The biggest mistakes you can make introducing your new dog to the resident dog(s):
- Not preparing
- Rushing introductions
- Not having prevention and management in place
The best place to set up a meeting for the first time with your resident dog is at a neutral space. This would be an area that is quiet and not a place you frequent often. Even a block away from your home could be considered your dogs “territory” so choose somewhere you don’t go very often and won’t have a lot of other dogs.
Set up separate spaces in the home by using baby gates. We can’t just throw the dogs into the deep end and expect them to share the space peacefully from the get-go. Using some gates allows the dogs to sniff each other and get used to each other slowly without pushing the limits. It also allows you to give lots of snacks for good interactions through those gates and test the waters in a safe way. The more time you take during this process the higher likelihood that you will create a long lasting positive relationship with the dogs.
- Arrive separately, one handler for each dog
- Meet at a distance first, as soon as the dogs notice each other give them snacks to make a good first impression
- Slowly get closer and watch their body language. If there is any reactive behaviour such as lunging or barking immediately walk the dogs parallel to each other starting approximately 50 feet apart. Get them moving and gradually bridge the distance which giving treats whenever possible. Give them space and TAKE YOUR TIME. If it doesn’t look like it will go well
- If body language appears relaxed then let them do a quick 3-second sniff, move away and give both dogs treats
- Repeat #4 a few more times and then head out on a parallel walk together
BACK AT THE HOUSE
Since you’ve prepared separate areas in the house using gates, bring the new dog into the home first and into the gated space (could be a bedroom, kitchen area or office). Get him/her busy with a stuffed Kong and let them start decompressing. Next bring in your resident dog. There is less likelihood of your resident dog guarding the space if the new dog is already inside.
Keep in mind that doorways, narrow halls and doors entering and exiting the home are “hot zones”. This means that scuffles are likely to happen here so please time leashing up dogs, taking them in/out carefully.
You should not rush getting rid of the gates until you have had plenty of good experiences in the yard and on parallel leash walks.
MEAL TIMES, CHEWS AND TOYS
Always feed your dogs separately and behind the baby gates. Food guarding can rear its head with even the most well adjusted dog so being preventative means giving the dogs their own space. Pick up bowls afterwards and ensure they both have their own water bowls. Sharing can come later (if they would like that). Rotate their feeding locations as well to ensure no space guarding happens.
Be cautious leaving toys and high value food items such as bully sticks. This can often cause fights and until the relationship between the dogs has solidified and is more predictable it’s not worth setting them up to fail. It’s normal for animals to squabble over such items, especially in stressful or new situations.
WHAT IF THEY HAVE A FIGHT?
People squabble and argue, so do dogs. As long as no one needed a trip to the vet I would do your best to move on and analyze how the fight could have been prevented. Punishing the “offender” will only affirm to that dog that the other dog is bad news. He won’t make the association that us humans don’t like dogs fighting (even though we argue with each other all the time, we just don’t use our teeth). Take them on a walk together and use plenty of treats to build those good associations again.
Know that nothing typically goes as planned however, when you have a plan things can sure go much smoother!