Thinking about adding a second dog? Here’s I went through the journey, thoughts and what I learned through the process with my second Vizsla.
Things to Think About
I had been wanting to add a second dog for the longest time, but I really wanted to get it right. First I wanted to wait until Whiskey was fully trained and reliable with other dogs. Once she was 2 years, I really started thinking about a second but it took a couple years to convince my husband! After a couple more years, I realized Whiskey’s breeder wasn’t breeding anymore so I had to start my search for a breeder again.
There were 2 years where I was on the list for another breeder with close lines to Whiskey, but 4 breedings just did not work. A couple didn’t take, there was one litter of 3 boys one girl that was called for (I was set on a girl, here are reasons why), and one litter only had a single. After waiting for awhile I decided to search for another breeder and that journey took another 1 year. At this time Whiskey was 5 years old when I finally met Alpine Vizslas and got on the list for Vixen’s (Bourbon’s mom) last litter.
During this journey of finding the right breeder, I had been pet-sitting as many dogs, especially female Vizsla dogs as I could. I wanted Whiskey to get used to the idea of sharing space and attention with other dogs, and for us to get used to how much work a second dog would be. It’s SO much easier pet-sitting another dog when your first is very reliable. Whiskey could be off leash heeling while I dealt with a second dog off-leash and I could pay 90% of my attention on the second dog while assuming Whiskey would make good decisions.
At home, I knew Whiskey didn’t guard resources like food or people, and that although she didn’t love puppies, she would tolerate them, growling but not biting. Even when pushed Whiskey would growl and growl and eventually give up and let a puppy sit on her or take her toys. The one thing Whiskey did seem to have an issue with, is attention and discipline. She has issues with alpha females taking the attention of her humans, and can also be grumpy if dogs are not following the rules. By the time we introduced Bourbon, we had worked through so many of Whiskey’s emotions that we had a blueprint about what to do in most circumstances.
Once I knew we were getting a puppy, I tried to dog-sit as much as possible readying Whiskey. Also, Covid became a thing, and threw a wrench into plans of visiting the puppies with Whiskey (or at all). There was so much turmoil about how to actually get Bourbon across the border, I wasn’t even sure it would happen at some points.
Knowing that a new puppy would be very exciting, and that Whiskey needed so much attention, we decided that the best thing would be to introduce Bourbon to the house while Thierry was out on a roadtrip with Whiskey. That way I could get Bourbon used to a new house, new yard, new life, and then introduce Whiskey a couple days later.
When Whiskey came back home, we met outside (it’s always better to introduce dogs outside) and I asked Thierry to pick up fast-food. Whiskey LOVES food and doesn’t resource guard the food so I wanted to feed her something extra yummy while Bourbon got to meet Whiskey. It went really well! Whiskey was focused on the food, while Bourbon was focused on Whiskey and we both paid all the attention on Whiskey so she didn’t feel like she was missing out.
After the introduction (about 25mins outside), we went in and Whiskey went around the house sniffing Bourbon everywhere. For the first 2 weeks, Bourbon slept with me in my office, and Whiskey slept with Thierry in our bedroom. This was because I wanted to introduce Bourbon to the crate slowly, and it wasn’t fair to have Whiskey sleep in the crate but not Bourbon.
After a couple years of training Whiskey, I had stopped using treats all the time but with a new puppy, I had to use treats everyday. I found that training the two dogs together built a bond, and a good relationship between the two. Whiskey loves training, and Bourbon would pick up quickly with Whiskey, so they both got treats for being around each other and focusing on me. Whiskey learned there were always treats with Bourbon around, and she got big extra treats for letting Bourbon touch her, or sleep next to her. Whiskey also got lots of praise and rewards for tolerating Bourbon’s antics and playing with her.
Whiskey also got lots of time away from Bourbon. She had separate walks away from the puppy (as much as I could) and I always asked everyone to greet Whiskey before Bourbon. Overall their relationship developed quicker and better than I expected. Whiskey never played with puppies, merely tolerated them but after a week, she was playing with Bourbon and letting her sleep with her.
Bourbon was absolutely in love with Whiskey. Since she was taken from her littermates, Whiskey was the one dog in her presence and because of Covid, we weren’t able to meet too many puppies (and always outside). Apart from the first meeting, Whiskey never growled at Bourbon and was extremely tolerant of her shark teeth.
The two were never left alone without supervision (or without Bourbon in a crate) and play was always closely watched. Because Bourbon could be a little devil, we would remove her from Whiskey if she was too much, and give Bourbon time outs. Whiskey was always quite happy when we put Bourbon in the crate for time outs giving me kisses!
One of the biggest recommendations I got from others about introducing a second dog, was to make sure we spent lots of time with the first dog one on one. Because Bourbon was too young to hike, Whiskey got lots of hikes with me, without Bourbon, and once Bourbon was old enough, she went to daycare to meet other dogs and on pack hikes.
A Year after
I feel like each dog has their own personalities but both my girls find comfort in each other now. Whiskey has a small amount of separation anxiety that Bourbon doesn’t have, and Bourbon is timid with challenges and new dogs. They each help the other deal with their own anxieties and become more confident. This could definitely go either way (they could pick up each other’s anxieties instead), but through a mixtures of luck and training, they’ve helped each other become better dogs.
I try and use the dog that doesn’t have anxiety to help the other through something difficult. Whiskey will wait on a bridge and cross it over and over again, while Bourbon will slowly work up her courage to try for it. Bourbon will keep Whiskey company when she could be lonely waiting for us to return.
Adding a Third Dog?
Everyone keeps asking when the third will come! For now I will happily pet-sit all the dogs but for many reasons 2 is where we are at. Financially, it’s not currently possible, and then only 2 dogs fit into my sleeping bag, and barely that! I also only have 2 arms for 2 leashes and I’m not confident yet with Bourbon’s recall and reliability. We recently got to look after Merlin, the wirehaired Vizsla puppy and I absolutely loved it. The girls were great and everyone got along so well, however, I got absolutely no work done, and the amount of time and training a new dog takes is quite literally another job. For now, two!