Like humans, the canine world has a certain structure and hierarchy. Having structure within a pack ensures relative peace within the members, helps to maintain order and encourages cooperation where necessary. Disrupting the structure can cause issues. Dogs are also territorial, and will defend their territory against intruders. This can make introducing two dogs difficult at times, depending on how they feel about their role in the situation. Here’s how to minimize friction between your current pets and your new dog or puppy.
Using A Neutral Location & Positive Reinforcement
Introducing a new dog into your family or “pack” is best initiated in a neutral location. This way, your existing pet is less likely to view the new dog as an invader into his territory. You will need to have another friend or family member with you at the time of the introduction, so that each dog has his own handler. With each dog on a leash, introduce the dogs in your chosen neutral and unfamiliar location. Be aware that if you regularly walk your dog at a local park, your dog may also consider that park to be part of his territory. If your new dog is to be adopted from an animal shelter, it may be a good idea to bring your current dog to the shelter and start the introduction process there. This is sometimes a requirement of some animal shelters before the adoption process can be completed.
You want to encourage the introduction and meeting process to be a positive experience for both dogs, so keep your tone of voice friendly and happy. Allow the dogs to briefly sniff at each other since this is normal greeting behavior for dogs, but do not allow the sniffing to go on for too long, since it may escalate into aggression on the part of either dog.
After a brief introduction between the dogs, and a short space of time apart from each other, attract their attention and give them a simple command. Have each dog “sit” or “stay”, and reward them for their obedience to the commands. Progress this initial meeting by taking the dogs for a walk, allowing them to periodically sniff at each other so that they become familiar with each other’s smell. Periodically interrupt the walk with more simple commands, and continue to reward the obedience of the dogs. Remember to keep your voice happy, positively reinforcing that this is a friendly occasion.
Watch the Signals & Body Posture
Take note of the posture and body language exhibited by each of the dogs. Learn more about body language so that you will recognize different signs. One such behavior to watch for is a “play-bow”. This is when one dog has his hind quarters in the air and crouches with his front legs on the ground. This posture is viewed as an invitation to play and is considered to be friendly behavior.
Aggressive behavior between newly introduced dogs would include deep growling, baring of teeth, hair on the dog’s back standing up, prolonged staring or a stiff-legged gait. If you see either dog displaying any of these postures, then diffuse the situation by interrupting their interaction. Attract their attention and focus each dog on something else. For example, each handler could call the dogs and give a simple command to “sit” or to “lie down”, and then reward them with a treat. Providing healthy treats for good behavior should distract the dogs’ attention from the potential aggression or conflict. After a period of time, return to introducing the dogs, have them interact again, but perhaps at a greater distance or for a shorter period of time.
Taking Your Dog Home
After a period of time, investigative behavior such as sniffing ought to taper off. Once you are satisfied that you see indications of mutual tolerance, and if the dogs seem to be able to able to behave without aggression, you may be happy to take the dogs home. Depending on the size of the dogs, the size of your vehicle, and how successful the initial meeting was, will determine whether you choose to take the dogs home in the same car, or whether separate cars would be more appropriate.
Another point to consider when taking your new dog home, is whether you have more than one resident dog. Two or more already established “pack members” are more than likely to gang up on the new dog, and so it is probably best to introduce each existing pet separately.
A Word On Puppies
Because of their immaturity, puppies will not yet recognize what all adult dog behavior means. Puppies will often pester adult dogs for attention, without understanding what is and is not considered acceptable. An adult dog which has a good temperament and is well-socialized, will be able to set the appropriate limits on a puppy using a warning growl or a snarl. This behavior should be allowed as it will train the puppy to know his proper place in the family.
However, if an adult dog is not well-socialized or has an aggressive history with a tendency to fight with other dogs, you should not leave your puppy alone with the adult dog until the puppy has developed a measure of understanding and maturity. The adult may try to enforce limits on the puppy by biting or other such aggressive behavior, and the puppy may be harmed in the process. Be sure not to neglect the adult dog, give him time away from the puppy where he can be reassured that you still care for him, even though a good portion of your time is spent with the youngster.
If the initial introduction between dogs and the first few weeks at home do not go well, it is a good idea to seek the assistance of a professional who specializes in animal behavior. Dogs can sometimes be overly aggressive and in the event of fighting between dogs, either or both of them may be injured. The longer that such aggressive behavior continues, the harder it is to resolve. If you administer punishment without fully understanding the situation, you may make things worse. Seeking the assistance of a professional will go a long way to putting any issues between your dogs right.