(Based on Patricia McConnell’s booklet, Feeling Outnumbered?)
Many pet owners have asked me for strategies to introduce a new dog to the household pack. As a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, I’ve learned a few tricks that might help.
For the best shot at a successful introduction, meet on neutral territory. Have a family member or friend meet you at a park, hiking area, school yard, etc. with your resident dogs. Let the dogs look at each other, but keep a distance of 10 feet or more, and start walking side by side. Slowly let the distance between dogs decrease, but be ready to back up if needed. Walk dogs in the same direction. Use your “happy” voice and toss treats to the ground whenever the dogs look at each other. You want both dogs to associate the other dog with something good (treat). Also, sniffing the ground is a calming signal to the other dog.
Once you feel that the dogs are ready, let them meet each other without the leash restriction. Tight leashes signify stress, so keep the leashes slack or drop them. If you and the dogs are comfortable, take them off. I like having them on so I can grab them if need be. When you select an area for play, bigger is better. Avoid doorways, gates, or corners. Try not to hover and set the wrong tone. As the dogs are interacting, call them away and give them a treat. End the interaction on a good note.
Having met off territory, you can now move on to meeting in the house. Take the resident dog out and let the new dog in. Again, keep the meetings short. The first meeting can set the tone of the relationship, so try to have it go as smoothly as possible. Toss treats to each of the dogs; the current dog should associate the new dog with lots of treats.
Be very conservative as to when you let the new dog be alone with the others. Separate them with crates, with different rooms and / or with gates. Usually, weeks or months may pass before you are certain there are no problems.
Signs that may indicate a problem:
· One dog is pushy and wants all the pets and attention.
· Dogs guard their food bowls and toys from each other.
· Dogs are frequently up on back paws during play.
· Dogs watch each other warily–hard stares and glares pass between.
· You find yourself feeling tense about what might happen.
· You see stiff postures between dogs.
· One of your dogs keeps another from moving freely around the house, or one of the dogs slinks around the house.
· And of course, one of your dogs is growling, showing teeth, lunging and fighting!
Have a plan in case a fight breaks out. I have a can of compressed air on the counter in my kitchen in easy reach. I’ve had a new Bearded Collie rescue pet for 18 months and have not had to use it, but 40 lbs. separate him and my smallest dog, so I can’t afford to waste any time. I have seen stares and stiffening from time to time, but both dogs are very responsive to their names and will redirect easily. I have used Premier’s citronella spray to break up fights at the animal shelter. In the past, I have toppled chairs, thrown pots, and brandished brooms and pans. What I will not do is put my hands in between two dogs that are fighting. So be prepared.
Jane Finneran, CPDT
(Based on Patricia McConnell’s booklet “Feeling Outnumbered?”)
Dr McConnell’s booklet is available from Dogwise.com