Bringing home a new dog is an exciting, fun-filled time. Dogs, in particular, establish a firm pecking order that assures a conflict-free environment. However, without a proper introduction to your other pets, cooperation is unlikely. Your pets and family can live harmoniously if you take the time to introduce your new dog to the rest of your pets with care. Follow these four steps.
1. Start in a Neutral Location
Dogs are territorial and introducing your new dog to the rest of the pack at home is unwise. Not only will your current dog (or cat) feel anxious or suspicious of the new arrival, but any attempt by the new dog to encroach on a favorite chair or sunny spot won’t be taken lightly.
For the first meeting, choose a neutral and unfamiliar location such as a dog park you don’t normally visit — even choosing a street where you normally walk your older dog can present challenges. Avoid introducing the dogs by yourself. Each dog should have his own handler.
2. Praise Generously and Often
You already know dogs are food-motivated. Have plenty of treats when you introduce them, and praise them generously and often when they demonstrate good behavior. Both dogs should become accustomed to having good things happen in each other’s presence. Although early sniffing is welcome and encouraged, don’t let it get out of hand. Reward with treats before sniffing turns to snarling. If the meeting is going well, try taking a short walk.
3. Prevent Conflict
When your dog is happy and wants to play, he bows in the play posture with his front legs down and his rear end up. Although this happy invitation often elicits a similar response in another dog, that’s not always the case. Watch for obvious signs of impending conflict such as growling, staring, raised fur or bared teeth. Before conflict begins or escalates, distract both dogs with a command such as “come” or “sit.” Reward good behavior with a treat.
4. Decide When to Take Your New Dog Home
You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time introducing your dogs to one another. If the dogs tolerated each other’s company easily, then you have the green light to bring your new friend home. If things didn’t go so well, try introducing them again on another occasion. If your old dog and the new arrival don’t seem to get along, you may have to reconsider bringing your new dog home.
Dogs are pack animals and every pack has one dominant leader or “alpha” dog. Let the dogs sort this pack order out themselves — don’t intervene or try to influence the order. Your new dog may decide that he should be the alpha, and may even claim a favorite toy or sleeping spot. Getting involved can confuse the dogs and make the adjustment period more difficult.
Also remember to avoid leaving a new puppy alone with an adult dog. Puppies, with their boundless energy and enthusiasm, may pester adult dogs frequently. Although well-behaved adults use ingrained postures and warning snarls to train young pups in the ways of the household, a more aggressive dog won’t hesitate to escalate conflict quickly.
Follow these tips, and watch your pets become fast friends in no time!