Introducing Your Puppy to Your Other Dog
by Laura-Jade Durrheim
So you are thinking of getting a new puppy or you have already added to your existing family – your concern now is - How do you go about introducing Rufus junior to Rufus senior?
The first thing you need to consider is the temperament of your other dog. Is the dog reactive, does he get along with other strange dogs in his environment and outside of his environment? How does he play? Does he still like to play? Is he laid back and a big old softy or does he have a history of getting aggressive with other dogs? Does he Resource Guard? These questions are all pertinent and should be considered very carefully and most importantly honestly.
If your existing dog has a history of being dog aggressive it will be more difficult for you to introduce a new puppy to your home. It would be highly recommended that you enlist the help and advice of a registered behaviourist.
If your dog is a lot older and prefers to lie at your feet he could be less interested, accommodating and even stressed at the arrival of the new bundle of energy! This is where you as the owner need to be extra vigilant in making sure your older dog has some peace and breathing space away from your new puppy! If your puppy is playing too boisterously with your older dog, it is advised that you redirect your puppy onto a more suitable game or toy. It is NOT the job of your older dog to baby sit your puppy – it is your job to provide adequate entertainment and stimulation for your puppy and allow your older dog the peace he deserves.
The initial introduction should be conducted on “neutral” ground - a secure, controlled environment which is preferably enclosed. Make sure that your puppy or smaller dog cannot escape through any fences or under any gates etc. The area should be quite large, a very confined area would not be ideal. Neutral ground means away from both dogs' current living environment/home.
If you are adopting a new puppy from a shelter or rescue organisation it is advisable (if not mandatory) that the rescue organisation has already “matched” you and your family (including your existing dog, his breed and temperament) with a suitable puppy.
It would then be advised that you arrange your initial introduction at the shelter before taking your puppy home. This introduction should be assisted by trained dog handlers in an area that neither dog is particularly familiar with.
If you have decided to get your puppy through a breeder it would also be advised that the initial introduction be conducted on “neutral” ground. This will prevent any initial territorial instincts that may occur.
Note: A good idea would be for you to provide your breeder and (if possible)shelter with a blanket that your puppy could sleep on a few days prior to coming home. You would also give your dog a similar blanket to sleep on at home. Then approximately 2 days prior to your puppy coming home you will swop the blankets so each dog will be able to get accustomed to the smell of the other dog.
The first time the dogs meet each other they should both be wearing a collar or harness (a harness is preferable) and be on lead. You will need an adult family member or friend to help you. Bring plenty of treats!
The first step would be to approach each other slowly from the side NOT directly face to face. It is essential that the initial contact between your dogs is a positive experience and that they both have a positive association with each other right from the start. Use loads of yummy treats to help build and encourage this positive association.
Note: Be mindful not to treat the dogs too closely or allow them to share/take treats from the same hand, this could encourage and/or incite food aggressive behaviour.
Allow the dogs to sniff each other and greet each other as normal whilst giving them positive reinforcement by encouraging and reassuring them verbally. Keep the initial interactions short and sweet allowing the dogs to sniff and investigate each other and then walk them away from eachother. Repeat this several times. This will ensure that the stress levels do not increase and that the experience is possitive and successful for all involved.
Allow them to play and socialise but every few minutes call both dogs away (keep your sessions short and sweet!) and ask them to sit or stay – a watch or look command would work well here! If your new puppy has no previous training you can call or lure him away with a treat or quiet toy. Allow your puppy to investigate the area again away from your other dog. Once you have got the attention of both dogs you can allow them to interact again.
The next step would be to take them for a walk together. Allow them to sniff and interact with each other as you walk. Reward them for any positive interaction or signals they may give each other. If their interaction has been positive and they don’t seem too bothered by each other you can return to the “neutral” area.
Take both dogs off lead and allow them to sniff and explore the area together. They will most likely go off and explore the environment without much notice of each other. This is a good thing! Do not force or try to rush their interaction.
Note: This is a critical time for you to be aware of the body language and postures that may exhibit a defensive response. Defensive body postures include a prolonged stare, a stiff legged gait, teeth-baring, deep growls or hair standing up on the back.
If a dog goes into these postures, immediately redirect the dogs using positive reinforcement – a treat or a bubbly voice and get your dog to follow some basic commands. Let your dogs interact again. Repeat the process of redirecting the dogs, getting their attention, asking them to do a few basic commands and then sending them out to play again.
Once you feel everything is going well and both dogs look comfortable, take them both home and allow them to interact outside for a while. This will reduce the chances of any territorial marking that may occur inside. Keep a close eye on them and observe their body posture very carefully.
Note: It is VERY important that your dogs are NOT forced to share anything! Do not make them share food bowls, toys, beds etc. Each dog should have their own!! If any of the dogs are displaying any resource guarding behaviours – including over you or any other people, it is important that you address and monitor the situation. Be careful to only give treats and other high value items when you are controlling the situation.
It is critical that over the next few days you monitor the situation and if you are at all unsure of how to deal with it, it is recommended that you request the help of a registered behaviourist.
Wishing you and your newly extended family every success!
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