Integrating a New Dog Into Your “Pack”
These guidelines should help during that crucial initial stage of integration. Most people rush into introducing the dogs and expect them to “work it out”. Often times this is a stressful scenario and you can start things off on the wrong foot without intending to. If you follow these guidelines and take your time you can set the dogs up to succeed.
Meet Off Site First
(you will need two handlers, one for each dog)
Always introduce dogs in a neutral place and use lots of positive reinforcement such as treats so that there is a default good association. Introduce both dogs on leash and try to keep the leashes loose for their first few sniffs. Count to three while they first sniff and then move them away with a happy tone of voice and use some treats to reward. You’ll want to repeat a few brief sniffs and then get them moving on a parallel walk.
If there is snarking upon first sniff don’t throw in the towel! Take both dogs on a parallel walk and use lots of rewards. Then go home in separate cars. When you arrive home you should have your baby gates set up to keep the dogs separate for a period of time until you’ve made lots of good associations and there have not been any set backs.
I thought we were done with baby gates once we house trained our dog? Nope! These gates are often crucial for multi-dog households. You’ll want to have separate areas for the dogs at least for the first few weeks while you integrate the new dog into your home. This can prevent squabbles, resource guarding and in general stress and anxiety. Don’t skip this part even if your resident dog is “good”.
One of the biggest mistakes I see when someone brings a new dog home is that they immerse the dog in their life very quickly. They take them to the pet store, the dog park, over to friends houses and to work… often within the first few days. This can be extremely stressful and overwhelming for a dog. The most stressful time for a newly adopted dog is the first few weeks. They have no point of reference for this new life of theirs so let them settle into your home first and spend the first few weeks slowly introducing them to the different facets of your life. It’s understandable that it’s exciting to welcome your new family member home and you’d like to bring them everywhere, however, you won’t be setting them up for success. Keep their world small for the first few weeks and acclimate them to the new home environment first
Food and Toys
Resource guarding amongst other dogs is a normal behaviour and one that can spike during stressful scenarios or introducing new dogs into your household. Feed dogs separately and keep toys and beds separate. In the home these should be in different areas with the baby gates being used. Dogs often times don’t want to share these items and that’s ok! Don’t assume they will want to share and use preventative measures to avoid problesm.
Walks and Play
Take both dogs on plenty of on leash walks together if the first few days have gone well. Experiment with some off leash time in the yard with supervision and if they end up playing great! Keep play sessions short and sweet and end on a good note. Again, watch toys as they may squabble over those or sticks/balls. Prevention will be key again for the first few weeks and up to a month. It can take 3-6 months in many cases to see some reliable behaviour between the dogs in this new dynamic.