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INTRODUCING A NEW PUPPY INTO A MULTI-DOG HOUSEHOLD
By Louise Thompson Accredited Animal Behaviour Consultant (ABC of SA ©®™)
Choosing a new puppy is difficult enough, without having to take into account the social hierarchy and genetic compatibilities of the existing dogs in the home. There are numerous questions that need to be asked before you take on the lifetime responsibility of owning another dog. Before bringing a new puppy into a multi-dog household, you should take into account the genetics of the breed that you wish to purchase, and the genetics, sex, age and compatibility of the existing household pack. If you are already having aggression problems with your existing pack, it would spell disaster to introduce another animal into the pecking order. There have been many cases reported of adult dogs mauling and killing young puppies. You also need to take into account the age and sex of your existing dog/s. Elderly dogs can be pestered into reacting to young puppies, who constantly demand to be entertained. If an elderly dog reacts negatively the entire pack can join in, once again ending in tragedy.
If your existing dog’s basic behavioural needs are not currently being adequately met, it can also go horribly wrong. For example, if your existing dog/s are not exercised off the property regularly, or given enough (appropriate) mental stimulation, or have never been trained or socialised, they will have exceptionally low tolerance levels, and few life skills to fall back on if anything goes wrong (life skills are learnt by experience.) Bear in mind also, that if you are having any other behavioural problems with your existing dogs, such as destructive behaviour, excess barking, or noise phobia’s, the young pup, when “mentored” by the existing dogs, could very well end up exhibiting the same problems. Puppies learn from example, and if they have poor role-models, you could very well end up with a group of dogs, all exhibiting the same behaviour negative behaviour traits!
The relationship between the humans and the existing dogs also needs to be taken into account. For example, if the existing dogs are overindulged, over-privileged brats, they might not take well, to a new puppy “underdog”, who will most likely, take away much valuable attention from their owners.
Some dogs are never able to get on with other dogs, no matter what you do, or how hard you try. These individuals are often found in the “fighting” group of dog breeds. Breeds like the Bullterrier, and the Staffordshire terrier, were genetically engineered by man, for the cruel sport of dog fighting, whilst they are often wonderful with humans, this love of people does not extend itself to other dogs, or any small mammals. I know of many Staffordshire Terriers who have to spend their lives in “one dog households” because of their intolerance of their own kind. This does not seem to present a problem as long as their behavioural and emotional needs are met.
WHICH BREEDS ARE GENERALLY COMPATIBLE?
Gundogs are probably well known as being one of the best breeds to have as a household companion animal. They are also pretty laid back in the aggression stakes, and usually tolerant and even natured. All of which bodes well for introducing a new pup. Breeds in this group include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Pointers, and Setters. With Gundogs, often you can even get away with mixing them with a passive natured Terrier and of course one of the Herding Breeds. Herding breeds also tend to get along well together with other herding breeds. So often you can be very successful to mix breeds like the German Shepherd Dog and Border Collies for example. This is also due to the genetics, of being primarily developed to work together, for man. Herding breeds and Gundogs also often mix well together.
WHICH BREEDS ARE OFTEN INCOMPATIBLE?
Terriers put with other Terriers are usually a no go, as are mixing Terriers and Guarding breeds. That is a recipe for disaster! Extreme care should be taken when considering introducing any animal into a group or even an individual dog within one of the “Fighting” breeds as they have an extremely high “Prey” drive (hunting instinct) and putting a helpless put in that position could end in tragedy! Little snappy dogs often will not accept pups that are going to grow up to be big pushy dogs. Dogs bred mainly for companions also generally do not mix well with the Guarding breeds.
It is worthwhile to find out what the original purpose of your breed was. It will give you an idea of how to meet his needs, both behavioural and physical i.e. exercise and mental stimulation and help you to decide whether you should bring in another pup into the group. If you are unsure of the compatibility of your existing pack and a prospective puppy, contact an accredited animal behaviour consultant for advice and guidance.
INTRODUCING A NEW PUPPY INTO A MULTI-DOG HOUSEHOLD
On acquiring a new puppy - once you have him home, do not immediately thrust him into the stressful experience of meeting your own dogs – or indeed even your human family at one time. Puppies need lots of peace and quiet and time, in order to be able to adjust to new surroundings and the excitement of a new environment, new people, and other pets.
