Hi everyone, it’s me, the Doggie Deeva of Applause Your Paws Dog and Puppy Training in Miami, Florida. I got a phone call this week from an adopter who recently brought a new 10 month old female dog home to her resident 15 year old female dog. It wasn’t long before the new dog was showing aggressive behavior towards her resident dog.
Rushed interactions are typically the number one reason that introductions between dogs fail. There are several factors to consider when you are planning to introduce your resident dog to a new dog, and visa vera. Unfortunately popular TV shows have led us to believe that being the “pack leader” and walking our dogs together around the block will be enough to set a relationship up for success, but this is false. Slow, well planned and controlled interactions are what set up two, especially adult, dogs for happily-ever-after success.
When you are bringing a new dog home you need to be thinking about your resident dog first and your home environment. Consider:
1. Was my dog previously socialized (heavily socialized!) to new dogs of all ages, sexes, and temperments? *Your dog having lived isolated with another dog it’s whole life does not make your dog a social dog by any means.
2. Is my resident dog healthy and agile enough to handle the temperament of the dog I am planning to introduce? *often times I see adopters bring a adolescent dog or a puppy home to a senior dog. This big age difference can be problematic.
3. Does my dog actually enjoy (elicits play and is free of all aggression) the company of other dogs? * It is not good enough to just have your dog “tolerate” other dogs.
Depending on how you answered the above questions, below are some tips to make sure you set up your resident dog for success with your new dog and visa vera. I learned what is called “Crate, Gate, Rotate!” from my good friend and fellow trainer Jennifer Shryock:
Crate: During this transitionary period it’s important that both dogs have a secure kennel or crate where they can be near each other (not on top of each other or right next to each other) to chew bones, eat their food, etc without the risk of any potential conflicts. When they cannot be directly supervised at least one of the two dogs should be in a crate.
Gate: Hands down….the BEST way to have a resident dog aclimate to a new dog is to instal a baby gate where the dogs can interact, but if either dog becomes nervous or scared it can move away without being chased or bullied by the other dog. A gate can easily be installed in a hallway so that the dog is not isolated from the family, but instead has a clear view of what’s going on.
Rotate: Even IF everything seems to be going great with your new dog at home please be considerate that your resident dog may want a BREAK. This is a huge life change for your resident dog, so it’s important that even for friendly dogs they have some separate time to be with you and only you. Insisting on rotating your dogs the first few weeks and not letting them be together 24/7 will ensure that no one gets tired or irritable of their new friend. Remember, slow and positive interactions
Walks: Walks should definitely be a part of your dogs transition towards friendship. Walks are not, however, the end all be all of how to introduce two dogs. In fact, being on leash can create a lot of frustration for dogs so it’s best not to allow the dogs to interact too much while on leash during their adjustment. A quick sniff and walk away is appropriate, but prolonged greetings on leash are not advisable.
Off-Leash Interactions: If possible, the two dogs should be given the opportunity to meet off-leash in a neutral place. I advise that you and whomever you’re with continue moving within the enclosed area to prevent any type of resource guarding (your resident dog guarding you) while the dogs get to know each other. Remember that SPACE is the single most important factor for dogs when it comes to the way they interact with people and other dogs. If they don’t have enough of it, or if a space is cluttered with items (such as household furniture), dogs can quickly panic and without a proper escape route they are forced to choose a fight response instead of a flight response. A big outdoor space clear of obstacles provides dogs with more opportunities to flee or move away if they get nervous while getting to know each other.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. I have had some clients spend as long as 6months doing Crate, Gate, Rotate before their now two dogs (a senior and an adolescent) were able to not only peacefully co-exist but enjoy each other’s companionship.
Make it a great day with your dog(s),
Dee Hoult, MBA, CPDT, CTDI
Dog and Puppy Trainer in Miami, Florida
Miami’s ONLY certified Trick Dog Training Instructor
Miami’s highest rated dog trainer on Yelp.com