Let’s say you bring your dog(s) to the meet-up with the dog you want to adopt and, following our advice on how to introduce them to each other, everyone gets along wonderfully. That does not mean you should assume that your dogs are now best friends. To deter bad habits and fights, you will still need to integrate your newly-adopted dog into a healthy household routine with your resident dog(s). Here is a guide to help you make that happen.
Step 1: Initial Introduction & Structured Walking
When you arrive home, before bringing your new dog inside, bring your current family dog outside on leash. You will need two people for this! Take both dogs, each being handled by separate people, on a walk together (dogs should be walking parallel to each other). After several minutes of walking, let one dog casually wander over to sniff the other dog’s rear end. This greeting should last no more than 3 seconds. Keep walking.
Wait a few more minutes and allow the second dog to sniff the rear end of the first. The greeting should last no more than three seconds. Keep walking.
Repeat this activity a few times until the dogs seem fairly relaxed.
You can then allow your dogs to meet each other on leash. The people holding the leashes should stand facing each other, with the dogs in between. Keep the dogs’ leashes loose. Allow the dogs to greet each other, and look for the following signs:
- Play Bows
- Loose Tail Wagging
- Wiggly Body Language
- Relaxed Mouth
- A Big Doggie Smile
- Soft Eyes
- Stiff Body Posturing
- Whale Eyes (Seeing the Whites of Their Eyes)
- Dilated Pupils
- Tail Either Tucked or Stiff and Erect
- Tight Jaw and Mouth or Chattering Teeth
- Growling/Teeth Baring
- Hair Standing Up on Back
Once the dogs seem tired and relaxed, you can start to head home.
If you have multiple dogs already living in your household, be sure to introduce the new dog to each dog using this method, one at a time. It can be overwhelming for all involved if the greetings happen all at once!
Important!!! If you see a lot of uncomfortable, fearful or aggressive signals from either dog, please give both dogs some time out in separate rooms or crates and repeat this procedure! Don’t rush this step! It may take several days or even weeks of structured walking to facilitate good greetings and form a positive relationship. Keep dogs separated in the house until a good relationship has started. Do not proceed to Step 2 until your dogs are very comfortable with Step 1.
Step 2: Entering the House
If you were successful with Step 1, the next step takes place in the house. Before bringing both dogs inside, please make sure that all toys, rawhides, bones and food bowls are put away.
When first entering the house, the dogs should be kept on leash until you feel comfortable with some supervised off-leash time for them to get to know each other. For the first several weeks (or more) the dogs should never be left alone together unsupervised! When you cannot be directly supervising them, place the dogs in separate crates or rooms.
Important!!! Just like people, even dogs that love each other need some time to themselves, especially in the early stages of their relationship (first 3 months). Be sure to give both dogs some alone time while they are still enjoying each other’s company. Do not wait until the dogs are agitated with each other to give them a time out, as this may cause negative associations next time they see each other.
Step 3: Meals and Toys
Mealtimes for the dogs should be in separate areas. This will help ensure that each dog gets to eat their whole meal and prevent any potential guarding behaviors. Use crates or separate rooms to feed each dog for the first 2-3 months of ownership.
When playing with toys, or offering chew toys to the dogs, make sure there is enough for everyone. At first, play or chew sessions should be separate for the dogs, with a ratio of one person per dog. Eventually, if they show no bullying or guarding behaviors, the dogs can be allowed to play with toys together. As with meals, give chew toys, rawhides and Kongs to the dogs separately.
- If any bullying or resource guarding is displayed, please call a certified trainer for help!
- Not all toys are created equal! Just like humans, dogs have preferences on types, materials, and kinds of play or chew toys. Be careful when introducing new chew or play toys that you see no guarding behavior.
Step 4: Time Together and Apart
Put some time and effort into thinking about how to build the dogs’ bond with each other and when to give them some time alone.
Bond-Building Activities: Activities that you can do with both dogs to help them learn to love each other!
- Take the dogs for a walk (one person per dog!) — The dogs get to do something they love (walking) and transfer those positive feelings to the new buddy with whom they are sharing it.
- Positive Reinforcement Training — Use fun training games in which the dogs get treated and rewarded to keep your dogs happy around each other.
Constructive Alone Time: As wonderful as it is to have a roommate, sometimes a dog just needs some time to him- or herself. Make sure to give each dog a little individual attention each day.
- Field trip! A ride in the car to the pet store!
- Training Classes!
Step 5: Rules
It is important for both dogs to follow the same rules in the house. If one dog is expected to sit and wait to eat their food, both dogs have to do it. If you haven’t thought about the household rules before, this is a great time to start! Make sure all the people in your house know the rules and are on the same page. Above all, be consistent.
Get Help, If You Need It
Knowing what is normal or not for your dog and reaching out for help before a behavior issue becomes too much to handle will keep your newly-extended family happy! If you notice any abnormal behaviors; see aggression that is more than just a correction or that is doing damage to one or both dogs; or if the transition is not moving along smoothly; it may be time to reach out to a professional.
Information and recommendations provided by the Certified Professional Dog Trainers of Tricked Out Training, which supports positive reinforcement training and behavior modification. To find a great trainer or behaviorist in your area, visit the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers’ website at www.ccpdt.org.