Start by introducing you human family to the new pup, one at a time, and make sure any noisy or naughty children, are well supervised. Do not let young children play, pick up, or tease a young puppy – EVER!
Any bad experience at this tender age can have permanent, lasting results. Thus, the basic rule is that no child is ever left unsupervised, with any dog at any time!
The same “calm – unhurried” logic applies when introducing a new pup to the rest of the existing pack. You should use the “gradual accustomize” method. Baby steps – adding only one small new person / animal / situation at a time – time and patience is the key here!
A good idea, which also aids in ensuring your puppies safety, is to crate train your new puppy, and introduce him (safe and snug in his crate) to the other dogs one at a time.
At no time in the beginning stages of this developing / budding relationship, should your puppy be left unsupervised with any of the adult, existing dogs. Another idea is to have a trailing line on the older dog that you are introducing, so that you can calmly intervene and redirect the adult dog, (without as little fuss as possible), if things start to get out of hand, or indeed, if you see things beginning to go wrong.
If the older (existing dog) acts negatively – do not scold him or punish him in any way. Calmly (without saying a word or giving commands) pick up the end of his trailing house line and pop him outside (alone) for a few minutes of doggie reflection. After a few minutes “doggie time out”, he is permitted back inside the room again for a second (third, fourth, fifth, sixth – tenth chance). Give him a few minutes to settle and then if he growls or looks threateningly at the puppy – then simply repeat the “doggie time out” experience.
You will need to find ways to get the existing dog/s to associate the puppy with some wonderful, positive experience. The second that the older dog looks relaxed and his body language is positive (nice windmill wagging tail – soft facial muscles, and relaxed body language), reward him with lots of verbal praise and a high value treat.
At this stage, YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE ANY NOTICE OF THE PUPPY – WHO NEEDS TO FEEL IGNORED (as this is the natural order of a pack – last one in gets the least privileges and/or attention). If you give the puppy too much attention (in some cases even to the degree of eye contact), the older dog will have to defend his status, and this could negatively affect their future relationship. In fact, in general, whilst in the presence of any of the existing dogs, the puppy should be ignored. You can provide him with extra attention “one-on-one”, when the other dogs are not present.
The second the older dog looks relaxed or less stressed – praise verbally and pop him a high value treat. These high value treats should be reserved for ONLY when he is in the puppy’s presence or when interacting with the puppy. Initially, have the older dog on leash for control and discipline. Then you can progress to having the older dog free - (but on a longer house-line for safety), and start to facilitate “controlled” introductions. Once the pup and one existing dog are coping (with the pup still safely in his crate) then you may introduce the second of your multi dog household, and repeat the same logic used as before. This should initially be “one-on-one” dog introductions. It is too soon to expose the puppy to the whole pack.
Don’t forget to ensure that each and every time the existing dog comes in contact with the puppy – something wonderful has to happen. A meal – a special game a special training session – whatever turns the older dog on.
The next step is to gradually introduce a second dog, and then the third and so on and so forth. Start with introducing the highest-ranking dog first and then if possible introduce the rest of the group in rank or pecking order. Once they are all together – with puppy still safe in his crate you are ready for the next step.
The next step is to become brave enough to let them interact together FREE. This sometimes is very stressful for owners – who if they show their fears, could make maters worse!
If the owners have ANY CONCERNS regarding the puppy’s safety, the existing older pack members should be gradually accustomized to wearing a plastic full cage muzzle.
This takes about five to ten days, and is achieved through the use of treats and other positive associations.The following accustomisation programme is then to be undertaken in regards to getting them used to the muzzles.
THE HAPPY MUZZLE
A plastic cage muzzle is the most suitable one to use. It should fit snug around the dogs neck and loose enough around the face to facilitate panting. Many dogs learn to drink water and even eat treats whilst wearing a cage muzzle. The neck strap should be tied or attached to the dog’s collar to ensure that he is not able to wriggle or buck out of the muzzle.
Once you have obtained a suitable full muzzle which fits each dog well, then you should begin to very gradually accustomized the dogs to wearing their muzzle. To avoid any increase in stress levels and to teach the dogs that wearing the muzzle is a pleasant experience do not just put it on and hope for the best!
