Adding new adult dog to previously one-dog household: UPDATED Post #19

So, Chelly is here. After a long, long (GA to Wisconsin) round trip to pick him up, we are now a two-dog household. He is a 10yo intact male English Cocker spaniel and was returned to his breeder when his previous owner had a minor stroke and fell and broke a hip. (Intact because he is a finished show champion and she did breed two litters from him prior to rehoming. He’s been all over the house, supervised, and thus far has displayed marking behavior only outside).

Zoe is our long-time (since puppyhood) 8yo female, spayed, English Cocker. She’s been in multi-dog situations before; at one time there were four Cockers. When I moved in I brought my elderly dog Simon with me and no one batted an eye. It was as peaceful an integration as could be imagined, but she has been a solo dog for two years since Simon passed away.

So. Right now we have two very stressed dogs. We got in late last night and introduction, off property, seemed uneventful at first. Chelly’s nonstop checking out the house, but there has been one minor incident.

SO and I have been trying to “think like a dog”, knowing that Chell has been under constant bombardment with unfamiliar sensory input. But we failed to consider that he’d sort of defaulted to us as his protectors during the 12 hour car ride, and he snapped at Zoe when she came “too close” to me. It was a warning; he didn’t try to make contact even (no lunging at her). So now she leaves the vicinity, though not the room, when Chell comes in, preferring to keep some distance between them.

They were both crated last night for bed, which is something Zoe knows but she didn’t appreciate after years of sleeping wherever she wanted. We tried to feed them in crates this morning but Zoe looked horribly unhappy with that arrangement and Chelly was all “no way, I’ve spent the last 20 of 24 hours in that damn crate and I am DONE”. He is still a little too stressed to eat, though he has accepted a couple of cookies.

At this point I am not really worried. It’s very early in the process, and there’s been no outright aggression, just Zoe avoiding him. I know it’s got to take its course, but any suggestions are welcome.

1- Crating. The hope is that we can eventually allow both dogs the run of the house when we’re home (which is pretty much all the time, as I WFH). Last night the crates were side by side; should we move them further apart? I’ve already figured out that feeding can be done in different rooms since no one seems happy about eating in the crate.

2 - Giving attention. Both dogs are typical English Cockers in that they’re very in-your-lap dogs wanting cuddles. We’re trying to reassure both dogs that everything is cool, there are two people and two sets of hands, more than enough for two dogs. Tips?

I know a lot of it is just time. Some dogs adapt more quickly than others but trying to force interaction never works out.

Slight progress just now; we were all in the kitchen and Zoe felt okay enough to move in for a cautious butt-sniff.

I will post photos when everyone is still enough to take them.


Would love to see pics! I’ve integrated lots of adult “ditch dogs” ( strays with unknown history ) into my household. What always worked best in the beginning was long adjacent walks with 2 handlers. Gradually getting closer and closer. The environment is stimulating and a tired dog is a good dog. I’ve never had much luck with just introducing two dogs without lots of walking together. I usually keep new dog and existing dog physically separated until we’ve logged lots of walking. Especially when feeding,dealing with toys (resources) or sleeping.


Long walks are definitely in the plan, just not today. Chelly is already on sensory overload just from being in a completely new home, so we figured he could use a day of “down time” to decompress. We have a long stretch of nice weather in the cards, fortunately.

There’s been one more minor kerfuffle; he was stretched out on the floor behind me and when Zoe came in he made it clear she was to leave. I’m a little surprised she’s so deferential, as she’s always been Head Bitch In Charge and very confident with other dogs in the household. Plus she is a good bit larger than Chelly.

He has figured out the dog door mostly, but there is something about it he doesn’t like and is hesitant about. He’s better going out than in. This is a two-flap dog door, and we wondered if the extra “oomph” needed to get through two flaps was bothering him, so SO has removed one flap. He used a dog door at his former home, so it’s a familiar concept.

Right now he’s sitting on a dog bed in SO’s office, watching the world go by outside the window. This was apparently one of his favorite pastimes in Wisconsin, so I’m happy we can give him that.

One thing he does lack is any kind of obedience training outside of what the show ring required. He can stack, and he does walk on a leash, but no heel, sit, stay, or any of that.

Dinner time is coming up in about a half hour. We are switching him to 2x daily feedings from 1, and I was able to go out and purchase a small bag of the Purina Pro Plan he’s been eating. We will gradually switch him to the Natural Balance salmon & sweet potato.

