Getting a New Dog: Challenges to Consider with Your Home Dogs

Getting a new dog can present some challenges to you and to the existing home dog(s).

I received a Tweet from a gentleman in New York who has 2 existing dogs and is ready to adopt a third dog into the family.  His main question to me was: “How do we make sure we do the right thing?” 

Getting Another Dog

The mere effects of a “status quo” change with a new dog can potentially cause both you and your current home dogs to become stressed and anxious.

Home dogs may now have to put up with sharing all their stuff with the new dog. While some greet the newcomer with open paws, others take exception to their presence. Some home dogs begin to worry about their current pack status – if you believe all the pack leader theory angles.

 Here’s what I believe.

In general, if you consistently give your dog(s) rules and set boundaries and expectations, they will look to you for solutions – including the addition of a new dog.  However, if you do not require anything of your dog(s), they will make up the rules themselves.

As an example, many home dogs that felt pretty secure in their “sense of place” could now become insecure. Dog behavior problems will surface. Sometimes home dogs take to marking territory. This helps them to, at least for the time being, feel more secure. 

What dog owners don’t realize is that dogs are sensitive to change in their environment, to change in routine, and/or changes in family dynamics. 

Here are some examples: 

Change in Routine:  In many homes, dogs start having accidents in the home because family or friends come to visit and the entire normal routine for eating, walking, and training is out of whack. 

Change in family dynamics:  Another example is a new baby.  This could be a real “game-changer” especially when the In-Laws come to visit all at the same time for a few weeks. Yikes!  They’re just here to meet baby and help out the new Mom. They’ll be gone in a couple of days. Or, could it be weeks? All Fluffy tries to understand is “Now, where do I fit in?” 

With all the commotion, who’s thinking about what Fluffy might be stressing over? All interactions with Fluffy tend to be swept aside. Routines change. Fluffy begins to have accidents in the house. Many of you have seen or experienced this before with holiday visitors or new babies but might not have known why your Fluffy was peeing or pooping in the house. 

But you’re bringing a new dog home – not a baby. 

All dogs should get along, right? They’ll be just fine, right? Not so fast. 

There are things – safeguards – to do to help the newcomer make a more positive impression and it all begins with the very first introduction or greeting. What’s that old saying about a first impression being a good impression? 

Tips on first impressions: 

Meet on neutral territory: It’s always better to err on the side of caution and take your home dogs to a neutral place like a park for the first meet and greet – on leash. As you get close – but not too close to the new dog, sit your dog and click/praise and treat your dog with high value food treats to begin to associate positive things with the new dog. 

The first handshake/butt sniff: If necessary, have the new dog facing away from your dog so that your dog can come up to sniff butt first and then gradually move to the head and shoulders of the new dog as the home dogs get more comfortable with  the newcomer’s presence.  Click/treat for good butt sniffs or greetings. 

Walk and talk:  Dogs instinctively love to walk and explore. Even if your dog(s) haven’t ever seen the newcomer before, they still have this “instinct to explore” in common. It’s what dogs love to do.   

Walking and exploring, even though they are doing this independently on the walk, allows them to share a positive experience while knowing they are in the presence of each other. Add to this the occasional dog obedience commands – sits and/or downs – followed by click/praise and treat will enhance this great outdoor experience for all the doggies. 

Talking and laughing with a friend as you walk the dogs creates a relaxed atmosphere. All the dogs will pick up on your calm, relaxed energy and will become more relaxed. 

Now let’s go home!

You may find that the dogs are getting along just fine and entering your home poses no problem at all. But if there are some signs that the home dogs are beginning to “take exception” of the newcomer’s presence in the yard or at the front door, let’s do the “walk and talk” again – but around the neighborhood this time. It’s closer to home – their turf and territory.  Include sits and/or downs followed by click/praise and treat each time you require them to do a command. After 15 -20 minutes, return to the home and enter. 

Now what? You’re inside and all seems to be going well. My advice is, at least for the time being, keep the new dog on a leash until he/she gets accustomed to the routines. This will prevent accidental marking on your rugs/furniture (better safe than sorry.)  If you have the new dog on a leash it will help to gently encourage him to do the right thing. Do not leave the leash on the dog when unattended. 

What’s the right thing? Sit for food, sit for love and affection and stay with you and not go off and pee/poop. I was going to say sit to earn the right to get on the furniture with you. If your home dogs are used to just getting on the furniture, they may very well hop up and lay right next to you to guard your love and affection from the newcomer. 

This brings up the subject of guarding things.  Dogs often times begin to guard their food or food treats, space (dog beds, space on furniture, etc.), toys and your love and affection. Your home dogs could begin to display this dog behavior problem to reinforce what they think belongs to them. 

So now what? This is where we should begin to evaluate how you originally structured life with your home dog(s). If there are no rules to follow, boundaries to respect and expectations of what to do and when to do it, now would be an appropriate time to begin – with all the dogs. 

The brief explanation is to put all the dogs on an earn-to-learn or no free lunch program. That means nothing in life is free – anymore! They must sit for everything: food, treats, access to furniture when you are on it, toys, your love and affection, access to the back yard to go potty or to take a walk. 

To have a more in-depth understanding of why this is important and how and where to implement these rules, boundaries and expectations, follow this link to my article entitled, “Fixing Dog Problems – It Begins with the Relationship.” CLICK HERE


Please comment below and tell us how you’ve introduced a new dog to your older dog and how it sent.

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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best: There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.  Jane Wagner

(c)Jim Burwell Inc.