To get the dog used to wearing the happy muzzle is a GRADUAL desensitising process, as follows:-
RULES AND METHOD
- Be very calm and matter of fact about the whole thing – we do not want the dog to think it is a big deal!
- Once the dog is calm, and not showing any signs of fear of the muzzle, it can then be CASUALLY slipped onto the head. DO NOT FASTEN IT YET! Just slip it on and then straight off – then reward with the tit-bit. Again, repeat several times a day – until the dog is calm, confident and comfortable with the procedure.
- Once the dog is coping with it, being put/slipped on the head you will begin to see the dog’s attitude of positive association towards the muzzle, with the reward.
- This from the dog’s point of view should be a pleasant rewarding experience. We do not want to make the dog afraid of the muzzle, or try to force it on, as this would raise the stress and anxiety levels of the dog, and again, we would be looking at possible other behavioural problems developing from force. Especially if the dog/s in question has had no previous training or mental/physical stimulation.·
- The next step is to slip it on, over the head, and fasten the catch just for a couple of seconds – remove and then and give the dog a treat. In the beginning, remember to take it off immediately and praise/reward – repeat this several times a day, for the first couple of days.
- After that, work up to keeping it on for a second or two. Then remove and reward.
- This is NEVER to be used or associated by the dog with punishment; the dog is to think that having the muzzle put on is a huge treat!
- Gradually over a period of time start to leave it on a bit longer and longer. Put it on and then take it off before rewarding times, such as feed times, play time, and before walks.
- Once the dog is coping and happy with wearing the muzzle for a slightly longer period then ….
- You can pop is on just before taking him for a walk (if there are two dogs – please walk them separately during this period)
- Only leave the muzzle on the dog for extended periods of time, (and then only under your SUPERVISION) once the dog is happy and confident, showing you that he associates wearing it with praise and reward.
- You will soon see that the dog will show you by his positive response when he sees the muzzle, that he thinks it is a wonderful thing! He should be pleased and excited to see it and have it fitted on!
Voila! You now have a muzzle happy dog. Safe to be around both with other animals and people, and you have not stressed him out or affected your relationship with him in any negative way at all! NOTE: If at any time during this desensitisation period, the dog panics or regresses, revert back one stage in the programme, until you reach a level where the dog is coping, and then progress forward, from that stage of the desensitisation programme.
When the actual free introduction is performed – the muzzle should be tied/secured to the collar at the back of the dog’s neck so that the dog can not slip it off over its head.
As soon as the dogs are accustomed to wearing their muzzles – a controlled introduction on neutral ground should be performed. It is important that the area where the introduction occurs is neutral, as this will prevent any of the higher-ranking dogs from needing to defend territory or establish further status. Ideally a fenced off area would be a great advantage.
Don’t forget to ignore the younger pup and give the older pack members lots and lots of attention and wonderful high value treats if they are interacting well.
The area that is used for the introduction should not be too large – as the pup might feel threatened, but it should be large enough for the puppy and the dog to be able to keep out of each other’s ways if they so desire.
As with the initial crate controlled introduction – you should start with the alpha dog. Once coping with the alpha then slowly introduce the others. Once the entire group have been introduced individually, then the next step is to start introducing more than one at a time. This needs to be done gradually, until you achieve harmony with the entire group. As before I also suggest that you have the adult dogs on a trailing line, so that you are able to intervene with minimum fuss if things look like they need to be de-fused.
Once a positive outcome is achieved on neutral ground you should then begin to perform the same in your own garden and then indoors during quiet times such as when watching television etc. Gradually – over a period of time you will begin to put the dogs in slightly more stressful situations together (still muzzled) and see how they cope.
If at any time they regress – you should return to the stage of the programme where they were coping. Repeat until you feel that they are more stable and then move onto the next stage.
Don’t forget that not all dogs accept new puppies. There are many things that have to be taken into account. The amount of social interactions the existing dogs have been exposed to: The level of their natural tolerance: Early experiences: Levels of exposure to different dogs and animals: Life skills learnt: And – most of all – breed genetics – some breed just don’t get on with others!
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