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So, it's been nearly five months since we went from a four dog home to a five dog home and I haven't written about the experience of adding a dog to our pack. But before I share what I did, I thought it would be important to explain more about our dogs and the dynamics in our home.
Littermates: Rodrigo and Sydney
Our life with dogs started with littermates. Rodrigo and Sydney were rescued from a hoarding situation in Oregon. Actually, their mom, Hanna, was rescued when she was pregnant. Rodrigo, Sydney, and their littermates were born here in Washington.
In their time with us, they got used to several new dogs. There was Morgan, a foster that was with us for a week or two. There was Riley, who passed away from Parvo. And then Blue, our heart dog who we lost 6 years ago in a tragic car accident. And then Scout and Zoey.
Littermates: Scout and Zoey
Scout and Zoey went against everything I believed about adopting dogs, but I loved them at first sight so I screw the rules.
After we lost Blue, we were both heartbroken. Because I had chosen each dog that joined our family so far, it was Johan's turn. He scoured the internet, looking at rescue groups, breeders, looking for a dog that would be a great fit for our pack.
He found Scout on Craigslist. He was the product of an accidental litter. I wanted to say “no,” but when I saw how much Johan was excited about this dog, I kept silent. He flew to Idaho to meet the family and when he was there he noticed that Scout had a shadow. He learned that his sister, Zoey, and he were bonded so we brought two puppies home the following week.
Introducing Scout and Zoey to their siblings…
With Morgan, Riley, and Blue blended with our family with zero issues. Looking back, I think it was because Rodrigo and Sydney were still young (about two years old). So we thought Rigo and Syd would welcome the puppies with open arms and wagging tails.
Nope. Rodrigo and Sydney were NOT amused. We couldn't leave them alone with the puppies for at least a month. We incorporated the puppies by creating a separate area using an indoor exercise pen to give the puppies a place to hang while giving our adult dogs a break.
Every day, we took the dogs outside with the puppies – with so much space outside, the puppies didn't crowd the dogs. And eventually, this daily routine helped Rigo and Syd accept that the puppies weren't going away.
Compared to Apollo, this was a breeze.
Apollo joined our family this past summer. A family member purchased him from a Goberian (Siberian Husky / Golden Retriever) breeder and discovered that their work schedule didn't allow enough time for the puppy, so he's now part of our family where he has siblings, 5 acres of fun, and ponds to swim in – he's living the life and we're thankful that we're at a point where we could help.
Apollo joined us at 7 months old and he had a lot of energy and was a breed mix that was new to us. By this time, Rodrigo and Sydney were nine years old and Scout and Zoey were six years old. None of them were fans of other dogs (with a few exceptions) and three out of our four dogs were reactive. Although I've always wanted a fifth dog and would tease my boyfriend about getting a fifth dog, I believed that it would be impossible because our dogs wouldn't welcome another family member.
And then we didn't have a choice; so this is what we did to welcome Apollo into our family. Some of our steps are obvious and others are a bit out there, but it worked.
Adding a Fifth Dog to the Family
1 – Call for Help! Hire a Reputable Dog Trainer
I contacted a friend and dog trainer extraordinaire to meet us when we brought Apollo home (he came from Arizona). If we had time, we would have met at a park and gone on a pack walk together. I've found that our dogs do well with other dogs on pack walks. And meeting on neutral ground would take away some of the possessiveness because our dogs didn't need to protect their territory.
We didn't have time to arrange the perfect meeting, so a trainer met us at our home and we introduced the dogs one at a time with Apollo. There were plenty of treats that were given to Apollo when he showed restraint (he's a puppy) and to each dog as they showed patience. We used long leads that helped us separate the dogs from each other.
It didn't go perfectly – Rodrigo and Sydney weren't fans – but it went better than I imagined.
2 – Give the Dogs Some Space
We used the fencing from training kennels to make separate areas and give our dogs a break from the new family member. This worked great for a day and then I went to work and Johan went rogue and allowed the dogs to hang out inside and outside of the house. Guess what. It went just fine.
