Updated: January 7, 2013 at 12:00 am
The successful introduction of a new dog into your home and existing pack will be smoother if you understand the way dogs think and follow a few basic guidelines.
Simply tossing the new dog into the pack is almost guaranteed to cause conflict. Owners are often shocked to see how aggressive their lovable family pet can become in certain circumstances, such as the perceived intrusion of an unfamiliar dog onto their turf. Think about how you would react if you suddenly found a stranger in your house. This is definitely not the way to go!
In addition to being territorial, dogs are hierarchical by nature. Even if you can’t see it, there is an Alpha dog, a Beta, a Gamma, etc. within your pack. Bringing another dog home is going to cause a shift in the rankings, and this is where trouble can start. In single-dog homes, the existing dog will usually try attain Alpha status over the new one. This, too, can create problems, especially if the new dog has a dominant personality.
You also need to be aware that a new addition to the pack is going to change the daily routine. Another food bowl, the amount of your attention per dog, and more competition for resources (toys, treats, you) are all things that will be different, and can cause some dogs to react aggressively in their attempt to maintain the status quo.
Now, before you change your mind about adding another dog to your household, here are some tips that will help minimize the chances of an altercation.
Neutral Ground: Ideally, the dogs should meet away from either’s home turf. Doing this will avoid any territorial aggression. If all goes well, you can move on to the yard and then the home.
Individual Introductions: If you have multiple dogs, introduce them one at a time to the new dog. Bringing the whole pack out at once may cause them to gang up on the “stranger”.
Calm and Controlled: Both dogs should be on leash, and handled by separate people. This is vital for safety in the event that the dogs don’t get along. Also, make the introduction slow and calm. Allow the dogs to sniff each other for a few seconds, and then have each handler call them back and praise them. Start with short time intervals, and gradually increase the time the dogs are in contact with each other.
Make it Positive: Use a happy voice, and have plenty of treats on hand. You want the dogs to have positive associations with each other.
In the Home: Secure the other dog(s) outside, or in a room, and allow the new dog to investigate his surroundings. When he is relaxed, you can start to bring in the other dogs, one at a time, and go through the introductions once again. Both dogs should still be leashed at this point for safety.
Observe: Keep an eye on all of the dogs, and intervene if any serious aggression appears.
There will be some dog-dog corrections given by all as the pack adjusts to the newcomer, and he to them. However, anything more than appropriate corrections are not to be tolerated. You are the pack leader, and it is up to you to maintain order.
If you find yourself dealing with aggression or any other problems that you can’t handle, contact a professional behaviorist before giving up on the new dog. An expert can often fix these types of issues quickly and easily.
Jim Beinlich and his wife Bianca own Cool K9’s Dog Training in Colorado Springs. Find them at www.coolk9s.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/coolk9s.