Bringing a new dog home should be a time to celebrate, but if you've already got other dogs in residence with you, there's always at least a little anxiety and trepidation involved. Ideally everyone will get along immediately and be thrilled to have a new family member for games of tug-of-war, good natured wrestling matches, frantic rounds of tag and to add to the Saturday morning pile up on the bed -- with you on the bottom.
But that's not how things work in the real world. Relationships -- even among caninekind, take work, and it's your responsibility, as Dog Owner, to give everyone the best possible start together, to make the introductions as anxiety free as possible and to foresee any obvious causes for squabbles and mitigate them before anything can happen.
The first order of business is to know your dogs and their personalities and to not bring another dog into the family that you know isn't going to gibe well with the rest. If you've got a strongly dominant male dog, don't bring another one with the same trait home. That's an obvious recipe for disaster, almost as bad as trying to get your reigning female to get along with an authoritative newcomer.
Consider, also, the sizes of the dogs you're integrating. It's not necessarily bad to have a household of dogs of widely varying sizes, just be aware that when introducing a small one to a very large one there's a huge opportunity to get things off on the wrong foot. The little one's bound to feel some threat and intimidation, no matter how benign the big dog is, just by the sheer overwhelming size and the instinctive knowledge that a careless or clumsy misstep could be the end of the road for the small fry.
If you have more than one dog at home already, you can either start the introductions with the dog who's boss, following the logic that once the head honcho has accepted the newbie the others will follow suit, or start lower down on the totem with the most gregarious of the bunch or the most laid back, letting the new dog make some friends at the bottom, building confidence and having some advocates before meeting The Boss. Once again, you need to know your dogs to make this decision.
So, you've got the order of meeting all planned out, now you need to figure out where to do it.
A neutral territory is nearly always the best choice. Try to avoid places where your dogs have already staked too much of a claim if possible. A park where everyone can meet
on more of an equal footing and there's plenty of room so that no one has to feel crowded or pushed is an ideal choice, but for that you'll need help with transport and handling, and that isn't always possible.
One thing to remember, especially if you have to host the introductions at home, is to clear the area of any personal toys or other possessions that could spark an altercation. This is especially critical when you've done the individual introductions and you're working on the group dynamic. You'll have to use your best judgement on handing out treats. If you've got a dog who is a resource guarder or has some food aggression problems, it's probably going to be wise to skip the goodies for now. If that's not a problem, treats can be a great distraction and a help in the integration process, especially in keeping the new member of the pack calm and focused on you while being sniffed and prodded by the new roomies.
Remember, this isn't a process that can be rushed, and it's probably going to be awhile before you can turn your back on them . . . Oh, who am I kidding . . . Once they've got it all sorted out will be when you really have to keep your eyes open. There's no telling what sorts of schemes and plots they'll hatch behind your back. And you always thought it was the cat that was trying to take over your world.
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