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One thing almost all the dog behavior books emphasize is to always support the dominant dog (even if it’s the new incomer) by feeding first, paying attention first, etc. The sooner the roles are made clear, the more relaxed the dogs will be. It’s hard not to support and prop up the underdog, but it tends to prolong the dominance struggle.

Can’t wait to see pictures!


I, too, have had the most success walking new dogs together at a purposeful clip. Not race-walking, but not a mosey-sure-you-can-stop-and-sniff sort of walk either. If I can, I do this several times a day in the first two/three days - maybe a long walk first, and then a shorter, 15 minutes a couple more times that day. Neither dog gets to “lead,” with their nose in front. They’re kept at the same length of lead and forward, march.

Also agree with supporting the dominant dog by feeding first, letting through the door before the other, and so on, even if it’s the new dog.


Thank you for the advice on supporting the dominant dog’s role!

We do tend to anthropomorphize, don’t we, and think the underdog will be sad or resentful at losing their place at the top of the line. I appreciate the reminder that they don’t think like we do; they just want clearly defined roles.

Here’s one photo from this morning. It’s hard to get him to be still long enough!


He’s beautiful! Can’t wait to see a picture of them playing together in a week or two!

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My parents used to have us take dogs on a run and then introduce when all they wanted to do was lay down. We would keep collar/leashes on for 2-3 days to keep them with us but not really together. Goal was to keep them tired and not enough energy to bother the other while they acclimated. It worked really well as they had 3-6 dogs most of the time.


We had a long (for them) walk this evening, a real “march, double time, guys, keep moving” walk. It was enough to tire them out some. We got treats after (small piece of organic chicken jerky) and everyone was polite about it.

The rule around here is that treats are not randomly given but must be earned. Zoe knows she has to at least sit and wait quietly; sometimes she gets impatient and sits up/begs and fair enough, that gets a treat. Since Chelios does not yet know any commands, treat time is a good opportunity to learn. We are starting with the basics, just “sit” for now.

He really needs his teeth cleaned. SO is wanting to get this done ASAP, but I am leaning towards giving him more time to acclimate before whisking him off to the vet. Because of his age he’s going to need bloods pulled first anyway. There are no missing or broken teeth, they’re just really, really dirty. Thoughts on scheduling?

@Mara, how are your dogs getting along now?

Chelly is adorable, even though I should dislike him on principle as a long-time Avalanche fan. The Red Wings, and Chelios in particular, were their nemesis for years! :rofl:

Thanks for asking!

Lol, SO threatened to change his name after one of his favorite St. Louis Blues players.

He’s a funny little guy; there are a lot of things that are new to him. Like mirrors - he will stare, either puzzled at the “other dog” or just entranced, into the full length one in the hallway. I came home Friday and he was watching my reflection approach behind him in the mirror; he nearly jumped out of his skin when I spoke to him. Stairs were also a novelty but he figured those out pretty quickly.

He has definitely asserted himself above Zoe in the pack, which is somewhat surprising. His breeder said he was always the low man on the totem pole with her bitches, and Zoe was top of the dog heap when SO and his wife were still together and had as many as four dogs at once. But she’s seemingly at peace with it. He snatched a Greenie treat right out of her mouth the other night and she just turned and looked at me like, “well, you saw that. I need another one, please.”

He is settling in. He still sleeps in his crate, mostly because he hasn’t quite managed to coordinate coming back in the dog door. He goes out fine, and will come back in if you hold the flap open for him. But the threshold is lower on the outside, which we think is giving him pause. It’s not really an issue since the dog door is only open if someone is home, and it’s easy enough to go let him in. But we don’t want him stuck out there at night.


Re the dental event, no real specific thoughts, though it seems that giving him some time to settle and get to know things would be better before leaving him at the vets. Most of my rescues have thankfully adjusted quickly, but the last one had huge separation anxiety from her foster home (she was there 5 months). Paced and whined off and on for days, and it took her even longer to really show her true personality. Now I’m not looking at your boy’s mouth so that is the other side of the coin…Maybe run him in for quick poke for blood work (so you aren’t leaving him), have the vet take a peek and see what he/she thinks. If you could buy a month or two, that’s what I would do.

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That’s what we decided to do: give him a month or so to get into the groove of a new routine before yet another big event. He does need the bloods done anyway for a HW test, as his regimen up north was preventative only from May-December, so we might as well make a “meet the vet” visit.

