Getting a new puppy is so exciting! All the planning, waiting and preparing come to a head with the bringing home of the puppy. And, while the human family members are excited and prepared, the resident dog(s) in the family may view it differently.
Depending on the individual dogs living in your home, introductions may be easy. For instance, at my own home, a home filled with dogs who have long dealt with board and train dogs, rescues and new puppies being introduced on a fairly regular basis, bringing in a new dog is simple and straightforward. When I bring in a visiting girl for visiting (Lowchen), they are integrated within an hour. Same with the, now rare board and train client. I recently brought home a Cavalier puppy for a few days of training and she was living with my group within an hour. My dogs are just used to it. I also have breeds that tend to do very well with other dogs, Dachshunds, Lowchen, a Chinese Crested and a Basset mix. Their feathers are not easily ruffled by other dogs. This is not the case for all households.
There are many reasons why bringing in a new puppy could be more challenging. For instance, if you have adult dog(s) who are not dog friendly, who are overly guardy or who are extremely sensitive to big life changes, it may be more work and effort to introduce a new dog into the home. Additionally, if you have a dog that is old or dealing with a health issue, this could also greatly impact the process of bringing in a new puppy.
EASY TO INTEGRATE HOMES
I consider my house and “easy to integrate home”. This means that it is not difficult to introduce new dogs. That said, I still have a protocol for doing it. I don’t simply toss the new dog in with my group of dogs. That would be overwhelming and could end up disastrous. Here is how I bring new dogs to my own home.
- First, I am thoughtful about the dogs I bring here. I only bring small dogs or small puppies.
- New dogs are brought in with generally one dog loose and given time to just check out the environment. The dog loose is easy going and will pretty much walk off and ignore the new dog after a short meet and greet.
- Then, as the dog settles in, I bring in one dog at a time. That newly introduced dog will be interested in the new dog, but the dogs that have been with the new dog have already begun to lose interest.
- I follow this process through all of my dogs. Though I frequently will remove some of the dogs as my others are introduced, just to ensure not overwhelming the new dog.
- All dogs are fed in crates separately.
- Toys, chews and such are carefully monitored. We do this regularly anyway, so this is not a new thing for our household.
- Once the dogs are playing together, play is constantly monitored to make sure that appropriate breaks are happening. We always want to make sure that all the dogs involved in play are relaxed and comfortable and not overwhelmed.
HOMES WITH DOGS WHO ARE SELECTIVE WITH OTHER DOGS
There are many homes with resident dogs who have issues with other dogs. These “issues” can range from being overly pushy, fearful or downright aggressive with other dogs. When I talk about aggressive dogs, I mean dogs that have intent to hurt another dog. So, does this dog blast off on any dog he sees, or is there an area of comfort that we can work in to help the dog accept a new dog in the home? I also consider whether or not the dog has injured another dog. A dog who screams at other dogs but never does any damage is safer than a dog who rarely gets upset, but when he does serious damage is done. This means that the dog does not have good bite inhibition and this is where we need to take extra precautions. Of course, it isn’t safe for a dog with good bite inhibition who rarely does damage to constantly attack or terrorize another dog emotionally, but it tends to be an easier fix.
First, let’s talk about the general set up:
- Both dogs will need their own “spaces”. I like to use a plastic exercise pen where the puppy spends any time that they are not with me or being supervised.
- An additional crate in “hang out” areas of the house. This is done with ALL new puppies at my house even with an easy to integrate home. This way when all the adult dogs are relaxing in the living room, the puppy can go into their crate (which is in the living room) and learn to self modulate with the group. In other words the puppy learns that when we all settle down, she ought to settle down too.
- Training sessions for each dogs and for the dog’s together.
Here is my basic protocol for introducing a new dog or puppy where there is an adult dog that has issues with other dogs. In my experience, it can be easier to introduce a new puppy than an adult dog. This is because puppies tend to be less threatening to adult dogs. They also tend to defer to adult dogs and are more likely to “back down” if confronted.
I want to be clear that it is critical that the resident dog should NOT be made responsible for training and keeping a new puppy in line. I teach puppies how to respect the adult dogs in the home, but more on that later.
- Initial introduction is done with protected contact. Both dogs in separate pens or one on leash and one in a pen.
- If either dog is being particularly over the top in response to the other dog, increase the distance. They need to start with just being around each other without touching or greeting.
- Be aware of very valuable places, items or people and ensure that set ups with those things or people are carefully planned and monitored.
- Feed separately. Out of sight completely if there is any accelerated eating, staring, freezing or growling. Frankly, forever separate feeding is a good idea. I will never understand why people feel that dogs should be able to eat loose, in a group. I guess they don’t have Dachshunds, but I digress.
- I will frequently put the puppy in a pen with the adult dog on leash and work on approaching, sniffing and then walking away from the puppy. It is important that you have a person actively working with the puppy in the pen as well. Offering treats for remaining calm, gently sniffing and any appropriate behavior. This is a critical piece as you want to make sure that the sniffing is very short and ends before either dog gets over stimulated. We want to keep greetings low key, calm and positive.
- As the both the resident dog and the puppy become more comfortable, you may be able to start doing some careful, on leash introductions. If you feel AT ALL unsure of how to read either dog’s body language, please enlist the help of a science based dog trainer to help work you through this to ensure a positive outcome.
- Once the dogs are feeling more comfortable with another, you may be able to allow them to be off leash together. All off leash time should be carefully monitored.
- Do not rush to have the dogs loose together all the time. It is far more beneficial to take your time as all the dogs in the home learn to live together.
- Do not leave dogs loose together alone until you are certain that both will be safe.
- Consider a puppy preschool class or social play group so that the puppy has other puppies to play with. This will help him develop good play skills while also taking some of the pressure off of the adult dog.
SUPPORTING THE RESIDENT DOG
Many times people mistakenly punish their resident or adult dogs when they get frustrated with or reprimand unruly puppies. It is important that we observe closely and then step in and take the pressure off of the adult dog to teach the puppy.
The way that I do this is to observe the puppy and the adult dog interact together.
- At any time you see the adult dog looking to avoid the puppy or appearing to get frustrated, observe how the puppy responds.
- If the puppy takes the adults cues and backs off, great. The puppy made a good decision and his reward for doing so is that he gets to remain loose with the big dog.
- If the puppy ignores the adult dog, gently get the puppy and give a cue that tells him to leave the adult dog alone. I usually say “that’s enough” or “give him a break” and then keep the puppy from the other dog for 20 seconds or so.
- Then let the puppy loose. This is where he gets to make a better choice. If he leaves the dog alone, verbally and physically praise him. If he goes back to bothering the big dog, say, “time out” and remove him from having access to the big dog. He can be put on leash, behind a baby gate, in a pen, in a crate or anywhere that you can put him to not get access to the other dog. If the puppy is large or has learned to run from you, then you and the big dog leave the room.
- The idea that being respectful to the older dog gets him freedom, and not listening to the big dog gets his access removed.
Introducing a new dog doesn’t have to be traumatic experience as long as you have a plan and are ready to do the work necessary to create a positive relationship with your resident dog and new puppy.