You’ve been thinking about adopting another dog because, let’s face it, sometimes dogs are like peanuts. You can’t have just one. Introducing a new dog to your home needs to be done with love and care.
But before you go to the shelter, there are some things to consider that will smooth the transition for you and your best friend (or multiple pooches who already have their own system very nicely established, thank you very much).
1. Is everyone ready?
You may be ready, but what about your dog(s)? You don’t want to add to problems by introducing a new pack member to a dog who has behavioral problems. It’s common for new dogs to mirror your other dog’s behaviors so if your dog has separation anxiety or any kind of aggression... multiply it times two. Of course dogs mirror good behavior too, so ideally, have a happy and well-trained dog (or dogs) first before introducing a new one.
It can take from 6-12 months for a dog to adjust to its new home, learn the house rules, find its place in your “pack,” and bond with its owners. These first months are critical. It’s up to you as the alpha to ease the transition so that you have a happy and well-adjusted pack.
2. The right dog
Finding a compatible buddy makes life easier on you and your current dog(s). Consider compatibility in size, temperament, energy, play preferences and age.
Many people think that getting a puppy as a companion for a senior dog will rejuvenate the senior, and in some cases it can, but a pup’s high energy can annoy your older dog and stress the puppy out because the senior isn’t willing to play.
Consider your current dog’s personality and choose a dog that brings out the best in yours, or is a good complement.
Is your dog dominant? Choose a more submissive buddy.
Is your dog fearful? Choose a more confident dog.
Does your dog like rough play? Choose a buddy who likes the same style of play or is assertive enough to signal “stop it” without becoming aggressive.
Does your dog get loud and vocal during play? Choose a playmate who isn’t intimidated by it.
Is your dog a female? Consider getting a male. With proper leadership, you can have same-sex pack members but male/female usually comes with less dominance issues.
3. Getting together for the first time
If possible, don’t introduce the two dogs in your home. Let them meet in a neutral area like outside the shelter, or if you’ve already adopted the new dog, in a park.
Each dog should be on leash and have its own handler.
Watch their body language and immediately separate them if there’s any aggression.
Let them smell each other.. If you’re introducing your friendly dog to one who’s shy, make the introduction slowly, at shy-dog’s pace.
If there are no warning signs (growling, bared teeth, laid-back ears, raised hackles, cowering, or fixated stares) let the dogs do their “circle dance.” Hold the leashes high so the dogs can circle around each other freely to get a good long sniff.
If both act friendly, let them off leash, still monitoring them closely.
If they start to play, or if your dog becomes disinterested in the new dog, your dog has given you the okay: this dog can stay.
Don’t bring the new dog into your home (or even onto your property) unless the dogs are comfortable together.
The first day or two are critical as the dogs figure out their pack position. It’s up to you to watch them closely, and immediately stop any undesirable behavior.
If it’s clear it’s not going to work, don’t force it. There are so many adoptable dogs out there so take your time finding the right companion for your dog.
4. Pack dynamics
Make the transition period easy for everyone with these tips:
Each dog needs his/her own bed or crate. The new dog especially will need a safe place in the house they can hide if they feel unsure or threatened.
Prevent food aggression by feeding the dogs twice a day and separating them during feeding time. Gradually, slowly, you can move their bowls closer together but only if they exhibit no food aggression.
Prevent toy aggression by giving your dogs toys when they’re separated. Only give them toys/bones in the same room when the new dog has come to trust your leadership and you trust the dogs.
Most of all, watch their body language! Don’t be afraid to correct the aggressor but also the one who instigated the aggression (such as by stealing a coveted toy).
When it comes to play, most females will signal “enough!” when a male plays too rough. Sometimes, and usually among same-sex packs, play can escalate into a fight; usually it’s a brief scuffle for dominance, but if it becomes a full-on fight, you must have the authority to separate the dogs immediately.
Daily leash walks help you quickly see who’s alpha in your new pack. The alpha always leads. That doesn’t mean which of your dogs is alpha… ahem… it’s YOU who must lead the pack, in front, with your dogs “heeling” behind you. Work with a trainer on this if you aren’t confident in teaching this all-important behavior. Structured walks build your dogs’ respect for you and they establish you as the leader. They also help the new dog feel reassured that you have his or her back (the alpha always protects pack members), and the old dog will see that the new dog isn’t a threat.
Dogs are pack animals, and it’s nice for your dog to have a buddy to snuggle with or to sing along when the ambulance comes by. Choosing the right playmate and smoothing the transition will make for twice the fun for years to come!
I hope you enjoyed these tips on Introducing a New Dog to your Home.
Find your new pet at the San Diego Humane Society or search your local shelters and rescue groups.