Introducing new dogs to your home dog can be very challenging. Sometimes it is something you have planned on doing and other times it is unplanned. One of my clients parents who had 1 dog, recently passed away. Now the task of integrating new dogs into their pack fell directly on my client’s shoulders.
That’s a stressful and emotional burden. Imagine, you promised to care for your Mom’s beloved dogs when she passed, not really giving it much thought, and now that day is here.
Sometimes it’s just one dog. Sometimes it’s two or three dogs and it can be a daunting task to go from a comfortable one dog family to a three or four dog pack over night. Wow! All kinds of things can happen if you are not prepared.
One person said, “We’ve had the new dog for over a year and she still won’t allow us to touch her. She is so fearful that she’s aggressive. It’s getting worse instead of better. Help us!”
Another complains, “Where did we go wrong. This can’t go on. Peeing and pooping in the house is not acceptable. How do we correct this behavior? The fighting with our dog is also stressing us out…”
Sometimes even getting a new puppy with the best of intentions for your older dog to have a playmate goes sour. Now you’re faced with issues like, “When the pup runs and wants to play, the older dog chases her and begins growling and barking aggressively.”
Anything and everything can happen. But now imagine all of this, from your dog’s point of view!
I like my life the way it is
Your current dog is relaxing and enjoying the good life. Just when things are “hunky dory” in your dog’s world, all comes crashing down and is forever changed.
Your dog has grown accustom to having things a certain way. If you have not provided your dog with enough consistent structure, he may have assumed that certain things belong to him. And maybe he has developed instincts to guard those things that have value to him.
Let’s look at this from his point of view
For example, in his mind he may consider the house and yard his territory. If you have doted on and spoiled him with a lot of unearned love and affection, then he may consider you his property – not willing to share you with others. He may also be extremely touchy with any other dog or dogs coming around his food bowl and eating area. What about his toys?
He never imagined that everything he thought was his, he now has to share with other dogs.
Introducing new dogs into your home and asking your existing dog to share everything could go just fine and you all live happily ever after. Or, the effects of a “status quo” change with a new dog introduced can potentially cause both you and your current dog to become stressed and anxious.
There are things you can do to make for a smoother transition. Let’s take a look.
The introduction is the key
Properly introducing new dogs to your other pets is the key to an eventual happy life.
The introduction should always be on neutral territory – preferably at a nearby park your dog does not frequent. It helps to have a friend walk the new dogs as you bring your dog close to the new dogs – frequently stopping as you approach to sit your dog then praise and treat for a good sit.
As your dog gets close to the new dogs, allow your dog to sniff butt or butts then praise and treat for acceptable sniffing.
Next, it’s probably a good idea to go for a walk. Dogs love to walk and explore so associating something instinctively pleasant with the new dogs is a good thing! Don’t forget to praise and treat all dogs for getting along.
The park greeting went well and now it’s time to head for home. As you pull in the driveway, it might be a good idea to go for a walk around the block that is your dog’s territory. After all, this is your home dog’s turf. Let’s make sure he’s okay to share with his new friends. Don’t forget to praise and treat frequently for good dog behavior on everyone’s part.
Now it’s time to go into the house.
Here’s the acid test. Everyone goes into the house together – but be sure to keep everyone on leash until we know for certain all is okay. I’d make sure and take everyone to the back yard to potty first, then back inside to spend some quality time together on leash.
A strong foundation based on rules and expectations is best.
If you have had consistent rules and expectations at home for your dog, it will cause him to look to you for solutions – including the addition of a new dog. However, if you have not required anything of your dog, he will make up his own rules. That’s what you’ve told him he can do right?
As an example, many current dogs that felt pretty secure in their “sense of place” could now become insecure. And sometimes current dogs take to marking territory, at least for the time being, to feel more secure.
What you may not realize is that dogs are sensitive to change in their environment, to change in routine, and/or changes in family dynamics.
Teach all dogs to “Say please!” by doing a sit
Structure for all dogs is more important than ever right now. Every dog – even your own dog – should sit to earn everything: food, love and affection, toys, walks and even potty breaks. Think of it as a “no free lunch” program!
Having crates for the new dogs so that you can hang on to your sanity while in transition will be worth its weight in gold. This will give the new dogs a place of their own to go for some down time. It will keep them from marking territory in your home, chewing on anything of yours or even fighting with your home dog. Crating doesn’t have to be forever, just until everyone gets adjusted. Be prepared for this to take some time – possibly as long as 4-6 weeks to make a solid transition.
Keep walks a part of your daily itinerary along with very short dog obedience training sessions to help the new ones – and yours too – continue to understand “who’s doing what for whom!”
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“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process to help your dog understand what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.