How to Introduce a New Dog to the Pack

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Many people enjoy having two or more pets in their homes. Thanks to investing the time during initial introductions, you can have a happy multiple-pet home, where everyone enjoys each other’s company and potentially even share the sofa.

Like humans, dogs are socially minded but they also have their favorites and foes. To ensure household harmony, here are seven ways to successfully introduce a new dog to your current pets; starting with tips to introduce to an existing dog, followed by to an existing cat.

Observe the wants, needs and behaviors of your resident dog.

Ask yourself the following questions and observe how your current dog acts.

  • Does he display actions that indicate he is not happy being the only tail-wagger in your home?
  • Does he beg to play with other dogs at the local dog park or doggy daycare center? Or does he seem uninterested in other dogs? For example, when you enter the dog park or daycare center does he do a perimeter sniff and ignore the play bows from other dogs?

Be realistic about your time and money limitations.

 Even though adding another dog to your household doubles the fun, an additional pet also increases the cost of food and veterinary care. When it comes to your personal time, can you take both dogs on daily walks (or separate walks each day)? Take into consideration that a new dog should attend an obedience class. Also, it’s important to provide plenty of one-on-one attention for both dogs.

Select by compatible personalities and not by looks.

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It can be challenging to look beyond the cuteness factor when adopting a second dog. Focus on information available about the dog’s temperament and history. Ask the shelter, foster family, or breeder about his behavior. How does the dog interact when he’s around other dogs? You want a dog whose personality meshes with your current dog in order to reduce sparring between dogs for top dog status.

If possible, when looking at new dogs to add to your home, narrow it down to your top three canine contenders. Then, test the compatibility between your current dog and your three favorite potential new dogs. Introduce each dog one at a time (not all at once). If you own cats, don’t forget to introduce your felines to each dog (see dog-cat introduction tips below).

Create a great first impression for your current dog and new dog.

To reduce the chance of your dog viewing the newcomer as a territorial intruder, make sure that the initial greet-and-sniff does not take place inside your home, backyard or your dog’s favorite dog park. Select a safe, secure neutral location because in the canine world turf matters.

Keep both dogs on six-foot leashes during introductions and bring a buddy.

Before bringing the dog home, ask a dog-savvy friend or family member to help you take the dogs on a leashed walk. Initially, place each dog on the left and right side of you with your friend in the middle. Walk together for about a block. Then turn around and purposely place the two dogs in the middle so that they can walk parallel next to each other. Look for relaxed bodies and eagerness to walk. You and your friend can loosely hold the end of each six-foot leash so you can quickly yank if the dogs growl or lunge at each other.

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Watch the body language that the dogs display.

Be alert and carefully watch how the dogs react to each other. Things are going well if the dogs go into a play bow (front legs on the ground, head lowered, and back end raised high in the air). Make sure their bodies are relaxed. To create a good mood, speak in an upbeat, friendly tone to both dogs.

Additional tips – how to introduce your new dog to cats

The truth about cats and dogs is that many form close friendships. To achieve the goal of dog-to-cat respect, follow these tips:

  • Keep the new dog on a leash or inside a crated kennel. Allow your cat to investigate the dog on her terms. If the feline runs out of  the room, let her go. Don’t chase her because that can trigger the prey instinct  in your new dog. If necessary, step on your dog’s leash to keep him from chasing the cat.
  • Offer tasty treats to your new dog whenever your cat enters the room. This consistent action will instill in your dog that whenever the cat is around, good things happen (i.e. treats). As a result, he will begin to look forward to seeing the cat.
  • Allow for escape routes for your cat by keeping the bedroom doors open (so your cat can scoot under the bed) or by providing safe, high perches out of the dog’s reach.

By Arden Moore, a certified dog and cat behaviorist with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Arden is an author, radio host and writer for Pets Best, a U.S. pet health insurance agency founded in 2005.

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