herald-Citizen
in Cookeville, Tennessee.
Please visit http://www.herald-citizen.com/ for more information on the
newspaper. We thank the Herald-Citizen staff for allowing FFBF
to re-print this piece.
















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