However, the gates didn't go unused. Having a new family member required us to block off areas of the house while we trained. The smaller the amount of space Apollo had access too, the less damage he could do as a puppy.
Another helpful way to give our dogs a break from the puppy energy was to enroll Apollo into doggy daycare. We started with five days a week, then reduced to 2-3 days a week until Apollo became to show us that he wanted to stay home with his new siblings.
3 – A Tired Dog is a Well-Behaved Dog
The statement that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog is so very true. I started by taking Apollo for long walks. He's a big puppy and he could walk 5-7 miles easily. Soon, I began to add Scout and Zoey to our long walks and this helped them create a bond.
At home, we played with the dogs as a group. The exercise was good, the dogs were learning how to interact with their new family member, and Apollo was learning boundaries from the pack.
And now that doggy daycare is over, we have a dog walker who stops by twice weekly to walk Apollo for an hour. This gives the other dogs a break during the day and burns off some of that excess puppy energy.
4 – Let the Dogs Work it Out [Under Supervision]
This was the hardest part for me, allowing the dogs to work it out. For weeks, there were growls, tussles, barking, and lots and lots of corrections. But this is necessary because all of the dogs are setting their boundaries while teaching our new family member the rules of the pack. As long as it doesn't get out of hand (biting), then I took a step back and let them work it out.
But it wasn't as easy as taking a step back. In some cases, we had to give the dogs permission to set boundaries. Zoey, for example, is our passive girl. She barks a lot, but she's submissive and I knew that we had to give her permission to set boundaries with this overexuberant puppy. To do this, J and I would walk the property with Zoey and Apollo and when she corrected him, we praised her and she gained the confidence to set her boundaries. Now, she and Apollo have a great relationship.
5 – Spy on the Dogs
And, finally, because we both work full time, we added more cameras to the house to watch the dog yard (we already had cameras in the house). This allows us to check in on the dogs during the day.
The cameras showed us that Apollo was letting himself in and out of the yard. We were able to repair the holes and now we have plans to create a new, bigger dog yard with better fencing specifically for dogs.
One thing these experiences have taught me is that all dogs are unique; even dogs that are from the same litter. Rodrigo is active and social while Sydney is more reserved and loves a long nap. I get a kick out of observing their similarities and their differences. Dogs are fascinating.
How Raising 5 Dogs Has Changed Our Life
There are only so many hours in a day and although I have a solid partner, we can only care for a limited number of animals effectively. So although I would love to help every dog in need, we have stopped at five dogs and we have a strict routine to keep our household running smoothly.
1 – We feed the dogs twice daily and set their bowls down in the same order: Sydney, Rodrigo, Scout, Zoey, then Apollo. I mix up their meals in the garage with Apollo by my side (he likes to supervise). This routine lets them know what to expect and keeps mealtime calm.
2 – We clean the house daily because we have five dogs and one cat shedding hair everywhere. This keeps the house clean and smelling nice (essential oils are my friend), which is important to us.
3 – I've had to adjust my work hours to make it home when there is still light outside to play with the dogs and clean the dog yard. Thankfully, because there are two of us, my boyfriend and I can swap playtime with the dogs. I'm the poop patrol because keeping an eye on everyone's poop clues me in on any health issues.
4 – I have to be smart about my budget because it's easy to go crazy when shopping for my dogs. So I capped myself at $300/month for five dogs and one cat and I stock up on food several times a year, with smaller orders monthly. With the addition of the fifth dog, I've added a new refrigerator.
5 – Vacations are a challenge beyond my business trips and my boyfriend's quick trips to visit his son. It's hard to find someone who can stay with five dogs and has the confidence and experience to juggle five personalities. And it's expensive. So we take a lot of staycations.
I'm not complaining, I'm explaining. It's a lot of work to raise five dogs and I love every moment. I also have a lot of respect for folks who are doing the same successfully (or raising more than five). The past few months have been an adjustment for all of us. It hasn't always been easy, but the work has been worth it because we were able to provide another dog with a happy and safe home.