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By Crystal Ladwig

You got a second dog for Christmas! Now what?

Christmas is a season when hearts and wallets are open, and many dogs find new homes. For many, these will be their forever homes. But for many other dogs, it is sadly only temporary. Bringing a new dog into a family that already has a dog sometimes goes well, but when it doesn't, the new dog is often returned to the shelter from whence it came. This begs the question: What can you do to ensure that your new dog will become another beloved family member?

Introduce them slowly

You cannot assume that two dogs will automatically become the best of friends, especially when one has had the house to herself for a long time. For this reason, it's best to introduce them in a neutral site such as a park. They may take to each other right away, but it may also take several such meetings before they become comfortable with one another. Keep both dogs on leashes, and wait until they are calm before they are allowed to approach one another.

Give them space

Dogs can be territorial, especially when a new pet enters the home. One way to help dogs adjust to one another is to give them each their own space. This includes separate spaces for times when they are left at home alone, separate sleeping areas and especially separate feeding areas.

Attention matters

A dog can become quite jealous when someone else arrives and starts taking all the attention. Monitor play time, ensuring that you give adequate love and attention to both dogs. This includes time alone with you as well as time when you play with both dogs. Watch your dogs closely when you are playing with them. Are they enjoying the interactions or are they wary of what the other dog is doing? If they are wary, this may indicate that they are not comfortable or that the other dog, likely the dominant of the two, may not be approving. Be patient, but continue to give attention to both dogs.

Watch and learn

Dogs are pack animals. They know how to survive in a pack, but it may take time to establish dominance. One dog will become the leader. But your dogs also need to see you as the ultimate leader: the alpha. Watch how they respond to each other and to you. You want them to respect and obey you, deferring to you when appropriate. A good example of this is when a dog looks at you to "ask permission" before taking a treat. If one of the dogs shows signs of anxiety, stress or anger, separate them and give them time to calm down. These signs may include lip curls, ears back, hackles raised, tail high and staring each other down.

Love and live

Once a new dog is fully integrated into your family, you will have an amazing new friend to love and live life with. But don't forget that dogs, like children, have personalities and will squabble from time to time. When this happens, intervene and discipline with love, patience and consistency. Continue watching the interactions between the two dogs for quite some time until you and they are confident in their new relationship.

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