Some lovely people I helped a little while back asked me to point them to some information about introducing a new dog to your pack. I realised that I didn’t already have anything in the archives, so thought this was a great subject for a new blog.
Key things to consider when introducing a new dog to your pack
- Your dog may be concerned about the arrival of the new pack member; who are they, are they safe?
- Your new arrival will also be concerned about the change in their circumstances “Will I be safe, what is my role here?”
- In order to get things right, both dogs will need to understand that you humans are at the top of the pack, this minimises your chances of things being difficult…
As will handling the following points in the right way…
The best way to have the dogs meet each other is on neutral territory, for instance at a park. You can start with the dogs far apart and slowly walk them closer together in decreasing circles. This can then be done in your garden, and eventually in a room in your house, so both dogs are on lead and they are slowly walked closer together. If you get any aggression at all, the aggressor is immediately taken from the room and isolated for a few minutes. This can be tried again later, and the same thing applies, whenever there is any show of aggression, isolate. If there is no aggression but they are pulling on the lead, then they are still trying to take control of this situation, which we don’t want them to do. So walk back the way you came, before trying again.
To feed together or apart is a question I’ve been asked regarding introducing new dogs. The answer to this depends on the layout of your house. Feeding them together gives you an opportunity to show that you consider both dogs to be equal. In so doing, you prepare their bowls of food, eat a little snack and then simultaneously place the bowls down. This will be made much easier if you have another human to help you with this, as while you want the dogs to see that they are eating together, you do not want to create a pressure cooker situation where they feel too close to one another. If you house isn’t hugely open plan, then a simple baby gate will do the trick. Put on dog one side and the other on the other side, then put the bowls down at the same time. That way both dogs know that the other is eating, but neither of them can be disturbed.
If the layout of your house does not allow for this, then feed them in a big room, but at opposite ends of it. Stay between them once the bowls have gone down, so if one leaves their bowl to approach the other, you can calmly intercept them and send them off elsewhere. Make sure you pick the bowls up as soon as they are left, so they are not down to be scrapped over.
Bear in mind that they might scrap over bones, or rawhide chews, so keep these out of the equation until things are settled at home.
At night time
Do you keep them separate while you are not there, or not? Well the probability is that if they aren’t fighting in front of you, then they won’t fight without you there. However, if you aren’t confident enough to go for it at night time, the baby gate again provides an excellent opportunity to have them together, yet keep the safe distance between them. They are pack animals, so would rather be together than be alone. Give them a chance to get to know each other first, before leaving them out loose together. Once they understand one another there is every chance they will start cuddling up when they sleep.
What to do if they fight
If they are likely to fight you will probably see if during the on lead introduction, so just keep them on leads with the isolating practice until this stops. There is however, a chance when introducing a new dog to your pack, once they get to know each other a little more there may be some rough play, which could escalate into fighting. If they are playing and you aren’t sure about it, calmly move within your house yourself – without speaking to them or looking at them. This is usually enough to make dogs stop and think what you are doing. So you have broken up their potential fight without acknowledging (and therefore rewarding) the behaviour.
If one seems fine but another is growling at them, calmly take the growling dog away, by gently moving it along by the collar. Pop it into another room for a “time out”. If both dogs are doing it, separate and isolate them in 2 separate spaces. Neither dog should be able to see you during this isolation.
How to “induct” your new dog
To help your new dog feel settled, you’d think that you need to give him or her loads of attention. The reverse is actually true. They will need time to find their feet, to feel safe, to know there will be food. This will take at least 2 days, so minimal fuss during this time is advised. If they want to hide, let them. Don’t try to coax them out immediately. After a while they will get curious and come out more confidently. Then the next 2 weeks are vital to them working out what position they have within the hierarchy, so you must be clear that they do not need to be top dog. If you don’t know how to do that, then read The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell, or request a one to one with me!
I hope this article helps if you are planning to introduce a new dog to your pack. Feel free to post questions or comments in the section below.
Here’s a picture of the two dogs that prompted this article being written. Their owners followed the advice given, and this is the result!