Households can get tricky when you add another dog, a forever house-guest to the equation. Especially when you already have a family dog defending their territory and vying for dominance & hierarchy as top dog in the furry pack. Our friends at the Humane Society have some simple new dog introduction techniques to make your new dogs transition into the household and pack easier for the entire family and resident dog. These tips will help to keep the peace and prevent squabbles among your furry family members.
But before we get started with reviewing these helpful techniques. It is important that you first establish the pack leader position and mentality. Since dogs have a tendency to want to assume the lead of the pack. With those adorable not so innocent eyes they prey on our weakness, so take charge and stand firm. In the wild, the Alpha, or the leader of the pack is strong, stable, well adjusted, and confident. They make all necessary decisions for the rest of the pack. Seeing as they are no longer in the wild ( backyard does not count) it is crucial that you assume that role.
Dogs yearn to be part of a pack and want to be lead. This all starts by understanding your role as pack leader, which is to discipline & correct in love. Setting limitations, boundaries and letting your dogs know whose boss is vital to your dogs health and well being and the key to raising well adjusted pups. But don't forget that your role is to reward your dogs with praise, belly rubs & treats when they follow the rules.
Now on to the topic of the hour....how to introduce a new dog into the household when you already have a dog.
1. Choose a Neutral Location: Introduce the dogs in a neutral location so that your resident dog is less likely to view the newcomer as a territorial intruder. Each dog should be handled by a separate person. With both dogs on a leash, take them to an area with which neither is familiar, such as a park or a neighbor’s yard. If you frequently walk your resident dog in a park near your house, she may view that park as her territory, so choose another site that’s unfamiliar to her. We recommend bringing your resident dog with you to the shelter and introducing the dogs before adopting the new dog.
2. Use Positive Reinforcement: From the first meeting, you want both dogs to expect "good things" to happen when they’re in each other's presence. Let them sniff each other, which is normal canine greeting behavior. As they do, talk to them in a happy, friendly tone of voice - never use a threatening tone of voice. Don’t allow them to investigate and sniff each other for a prolonged time, as this may escalate to an aggressive response. After a short time, get both dogs' attention, and give each dog a treat in return for obeying a simple command, such as "sit" or “stay.” Take the dogs for a walk and let them sniff and investigate each other at intervals. Continue with the "happy talk," food rewards and simple commands.
3. Be Aware of Body Postures: One body posture that indicates things are going well is a “playbow.”One dog will crouch with her front legs on the ground and her hind end in the air. This is an invitation to play that usually elicits friendly behavior from the other dog. Watch carefully for body postures that indicate an aggressive response, including hair standing up on the other dog's back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff legged gait or a prolonged stare. If you see such postures, interrupt the interaction immediately by calmly and positively getting each dog interested in something else. For example, both handlers can call their dogs to them, have them sit or lie down and reward each with a treat. The dogs will become interested in the treats which will prevent the situation from escalating into aggression. Try letting the dogs interact again, but this time for a shorter time period and/or at a greater distance from each other.
4. Taking the Dogs Home: When the dogs seem to be tolerating each other's presence without fearful or aggressive responses, and the investigative greeting behaviors have tapered off, you can take them home. Whether you choose to take them in the same, or different vehicles, will depend on their size, how well they ride in the car, how trouble-free the initial introduction has been and how many dogs are involved.
If you have more than one resident dog in your household, it may be best to introduce the resident dogs to the new dog one at a time. Two or more resident dogs may have a tendency to "gang up" on the newcomer.
When to seek help?
If the introductions don't go smoothly, contact a professional animal behaviorist immediately. Dogs can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Punishment won't work, and could make things worse. Fortunately, most conflicts between dogs in the same family can be resolved with professional guidance.
Here is some more food for thought!
Remember to stay calm during the new pups introduction. Dogs can sense and pick up on your nervousness and uneasiness, making the situation more awkward.
Another great trick is to use a Crate at home. At home, you can put the new dog into a crate and allow your current dog to sniff it. If your current dog shows signs of growling or other aggressive moves you need to step in as their leader and let them know it is not acceptable. To do this, have your current dog on leash with the leash dragging so that you may step in and get a hold of the leash to correct your dog for exhibiting signs of aggression. When the dogs are able to turn their attention off of each other and relax you may be able to introduce them in person without the crate.
Never pat a dog showing signs of aggression. If a dog is showing signs of aggression; growling, barking, etc don't be quick to pet to calm them. Doing so only encourages this aggressive behavior. Only pet or show praise towards your dog when they are calm, obedient and on best doggy behavior.
If you are struggling with introducing dogs to each other, and nothing seems to work don't get discouraged. Its important to realize that bond & friendship will grow in time, so be patient and give your dogs time to adjust to one another. Every situation is different. Don’t rush it. If you have a concern about your dogs initial meet and sniff perhaps consider muzzling your dogs to be safer. Keep your eyes alert, always observing your dogs interactions with each other. If your dogs are doing well together continue to observe for a period of time before leaving them alone.
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