Whether you’re adopting a puppy or an adult dog, nothing is more exciting than bringing a new furry friend home! If you live with other dogs, remember that first introductions matter. How you introduce your new dog to your established pack can have a lasting effect on their relationship. These tips are designed to help integrate your new pup to the pack in a way that will reduce stress for everyone (human and canine alike).
Find Switzerland: Introduce Your Dogs on Neutral Ground
Before making introductions, bring home an item that smells like the newbie for your established dogs to sniff. Maybe it’s a toy, or a piece of clothing that your new dog has been in contact with. By smelling the new pup first, your current dogs can familiarize themselves with their smell and recognize it when they are all introduced! Arrange their first meeting at a neutral location. By meeting somewhere like a dog park or a Sniffspot, nobody will feel like their territory is being threatened, and their first interaction is more likely to go smoothly.
Leash all the dogs meeting each other, and walk them together with about 10 feet of spacing between. This helps to get them used to one another without the stress of a “forced” meeting. Once the walk is done, take the pups to an open area and let them sniff each other for a few moments leaving the leashes on and loose. Remain upbeat and positive through the whole introduction process. Lastly, reward them like crazy so they associate the new dog in their pack as a good thing. If you see any type of aggressive or fearful reactions, separate them and get each dog to focus on the person they are with. You can try another introduction later and be sure to always end on a positive note!
There’s No Place Like Home
Once the dogs have met on neutral turf, it’s time to bring your new pooch home! This can be a pretty scary experience, so to help make things easier on him, bring him home to an empty house (get a friend to watch your other dogs for an hour or so). Also, put away any food, toys, and bedding that belongs to your other dogs. If you have adopted a puppy, be sure to puppy proof your home! Bring Fido in on a leash, and spend some time walking him around the house and yard so he can get familiar with his new home.
After some time, you can let him off leash to freely explore but keep an eye on him at to make sure he’s not getting into anything he shouldn’t. That’s directed at you, Labradors! After he’s finished the tour, bring your other dogs home and re-introduce them out in the yard first. Even if they’re getting along, keep food and toys separate for the first several days as mingling these items can trigger territorial aggression.
Make sure your new pup isn’t feeling overwhelmed by giving him alone time from your other pets. This could mean time in another room, a crate, or on a solo walk with you. Also be sure to monitor each dog’s body language for the first week to make sure everyone is having a positive time and not displaying aggression or fear. If things between your pack are tense at first, no need to panic! Experts say that it can take up to a month to work out the kinks of their new relationship. If you do notice any signs of aggressive behavior, keep periods of interaction brief. Halt any escalations with a firm, consistent command and then separate them for a short period. When they behave well together praise them equally. You can also bring in the help of a dog trainer to aid in the transition. With time, training, and praise, your new and established dogs will create a new pack hierarchy, and have their own very special bond!