He’s already learning when it’s time for a walk. Tonight at about 7:30ish he was bouncing around like, “ok, let’s get this show on the road!” The two dogs walk nearly perfectly together, for which I am most grateful. No pulling, no trying to go off in opposite directions, and they come back to me when I need them to - like when we’re crossing the street. Occasionally I have to swap leash hands, but I am looking forward to short hikes on the trails around here.

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You’re lucky with the walkies! When I had my two corgis I had to get a “Y” connector so I could use one leash. And one was always pulling the other in the direction they wanted to go!

But corgis are a lot more hard-headed than English cockers!


I may have spoken too soon regarding hierarchy. I think they are still working things out. A couple of times today Zoe has refused orders from Mr. Chelios and a few minutes ago she gave him some back talk. “Listen, pal, looks like you’re sticking around and that’s fine by me, buuuuut you needn’t continue to expect special treatment.” So we will see.

I should clarify, any arguments between the two are minor, verbal, a threatening advance, but minimal or no contact. They seem to have realized that they’re both fluent in Dog and no need to actually get into a physical altercation. Just now was the first instance of anything in several days. We keep a close eye on them and, for the handful of times we see signs that someone is on the verge of umbrage-taking, like staring or posturing, either I or SO will distract and redirect. And 99.9% of the time they are great together, like on walks. Even at treat time at the counter they’re both good (aside from his theft of her Greenie two days ago). So even if they aren’t besties, I’m pretty positive that it will be a peaceful coexistence.


One thing I’ve learned from adopting a series of older dogs from our municipal shelter after I lose a previous one, is that dogs that are generally ok with other dogs is that their dominance battles are largely symbolic.

They may snarl/snap/bark at each other but they’re a foot or more away. Neither of them want to actually get into a fight. :laughing: It’s a show, but an important one for them to figure out their new world order.

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The hardest situation I’ve dealt with, and one I will likely avoid from now on, was bringing a puppy into my one-dog life when the original dog was about 5. For several months everything was fine until the puppy hit maturity and decided he was old enough to be in charge. Though neutered at about 5 months, he was considerably bigger than the OG dog and was about as subtle as a sledgehammer in his takeover bid (as young dogs can be). My smaller guy ended up getting pummeled a few times until I was able to reinforce myself as pack leader. After that they got on okay, though eventually OG ended up living with my mom as it was clear he was happier in a one-dog household.

By far the easiest integration I’ve had involved two rescue males. Simon was the first, and three months after that we got Lance. There was only one incident, on the first day, and they were thick as thieves within 48 hours.

Chelios update.

Both dogs are at the vet today. Zoe is getting her teeth cleaned and Chelly is getting a workup. I’d suspected a significant yeast problem with him, as he’s been itchy and I can smell it.

Vet just called, and both dogs have ear infections. Poor Chelly does have a systemic yeast infection as well, plus his mouth is a mess. He will get a dental at the end of the month (May is 20% off on dentals), which will allow us time to clear up all infections plus wallet recovery.

God, it’s quiet without them around. I don’t like it. :grimacing:

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What a difference in a month.

He’s settled in nicely. I think he spent most of his life in his breeder’s or handler’s kennel, save for the year or so he was in a home before that owner went into assisted living. Her kennels are really nice, but it’s not a home. So many things are new to him; for example, he is just now learning to chase tennis balls. He pulled the entire plastic bag of them out of the hall closet last week, plus he’s found several that Zoe had lost under furniture.

SO kind of wasn’t sure about him until recently; he was puzzled by Chelly’s reserved nature and of course kind of protective of Zoe. We had a talk and I told him he’d need to make an effort to engage with Chelly. “Imagine if you were put on a long flight and when you landed, you had no idea where you were and no one spoke your language”. He’s used to immediate bonding with dogs; he’s never had a senior join the household. So he took over morning feeding and started making extra efforts to love on Chelly and it’s paying off.

Dog relations are improving as well. Chelly is now okay with Zoe sharing my office and there have been far fewer incidents of defensive behavior. When he gets something new, like sofa privileges, he initially does not like to share with her, but comes around and realizes that sharing =/= losing. With the sofa, he learned pretty quickly that snapping at Zoe meant he got put back on the floor.

She badly wants him to play with her, but he’s not quite “there”, which is fine. Sometimes he will try to pull the ball out of her mouth, but she’s not having it.

We go for a dental on Tuesday and I think that’s going to make life a lot more comfortable for him. He’s been on clindamycin for two weeks for pretty severe gingivitis and I am fairly sure he’s going to have some teeth pulled.

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