Many people come to the shelter looking for a second dog. The reasons vary. Some like to overlap their dogs, so their homes never lack a canine presence. Some want a playmate for their dog. Some grew up in multiple-dog households and like it that way. Whatever the motivation, certain guidelines must be observed to prevent tension or outright hostility between the dogs.

Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, a specialist at the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic, advises getting a second dog if your current dog is going to be alone most of the day. (Note: FFD does not advise getting a dog at all if that dog is going to be left alone most of the day.) Because they are social animals, “dogs in isolation are not happy,” she said. Dr. Borns-Weil also said it’s very difficult to know how two dogs will do after only a few meetings. Although your current dog and another dog at the shelter or a rescue might seem to enjoy each other while playing for 10 or 15 minutes, that’s not the same thing as being together all day, every day in the same house, particularly if neither of the dogs has been under the same roof with a canine companion before. It can take a long time (even years) for dogs to adjust to living together.

Dr. Borns-Weil recommends some rules of thumb when considering adding another dog to your household:

• Avoid two females—two different studies show that if the infrequent dogfight erupts in a home, most of the time two females are involved. Mixed-gender dogs or neutered males are calmer combinations.

• Similarity in energy levels is more important than breed similarity—having a mountain climber and a couch potato in the same household is going to make more work for you, keeping the more energetic dog from harassing the less energetic dog.

• Similarity in health of the dogs matters more than age—in general, bringing a puppy into a home with elderly dogs isn’t a good idea, but if an older dog is healthy and still active, he might get a boost from the younger dog’s playfulness. Keep in mind, though, this won’t work if the older dog is infirm.

If you do choose to get a second dog, it’s always important to make sure your first dog doesn’t feel ignored. Make sure that the first dog gets pride of place in areas that she values: perhaps she needs to get fed first, or she appreciates being greeted first in the morning. Your dog will let you know what she needs, so be attentive to the non-verbal cues, so you can keep the peace in your pack.

We have three dogs in the shelter who can definitely get along with other dogs in the home. However, by the time this article is printed, our census might decrease by one. Shamu’s original owner has reached out to us, and we are doing our best to reunite the two. Hopefully next week’s column will have a positive report.

Ringo, 14, and his son Desmond, 12, are Westie mixes who keep getting “friskier” by the day. They’ve both slimmed down and act much younger than their ages would indicate. They love to snuggle and immediately seek out the lap of the nearest volunteer in the shelter. We are open to adopting them out together, if the right adopter comes along, but that isn’t mandatory. Each dog has one special health need, which is pretty typical of older dogs. The dogs should go to a family where someone is home most of the day. Retirees or families with older kids would be ideal for either of these gentlemen. If you’d like to meet them, please come by the shelter.

Friends of Falmouth Dogs would like to express our gratitude to Officers Clifford Harris and Rob Curtis of the Falmouth Police Patrolman Federation for their recent donation to our organization. We are deeply appreciative of the patrolmen’s generosity and will use the money to provide necessary veterinary care for Falmouth dogs. Thank you!

FFD is at 150 Blacksmith Shop Road, Falmouth. We are open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 AM to noon, Monday and Thursday from 4 to 6 PM, and Sunday from 3 to 5 PM. We can be reached at 508-548-7742, or visit friendsoffalmouthdogs.org.

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