Bringing home a new dog is exciting. Whether you're contemplating a puppy or an adult pooch, if you already own a dog, it's important to learn how to facilitate a happy introduction for both animals. Doing so will also create a pleasant experience for the people in the house. Some dogs bond quickly, but it's not uncommon for the animals to test each other as they begin to adjust to a new way of life under one roof. A good introduction of the two, however, will start things off on the right paw.
Allow each dog to become familiar with the scent of the other one by first placing the resident dog in a crate with a blanket in a closed-off area of the house. Let the new dog explore the house and yard, smelling the scent of the established dog. After 15 to 20 minutes, place the new dog in a second crate with another blanket in a different closed-off area of the house. Release the resident dog and let him investigate the smells of the new dog in the house and yard. After several rounds of this, switch the blankets of the two crates, putting the resident dog's blanket into the new dog's crate and vice versa. This allows each dog to grow accustomed to the smell of the other one. Throughout this process, never let the two see each other. When the established dog is released and no longer frantically follows the scent of the other dog around the house, the time has come to introduce them. It may take anywhere from one day to several days for the older dog to relax around the new dog's scent; the more accustomed each dog is to the other dog's scent, the more likely the outcome will be a positive one.
Leash both dogs in separate parts of the house. Ask a friend or family member to assist you in this so that each dog can be handled individually.
Walk or drive the resident dog to a neutral location -- a large, fenced area with no other dogs or people is ideal -- while your friend or family member walks or drives the new dog to the same location. If you walk to the neutral territory, make sure to time the walks so that neither dog sees the other one. If you drive to the location, take two cars, with the resident dog in your car and the new dog in your helper's car. Again, do not allow the dogs to see each other yet.
Allow the resident dog to explore the neutral area first while keeping the new dog out of sight. After 10 or 15 minutes, leave the area with the resident dog and position him out of sight. Have your helper allow the new dog to explore the neutral area for 10 to 15 minutes.
Maintain a firm but not overly tight grip on the resident dog's leash; ask your friend to do the same with the new dog. Return to the neutral area with the resident dog and allow the two dogs to greet each other. Use a reassuring voice; breathe deeply and fully so you are as relaxed as possible. If you're tense, your dog may sense it and become anxious. If either dog exhibits aggression, such as growling or snapping, immediately separate them and walk them on-leash in separate areas to "reset" their behavior. Remain calm and positive as you walk. After a few minutes, introduce them again. You may need to do this a number of times.
Gauge each animal's comfort level during the introduction. Once you feel they are ready to be in the house together, return home. If you drove, take them home in separate cars.
Bring the animals inside the home, one at a time but through the same door. Maintain leash control as you show both dogs the new dog's bed and food and water bowls, followed by the existing dog's bed and food and water bowls. Make sure there is distance between the two dogs' beds and bowls during this transition period. Some dog owners prefer to set up the new dog in a separate room until a comfort level is established. If either dog snaps or growls, calmly remove both from the house and walk them in different areas. After a few minutes, bring them back inside.
Give each dog quiet time after an hour or two of working to introduce them. Use a security gate to block off a room for your new dog; alternatively, you may choose to crate him in his private area. Place his bed and bowls in the room with him. Allow the existing dog to remain in his preferred area. Separating the dogs allows them to process the significant changes occurring in their lives and facilitates an atmosphere of safety and calmness.
Items You Will Need
- Crate for each dog
- Blanket for each dog
- Leash for each dog
- Collar or harness for each dog
- Separate beds
- Separate drinking and food bowls
- Security gate(s)
- If the existing dog has a health condition, such as arthritis, or if he is geriatric, be extra careful to not allow the new dog -- especially if he's a puppy -- to jump on or harass him. The existing dog's well-being must be taken into consideration during this crucial time if a happy relationship between the two animals is to be forged.
- If the introduction doesn't go well, consider contacting an animal behaviorist. Not only can fights end in serious injuries for the dogs, but the longer you allow the fighting to continue, the more ingrained the hostility between the two will become.
- Do not punish either dog if a fight occurs. Punishment may only escalate the aggression.
- Do not let the new dog encroach on the existing dog's territory. Do not allow the new dog to steal the resident dog's toys or to eat food or treats that are intended for the resident dog.
- Do not leave the dogs together unattended until you are confident they are compatible. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
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