Holiday Introduction – Dogs – Tips
By Scotty Valadao – Accredited Animal Behaviourist (Canine) (ABC of SA™)
These are basic ground rules that you can follow, but remember that dogs always react differently - so with one dog you may be able to ignore a step and with another dog you may have to repeat a step a few times.
- Dogs should be sterilized. Any intact male dog will signal a red flag to other dogs, just because he smells different and will often want to prove himself.
- If dog is not socialized, this will make it very difficult, so ensure your dog is well socialized before taking on holiday.
- Consider Crate Training before going and take Crate with you (see the article on crate training).
- Ensure that your inoculations, rabies, de-worming etc up to date.
- I would suggest the Pheromone Collar to help lower tension.
- Bath dog and apply tic and flea products just before leaving.
- If your dog is not micro chipped, get it done and advise service provider of the phone number and address you will be staying in the event the dog gets lost (remember to change this when you get home, or give a date for when your return).
- In the same vein as above, have your dog wear a collar with only your phone number on it.
- I would suggest that the dog is taught to lie on the floor instead of a lap or chair. The place where you are staying may not allow dogs on chairs. Additionally when one dog stands higher than another there is more chance of reactive behaviour.
- Make sure your dog does not get heat stroke in the car. For further information on this see the article on Heat Stroke.
- Read up on Calming Signals and signs of reactive behaviour.
- Make sure your dog comes to you every single time. There is an article on the Real Reliable Recall which will help you with this. Your dog will be in a new area with new and exciting smells. Dont just let the dog go for a run as you would at home. If you allow off lead, call the dog back when a few feet away and repeat this over and over at longer distances, until you are sure your dog will come back to you. As a safety measure and if you are not sure, rather attach a Long Line and practice Recall using this to start with. The last thing one wants, is a lost dog on holiday!
Other Home with Dogs
- Speak to a trainer or behaviourist that has experience in introducing dogs and if you cannot have the person present, have them on call to come if needed if the introductions do not look they are going smoothly.
- Make sure both dogs have been fed and exercised before the first meeting.
- Do any TTouch you know.
- Pick up and put away any bones, toys, favourite bed etc to avoid conflict.
- Inoculations up to date, de-worming, tic and flea protection etc
- Read up on Calming Signals and Reactive Behaviour.
- Give the other person your dogs blanket for the other dog to smell and vica versa. This will give the dogs the opportunity of investigating the other dogs scent before the actual meeting and often helps to make the meeting easier.
- Have dogs on lead.
- I would suggest that owners learn Watch exercise to get their dogs attention on them.
- Be wary if both dogs are going to be travelling in the same car at some stage. Many dogs become very protective of this space, rather have one in front and one in back or in crates.
- If you have learnt any TTouch, now is the time to do it.
- Make sure dogs fed and exercised and calm
- Owners to let dogs smell each others blankets first to get the scent before introducing.
- Owner to remain calm and keep a loose lead and keep a good distance from one another.
- Take dogs to a neutral area, on lead and let them smell and sniff around the area, but no introductions at this stage. If multiple dogs do one dog at a time.
- When dogs seem calm and relaxed, let them walk towards each other keeping a good distance and watch the reactions.
- Don’t get too close, then turn around and walk away. This is when you can use the Watch exercise. Do this several times gradually letting the dogs get closer and use your Watch command to get the dogs attention on you if necessary.
- When dogs are calmly getting very close with no reactive behaviour being shown, let them have the first sniff. Keep this short and sweet and then lead them away from one another in opposite directions. Keep your eyes wide open for any signs of reactive behaviour.
- Repeat this a few times and when dogs are settled, go for a walk with the dogs on loose lead, relatively close to one another and let them sniff each other as they want too, remembering to keep the interaction very short i.e one quick sniff and move dog away. This lowers the stress levels.
- When all going well and dogs are walking next to one another with no reactive behaviour, iff you want the dogs to be together off lead, then when you are happy, take one dog off lead and keep the other dog on lead. Observe what happens. (I always suggest that this occurs in a small closed area where the dog can be caught and closely monitored.
- If this goes well, then swap dogs over and repeat.
- Now let both dogs off lead to smell and investigate. Keep the interaction short and call them back to you on a regular basis.
In the Home
- After the introduction has taken place now is the time to re-introduce them in the home.
- Do it on the grass outside the home, on lead, and when they are happy with this, lead them both into the garden and let them walk together, while the new dog investigates.
- When this section has been completed, take them into the house, on lead and repeat the investigations of the different rooms they will have access too.
- Take one dog off lead and let it wander around by itself. (Here remember to put away food bowls, toys etc. to avoid problems)
- Swap dogs and do again.
- Take both dogs off lead and supervise the interaction. Keep it short and sweet continually calling the dog back to you to settle down and keep excitement levels down.
- If any stress is shown, keep one dog on lead initially, swapping the dogs around like this.
Continually supervise the interaction and don't go too fast.
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