Introducing a new adult dog to your home is very exciting and with it comes the hope that this newest family member will be loved and accepted by the current dog occupant and that the adjustment will be quick and easy. While sometimes this is true, and it seems to be a match made in canine heaven, there are many introductions that cause stress and upheaval, not to mention dangerous situations between the dogs and the dog owners. Most often these situations occur when well-meaning owners mistakenly believe that the dogs will work their problems out on their own and it simply is not the case.
Dog drama can quickly turn the calmest of households upside down and even trigger dog fights between the most friendly, socialized dogs. Despite how sweet and even tempered family dogs seem; they are truly powerful creatures with a strong pack mentality. This pack mentality will trigger the need to establish rank sometimes called rank drive or pack drive. When normally sweet and docile dogs become determined to establish rank over the new dog or the new dog attempts to take over the existing dog’s rank, the dogs can break into a level of aggression never seen by their owners previously. This is especially true when the existing dog is territorial, both dogs are dominant, the dogs are not neutered, and if there are male/male or female/female issues going on.
Problems can arise when introducing a new adult dog to a home with one existing dog; however, the potential is even greater if there are two dogs currently in the home since three dogs make up a pack and may become more territorial. When there are more than three dogs in a pack, the weakest dog may be targeted by the stronger dogs. Since dogs will always establish ranking order, it is imperative the owner be a strong pack leader that establishes rules and guidance for the pack, or one dog will attempt to take over leadership. Always remember, that if you have one existing dog, in the dog’s mind, the human family is part of his pack – always making it three or more. As soon as a new dog is added to the mix, every dog in the household will re-establish its rank as the new pack is formed. This is the critical time in which dog fights can erupt.
Female/female fights tend to be worse than males. It is up to the owner to protect their dogs from fights since once a dog has been attacked it will forever be impacted by the experience, which can result in dog aggression or fear of meeting new dogs. The good news is, not all dogs want to be the pack leader so owners can set clear boundaries that fighting is simply not tolerated and must show all the dogs that they will be protected from other dogs. When meeting the new dog for the first time, it is vital to establish yourself as leader in the new dog’s eyes as this will forever impact the future of your relationship.
When introducing a new dog to the household, the best thing you can do is use a crate. Place the new dog in the crate and allow the established dog to investigate. If the dogs growl, instantly correct and never allow the behavior to escalate to show all the dogs that aggression is never allowed. After crate introductions go well without aggression, the next step is to introduce dogs with both dogs on leashes. At the first sign of growling or aggression, the new dog goes back in the crate for more training and conditioning. You can also switch the dog’s places and put the existing dog in the crate to allow the new dog to explore the home and yard (always on a leash), take walks, groom, play, feeding, and bonding with the family. By leashing the dog, you are reinforcing your role as leader. Crate training may take weeks but your first clue that the dogs are getting accustomed to each other is when they ignore each other.
When the dogs ignore each other, it may be time to introduce them face to face. This should once again happen on leashes and the best way is to simply take both dogs for a walk with a separate handler for each dog. If you have any worry that they may fight, muzzle the dogs. Taking some time to study dog body language before you introduce the dogs is also very helpful so that you can ward off any aggressive triggers before they happen. What you are looking for are two relaxed dogs that feel comfortable on their walk. If there are no problems on the walk, introductions through a fence are the logical next step. Allow both dogs to greet each other through the fence but leave the leashes on should you need them.
After a short greeting, take them for another walk to see how they interact with each other. Once both dogs seem comfortable on walks and through the fence greetings with no growling or any other sign of aggression, it is time to introduce them face to face.
- Keep all food and toys out of reach
- Feed the dogs in different rooms or in their crates
- Remove any items that either dog feels territorial over
- Do not allow either dog to guard anything
If you don’t feel comfortable, illicit the help of a professional trainer because as the old adage goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression and when introducing a new grown dog to the house, it is best to take the time to get it right the first time.