Adopting a dog is so nice, you should do it twice! Thinking about adding more barks to your brood this holiday season? Doubling down on dogs can benefit everyone in the family, but it’s important to get it right. That means doing your homework to ensure a happy, healthy transition for all.

For the dirt on the to-do’s of pet number two, we turned to Philly Unleashed top dog Nicole Larocco. Here’s her expert advice for prospective pet parents:

Time it Right
Holidays are full of visitors, parties, idle food on nose-level tables, and long hours away from the house – all things that can be super stressful on a new dog trying to acclimate to life with you. If now’s not the right time, consider stuffing your stocking with a gift certificate to a local shelter, and wait to bring home baby until the celebrations are over.  Remember that any dog you adopt will be a 10-15 year commitment; you’ll have plenty of holidays together in years to come.

Do Your Breed Research
Always thought huskies were beautiful?  Well they were bred to pull sleds over tough terrain; hope you don’t mind long runs in the snow!  Great Danes make great apartment dogs, but come with a host of health conditions. One of the biggest factors you should consider before adding another dog is whether you can truly afford to. A few extra toys and kibbles are generally no big deal, but health care and hiring a professional trainer (if necessary) are expenses you need to have a game plan to pay.

Opposites Attract
Though any combination of age and sex can work together, dogs generally are most successful living with other dogs of the opposite sex.  The highest incidents of holding grudges after fighting occur in homes with multiple female dogs. Two males are generally better at battling and being able to get past hard feelings, while females sometimes never have a good relationship after a row!

Find a Temperament to Complement
Think about your dog’s personality and look for a complimentary, not conflicting personality.  If your current dog is a confident, serious, sometimes bossy female you may get into trouble introducing a dog who is just like her, as it may cause tension and power struggles. A goofy, playful, easygoing male dog who is willing to sit back and play second fiddle to the queen may be a better fit.  If you have a dog who is nervous in new situations, find an outgoing, unflappable dog to be his friend. Introducing another shy guy may cause both dogs to feed off of each other’s neuroses.

Separate but Equal
If you have two dogs, you need two of everything. This includes separate crates, beds, toys and bowls. Even the closest couples need some time apart, so make sure your dogs have ample opportunity to get away from each other and have their own space when needed.  Keep in mind that some dogs will not stop playing until they are physically separated. It is up to you to regulate your dogs’ play and make sure they are getting breaks before they become overstimulated and cranky with one another.

One Foot in Front of the Other
The most important thing you can do every day is go take a walk! Walking is the great negotiator. When starting a multi-dog household, I always tell my clients to take lots and lots of leash walks together. It is the best relationship-building activity you can do. Walks help work off energy, which keeps everyone calm. Exercise induces endorphins; those feel-good hormones that generate that blissed-out, euphoric state that we all love! When your dogs are happy and tired, they will not get upset over silly little things like looking at each other or playing with each other’s toys.

If your dogs are slow to bond, or even not getting along, try pairing exercise (something super positive) with something that your dog is having uncertain or negative feelings about (his new friend). In time, they will start associating the two things together – and voila! Before you know it, your dogs will become best buddies.

Adding new pets to the pack can be rewarding for two and four-legged family alike. If you’re looking for your next love, don’t forget to check out the pets at ACCT Philly, the Pennsylvania SPCA and PAWS. There are literally hundreds of dogs to choose from, and staff who can help make picking the perfect pup a piece of cake!

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Special thanks to Nicole Larocco, CPDT and Owner/President of Philly Unleashed for contributing to this article. If you have a naughty doggie who needs some work, contact Nicole at nicole@phillyunleashed.com