Introducing A New Dog To Your Home
Posted by Labradors.com Team
Dee Hoult is owner and lead trainer of Applause Your Paws, a Miami-area dog training company that focuses on education for dog owners. With an emphasis on building a stronger relationship between human and canine, Dee trains dog owners to better communicate with their dogs to build mutual trust and respect.
I got a phone call this week from an adopter who recently brought a new ten-month-old female dog home to join her resident 15-year-old female dog. It wasn’t long before the new dog was showing aggressive behavior toward her resident dog.
Rushed interactions are typically the number one reason that introductions between dogs fail. Although popular TV shows have led us to believe that being the “pack leader” and walking our dogs together around the block will be enough to set a relationship up for success, in my experience this is false. Slow, well planned and controlled interactions are what lead two (especially adult) dogs to happily-ever-after cohabitation.
Ask Yourself These Questions
When you’re bringing a new dog home you need to be thinking about your resident dog and your home environment first. Some things to consider:
1. Was my dog previously socialized (heavily socialized!) to new dogs of all ages, sexes, and temperaments? Your dog having lived isolated with another dog its whole life does not make your dog a social dog by any means!
2. Is my resident dog healthy and agile enough to handle the temperament of the dog I am planning to introduce? I often see adopters bring an adolescent dog or a puppy home to a senior dog. This big age difference can be problematic.
3. Does my dog actually enjoy the company of other dogs? It is not good enough to just have your dog “tolerate” other dogs — does she elicit play and remain free of all aggression?
Crate, Gate, Rotate!
Depending on how you answered those questions, here are some tips to make sure you set your new household up for success. I learned what is called “Crate, Gate, Rotate!” from my good friend and fellow trainer Jennifer Shryock:
Crate: During this transitional period it’s important that both dogs have a secure kennel or crate where they can be near each other — not on top of each other or right next to each other — to chew bones, eat their food, etc without the risk of any potential conflicts. When they cannot be directly supervised at least one of the two dogs should be in a crate.
Gate: Hands down….the BEST way to have a resident dog acclimate to a new dog is to install a baby gate where the dogs can interact, but if either dog becomes nervous or scared it can move away without being chased or bullied by the other dog. A gate can easily be installed in a hallway so that the dog is not isolated from the family, but has a clear view of what’s going on.
Rotate: Even IF everything seems to be going great with your new dog at home please be considerate that your resident dog may want a BREAK. This is a huge life change for your resident dog, so it’s important that even for friendly dogs they have some separate time to be with you and only you. Insist on rotating your dogs the first few weeks and don’t let them be together 24/7. This will help to be sure that no one gets tired or irritable with the new friend.
Try These, Too
Walks: Walks should definitely be a part of your Labs’ transition towards friendship. Walks are not, however, the end-all-be-all of introducing two dogs. In fact, being on leash can create a lot of frustration for dogs so it’s best not to allow the dogs to interact too much while on leash during their adjustment. A quick sniff and walk away is appropriate, but prolonged greetings on leash are not advisable.
Off-Leash Interactions: If possible, the two dogs should be given the opportunity to meet off-leash in a neutral place. The humans should continuously move within the enclosed area to prevent any type of resource guarding (your resident dog guarding you) while the dogs get to know each other.
Remember that SPACE is the single most important factor for dogs when it comes to the way they interact with people and other dogs. If they don’t have enough of it, or if a space is cluttered with items (such as household furniture), dogs can quickly panic. Without a proper escape route they are forced to choose a fight response instead of a flight response. A big outdoor space clear of obstacles provides dogs with more opportunities to flee or move away if they get nervous while getting to know each other.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. I have had some clients spend as long as six months doing “Crate, Gate, Rotate” before their old and new dogs (a senior and an adolescent) were able to not only peacefully co-exist but enjoy each other’s companionship.
Make it a great day with your dog(s)!