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Blended Pet Families


Kids and parents aren’t the only ones becoming part of blended families through marriage.  Our dogs often get new furry siblings too, which can be a big adjustment!

So how did my two rescue dogs with opposite personalities integrate with each other, along with a couple of rabbits, hamsters and frogs in the mix? Time, patience and positive reinforcement, just like in our own good human relationships. I am still not certain who trained whom but we got to a good place, humans and pets, in our new blended family. And you can too!

Manage Expectations

Don’t expect much from the first interaction. People don’t like pressure and neither do dogs.

My dog, Crumbles, was a nervous wreck even before another dog came on the scene. (He even narrated a kids’ chapter book about it called The Crumbles Chronicles: Battle of the Paper Bags).

Let the dogs meet outside in neutral territory so they can sniff, walk away, be aloof, sniff some more or whatever it is that makes them get a sense of each other. You may not be able to tell if they like or dislike each other at first. That’s okay – it’s like a first date. Positive tone and praise will help when they meet each other.

When bringing a new pet into a household, allow plenty of time for them to get to know one another. Keep them separated to give them plenty of time to adjust to one another.

Your dog also needs to know what you expect. After all, pooches usually want to please their humans. Like their human siblings, boundaries are needed. So be clear which behaviors we want and reward them immediately with a treat. Show, treat and repeat. This applies to dog interaction with each other a well as their interaction with other pets. Even my rescue shepherd quickly learned that our rabbit is his tiny bro, not an afternoon snack.

Sibling rivalry

  • Employ the same tactics you would for children. Jealousy and resentment are just as bad for dogs as for people. Here are some tips on managing interaction:
  • If one gets to sleep on the bed, then they both do. If one is getting a bone then the other should get the same one.
  • Each pet should have his or her own food bowl, water dish and bed or sleeping place.
  • Make sure there are enough tennis balls during outside play and throw them in opposite directions so that even the less dominant dog has a chance to fetch too.
  • Dogs can share the house but each should have some stuff to call their own.

Sure, blended families can be a transition, but with your help (and a lot of treats) your pets can get to a good place with their new siblings.

This is a guest post from Laura Scott Schaefer. If you have a young reader who loves dogs, please consider signing up for (or contributing to) Crumbles’ free funny newsletter via [email protected] or purchasing Book 1: Battle of the Paper Bags. Proceeds always benefit rescue animals.

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