Introducing New Dogs
Thinking about adopting a dog? Good for you! If you already have a dog at home, you should be wondering if he would accept a new dog into the family. Dogs by nature are pack animals, and often enjoy other canine companions. Well-socialized dogs will gain much from each other’s company. Following these tips will make the addition of another dog more successful and less stressful for all humans and animals.
- Find Neutral Ground Pick a location that is unfamiliar to either dog - such as a park, a friend’s yard, or on a walk through a new neighborhood. You need a place where neither dog will feel it has a territory to defend. Each dog should be on a leash and harness and have a different handler.
- Use Positive Reinforcement When you first introduce them, let the dogs sniff each other for a few seconds. Next, distract each dog with treats and praise. You want your resident dog to associate the new dog with positive experiences: treats, praise, and attention. Take them for a walk and repeat the introductions and reinforcement periodically until you get to the point where they are smiling and, hopefully, giving the play-bow signal - chest lowered with butt in the air. Always speak in a happy, calm voice during this process. Never scold or yell, or they will associate negative attention with the other dog.
- Watch Body Language Watch for aggressive body postures: hair standing up on a dog's back, teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff-legged gait, ears alert and facing forward, tail raised and moving stiffly, or a prolonged stare. If you see any of these signs, distract the dogs from each other calmly and have them perform a sit or a down, giving them praise and a treat when they comply. Cautiously repeat the introductions.
- Have Multiple Resident Dogs Already have a pack at home? Members of the existing pack will have a tendency to gang-up on an outsider, so it is best to introduce each resident dog to the new dog individually.
- Respect Hierarchy (Pack Order) Like all pack animals, dogs establish a social structure and ranking amongst themselves. If humans ignore (or don’t appreciate) this hierarchy, needless fights can break out. Your existing dog will almost always be the higher-ranking dog in the pack. Reinforce his status by always greeting, petting, and feeding him first. If you have a multiple-dog pack already, follow the existing order and assume that the new dog will be lowest in rank.
- Seek Professional Advice If the introductions are not going smoothly, an animal behaviorist can help guide you through the process. The sooner a professional is involved, the more likely you are to have a well-adjusted pack.