Becoming a multi-dog household

Nov 11, 2021 | Adoption, Greyhound care, Training

Imagine, you are new to a city and have just moved in with several new housemates! This would be a nervous and exciting experience for you, you may have mixed feelings. It is important to manage expectations when intorducing a new greyhound into your home; not only are they learning how to be a pet, but they are also learning how to co-habit with a new dog.

Relationships take time

Relationships between dogs, as with people, take time. Many greyhounds have not had to share anything before. This does not mean that they won’t be able to, it just means that you must guide them and set them up to succeed. The overwhelming majority of greyhounds have lived solitary lives, usually in a kennel or paddock environment. Often there are other dogs on the property however they are generally separated and not housed together.

Their own space

Separating the dogs is a great management idea – this won’t be forever but it can allow the dogs to get to know one another without being on top of each other. Baby gates are helpful as the dogs can see and smell one another but the barrier allows them to feel safe and secure. We recommend separating the dogs when sleeping at night as we don’t know if the greyhound has sleep startle and it may feel on edge sleeping with a strange new dog around. Even if the dogs look like they are getting along well, it is important to allow some separation time, so they can decompress… Imagine if you were stuck with your sibling 24/7!

Muzzles

Keeping a muzzle on your new greyhound is a great safety precaution. Sometimes it can be as subtle as a glance that one dog could take negatively, so while they are getting to know one another please keep that muzzle on. We recommend keeping the muzzle on your new greyhound for at least first 7 – 10 days.

Arriving home

Always reintroduce both dogs on neutral ground at the front of the home, starting at around 10 metres apart. Allow the dogs to sniff around the area and come together slowly to sniff one another and say hello. The existing dog smelling the new greyhound and then walking away from the new hound is an indication that the existing dog is comfortable.

Proceed to walk the dogs through a side gate to the backyard if available. Aim to walk the existing dog in first as they are comfortable with their environment and walk the new greyhound in behind them. Walk into the backyard if applicable and allow the dogs to smell around the area and toilet outside, whilst on lead.

When the dogs are happy sniffing and exploring then you can slowly allow them access into the home and strictly monitor. Please ensure that there are two responsible adults present during the arrival of the new greyhound. It is a good idea to leave both dogs with their leads on in case you need to intervene or to move one dog to a different space.

Toys

We recommend removing all toys for a minimum of 2 weeks. Toys can be very high-value resources for dogs and they may not know how to share yet. When introducing a new toy always have several toys with you. Don’t start with squeaky toys as this may heighten their arousal level around the other dog. In the beginning, always have two people and multiple toys so that if one dog is interested in the other dog’s toys you can refocus them onto a different toy that may spark their interest. If you intend on buying new toys for your adopted greyhound, buy two. You can bet that your existing dog will be interested in the new toys as well.

Feeding

It’s best not to feed dogs together and to keep all treats separate. When feeding the dogs, aim to have the dogs in separate locations with a barrier between them. Ensure you have picked up the bowls before reintroducing them because dogs can sometimes resource guard their empty food bowls. Bones and other long-lasting treats should not be offered for at least 3-4 weeks. If these are offered later then follow the same feeding routine as breakfast and dinner. It is vital that the dogs are separated from one another when feeding especially if the existing dog is only fed once a day.

Supervise play time

Initially, play needs to be monitored by two reliable adults. Play needs to be equal. This means that the play roles (chasing, play bowing, mouthing) need to rotate between each dog. If one dog’s play arousal level is much higher, it is up to you to step in and cease the play. The dog with the higher level of arousal needs to be given a break to allow them to calm down. Just like children, one can get excited far quicker than the other. Once the dog has calmed, play can recommence.

Many greyhounds have not had a lot of experience playing with other dogs and it is a skill that they need to learn. Supervise play time closely to make sure that everyone involved is having fun. Limiting the length of playtime is a good idea at first, and intervening by redirecting the dogs to another activity before things get rowdy can help them to learn.

What’s in a growl?

The growl is a dog telling you they are frightened of something or someone, or they are simply asking for a bit more space. Growling is normal communication for dogs. Do not ever punish a growl, you should only ever say thank you as they are telling you something is making them frightened. If a dog learns they will be punished for a growl, they will learn that that means of communication does not work and may escalate the behaviour.

If one of the dogs growls at the other, it is a distance increasing behaviour. The growling dog is telling the other dog to move away. Some greyhounds, because of their lack of socialisation, may not understand this request. In this situation, it is up to you to step in and move the dog away, therefore complying with the initial dog’s request to increase the distance.

Always investigate a growl – there is always a reason behind it. For example, the new dog is not aware of the existing dog’s resting places and may think ‘that bed looks comfy I’ll lay on that’ or ‘that spot looks cool I’ll lay there’. They don’t know the routine of the existing dog. This could be a cause of a growl.

Out and about

When you first bring your greyhound home we recommend keeping their world small. If you have a backyard, do not walk the greyhound for at least 14 days. If you live in an apartment, only walk the hound directly outside onto the nature strip to sniff and toilet and go back inside.

Your existing dog should maintain the same routine whilst the new greyhound stays at home. Enrichment should be given to the new greyhound when the existing dog is taken for a walk, only if it can be separated and removed appropriately on return.

Once your greyhound has settled in and has built a relationship of trust with you, you can begin to take them for walks, starting with short walks and observing their body language to avoid overwhelming them. It is imperative that the dogs be walked separately or at the same time but with one dog per handler. This is so that each dog can be given 100% attention and ensure that someone is responsible for observing that the greyhound is not becoming overwhelmed. You can easily return home with the greyhound if necessary.

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