Introducing a new dog to your resident dog in a systematic and prepared way will help them to build a positive relationship. Just because each dog is usually dog friendly, doesn’t necessarily mean they will tolerate being indoors together, particularly over longer periods.
Set up the house with dog gates, crates and other barriers as needed to give the dogs time apart. Introduce your dog to the crate or being being a crate gradually and positively. Keep sessions short and sweet and provide appropriate favourite food toys.
Your resident dog should always have access to their safe space. This is so they can get away from the new addition if they want some quiet time. Rescue either dog if attention or play from the other is unwanted. Older dogs should not be responsible or entertaining younger dogs and puppies. They may have very different needs and it is up to owners to provide for those needs for each dog.
Introduce the dogs on neutral territory at first where possible. Large spaces with sniffy distractions like trees and hedgerows are ideal. Do multiple walks together before entering the house where possible. When they’re ready, walk back to the house together. If you have a good sized garden then start here. Keep time spent together short in the beginning.
You want to encourage calm behaviour when they dogs are around each other. Avoid very exciting games, or leaving food out that may be fought over until you know this is safe. Simple interactions and just spending time together is great. So are sniffy activities such as interesting walks or popping new obstacles in the garden to explore.
Spend time with each dog separately, and walk them separately too. This is particularly important for your resident dog who may otherwise feel the reduction in your attention.
Signs of Stress
The dogs should either be closely supervised or separated at all times initially. Study body language so you can identify signs that either dog is uncomfortable. Intervene with a positive, calm distraction as needed. Signs of being uncomfortable may include:
- Turning the head or body away
- Holding ears back
- Showing the whites of the eyes
- A tense body
- Overly-appeasing waggy or lowered stance
- Approaching humans (“help!”)
- or stiffening up or staring.
It’s time for a break if you see signs of stress. Make sure both dogs are getting enough time away from each other resting and relaxing.
Reward behaviour you like in either dog. Behaviour you reward you will start to see more of. Start training your new dog in this way straight away. Obedience can wait, but rewarding good choices is a helpful start.
If in doubt…
If there is any doubt about whether the dogs will get on in a more enclosed space then keep their harnesses on to start with. Keep a light house line trailing from each that you can pick up to prevent one approaching the other if needed. Try to avoid grabbing leads if possible as tension on a lead or being grabbed can cause an increase in aggression in some dogs. Instead try calling the instigator dog away and distract them with something else.
Be prepared that if your new dog is a puppy, dynamics may change as they enter adolescence so going back to earlier stages may be needed again through this transition.
By taking things gradually and making sure each individual dog is happy you have the best chance of the dogs having a great relationship in the future. Not all dogs are a good match though, and it’s OK to make that call – it doesn’t mean the next dog won’t be just the right companion.
If either dog has shown aggression towards other dogs, introducing a new dog to your resident dog isn’t going as planned, or your dogs are fighting, it is time to seek help from a qualified professional.
I am a Clinical Animal Behaviourist based in the Nottingham area – however, with successful online training procedures, training can be anywhere in the world as long as you have your dogs, and a device with an internet connection! Get in touch to see how I can help https://weteachpets.com/contact-me/