A significant percentage of dog owners have more than one pooch, and in many cases, the dogs arrived at different times. They cohabit peacefully and often happily, as dogs - like most animals - are social creatures.
Here we’re taking a look at the dos and don’ts of introducing dogs so you can ensure positive interactions and lifelong happy relationships between your pets. It’s important to note that this is a guideline, and that you should always speak to your vet about the correct way to introduce your specific dogs or pets.
Start here: slowly
Most importantly! Do it s-l-o-w-l-y. The worst thing you can do is unleash a new dog into your home and expect everything to be hunky-dory, with no planning or forethought. Your existing dogs will feel protective of their territory and will want to defend it, while the new dog will not know what rules to follow. It’s a recipe for disaster, and you’ll end up with a pack of dogs that fights, competes and is unpleasant to have in your home…. or worse.
Be sure to set aside at least 24 to 36 hours before you begin this process, as your pets will require constant monitoring.
Phase one: introducing your dogs in the great outdoors
You should start by allowing your dogs to meet outdoors, in a neutral territory for both of them:
- First, pick a helper - a family member or a friend who your dog knows well.
- Next, pick a location for a long walk. It should be a place your dog isn’t overly familiar with. The longer the walk, the more tired the dogs will become and the more time it gives them to familiarise themselves with the other in a place that neither ‘owns’.
- Get busy walking! Let your friend or family member walk the new dog several paces behind you, and you walk your existing pooch in front.
- It’s butt sniff time! After some time has elapsed, fall back and give your dog the opportunity to sniff the new dog’s rear, but be careful not to let them see each other face to face yet as a fight could ensue. Return to your position at the front, and then let the new dog sniff your pooch’s butt in return.
- Eventually, bring the pack together: humans on the inside, dogs on the outside, all walking in step. If you can walk together like this, calmly, you can bring the pack home. Let your dog(s) enter first, and then bring the new dog inside.
Phase 2: bringing your new pooch home
Now that your dogs have met each other and are back home, it’s vital that you monitor all their interactions while they roam freely together. When you go to bed or you’re unable to watch them, make sure they’re separated to avoid any altercations as they get to know each other. You MUST watch every interaction and play session they have, and it’s your duty to stop any negative interactions before they escalate into fights for dominance.
Also ensure you do the following:
- Don’t free feed. Rather, feed at specific times of the day and make sure the dogs are properly separated so there are no fights over food bowls.
- Keep them separated at first during ‘chew treat’ time. Often, these special treats can cause fights. And no matter how long you’ve had your dogs, never leave them unattended with chewable treats: it’s a fight waiting to happen.
- Monitor play time and be on the look-out for warning signs like pulled-back ears or curled lips, raised hackles, staring and so on. If you see these things, stop the interaction right away, and tell the dog that needs to be corrected to go and lie down. Wait until its body language changes and you see him or her visibly relax and calm down. Get to know your dogs sounds and body language: some dogs become very vocal during play time and aren’t actually growling in anger or in a threatening way.
- Ensure that you give each dog equal amounts of attention, affection, food, bedding, toys, and so on.
- Take your dogs on daily walks to keep them well exercised. This also drains their energy so they don’t become frustrated with each other, as this can lead to altercations and fights.
As always, you should never hesitate to address any questions you may have with your vet. A positive introduction will bring many years of happiness for all members of the household and pack, but a negative one could end in disaster.
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.