Introducing dogs is not always an easy uncomplicated thing; some dogs are more sensitive than others. Even if your dog is a rock star at the dog park, s/he could feel very different about a new dog coming in to your home. I put together a few tips for you when introducing a new dog to your family.
HOW TO INTRODUCE A NEW DOG TO YOUR FAMILY
TAKE THEM FOR A WALK
Taking a walk is one of my top “go to’s” for introduction. The environment is rich enough to pull their complete attention away from the other dog and it’s less stressful or intense. Think about this for a moment: when you are going on the first date, how comfortable are you? What if your new date just walked in to your house (your sacred space) with the expectation of staying for several hours. How uncomfortable would you be? But if you met at a different location to play miniature golf, for example, or something of that nature, you are going to relax more because your mind is in a different state because s/he is not in your space and you are in more control.
With introduction walks, the dogs are able to see each other without the pressure of interacting with each other. I recommend that the dogs are walked together, but by separate individuals, Be sure to watch your dog’s body language and create space if needed. When you are observing the dog’s body language, watch the over-all body. Look to see if the body seems stiff or watch for displacement behaviors (click here for blog on dog body language). I recommend doing these walks for one week to two weeks every day.
BABY GATES ARE YOUR FRIEND
As a mother of twins, I have at least four baby gates. Trust me. I just had a client stop by last week to borrow one. 🙂 My twins are now six and I don’t use them much anymore with my kids, but the boys were at one point fast toddlers and too smart for their own good. Their nursery was upstairs and once mobile, I was nervous. Being the overly pre-cautious mom that I am, I had a baby gate at the entrance of their room as well as at the top of the stairs. When I changed the boys from their crib to their toddler beds the boys got even smarter. One afternoon I knew that they were up to something. They were suppose to be napping, but I heard noises upstairs so I tip toed and what I witnessed made me laugh, but blew my mind! The boys took the mattress off their toddler bed (team effort) and slid the mattress over the top of the baby gate the entrance of their room and teeter totted their way over the baby gate on the mattress. Lord, have mercy on me!
Anyway, back to dogs! I have found that using baby gates with the new dog in one section of the house and the other dog on the other allows for them to get acquainted without pressure. It provides a nice safety measure for you to not stress as well. It allows you time to observe their body language as they sniff through the baby gate. I recommend that you leave the baby gate up for anywhere from 1 week up to a month depending on the dogs. Observe the body language during this time as this serves as information with how they feel about each other.
Note: Baby gates are not completely trustworthy in keeping things on their designated side, as you can see from my twin story. The purpose in me mentioning this, is that the baby gates can fall, easily get moved, climbed over, etc. so if you are working with an aggressive dog please do not fully depend on this. The above mentioned is my recommendation for friendly dogs (or even more sensitive dogs) that need are being introduced. If your dog is aggressive please contact your dog trainer or behaviorist for specific recommendations.
Even after your introduction, go slow. Things may be going great, but keep them going steady by not pushing them too far. After all, no one likes pressure. Make sure that you are doing what I call interval time together. Allow them to hang out for a short period and then separate them. I use this method a lot for dogs when company is visiting. I have found that it sets the dog up for success without going over threshold because the environment is too much.
DON’T LEAVE THEM ALONE
An English teacher once taught me that you should never assume because it will make an ass out of you and me. Many things can happen while you are out of the room or gone to work. Do not leave them alone in a room until you’ve had ample time to get to know how they are with each other. You won’t be around to see that quick subtle glance that screamed a million “words” to the other dog. I would rather be safe than sorry. My goal is to set everyone up for success and everyone to be happy with the new-comer. When you are out of the house, I kennel or putting up the baby gate.
Note: I do not recommend kenneling the dogs side by side as this can cause frustration. Also, be mindful that where you kennel or baby gate you dogs can speak volumes to them. We have high valued locations as humans. The head of the table when dining says that person is in charge. My dad has his specific Lazy Boy chair and we all know not to sit there. It’s not much different in the dog world and those locations can demonstrate status. For example, to your dog your room is a high valued location. You don’t want to send the wrong single to either dog.
HELLO. I AM THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK.
With the dog dog introduction, watch dog’s body language, go slow and keep your whits! Good luck and congrats with the new family member!
Happy Training! – Michelle Huntting