We have recently introduced another dog into our family. She is a 16 month old Border Collie. In fact she is Star’s Sister Star?
I was called to her home where she was experiencing some issue regarding resource guarding of the owner and the children in the family. This was obviously a very tricky situation made worse by the fact that she had progressed her fear based behaviour to being aggressive towards all male figures. To cut a long story short, she was basically too much for the couple, so when I offered to re-home and take Star myself, they were relieved, and of course a little sad. So this decision has broken my cardinal rule of not taking on a dog that I am training, but hey it was Stars sister after all.
We haven’t introduced another adult dog into our family for some years so it has really made me stop and think about how we were going to make it a success.
So here are my top tips if you are going to introduce another dog into your family.
1) Build a bond before you bring them home.
Visit your new dog by yourself as much as you can before you bring them home. This way you can start to play simple games that are going to build their confidence around you. It will be so much easier for your new dog to be accepted by the others if they already have an understand of the family values and rules.
2) Explore the garden first.
When you bring your new dog home make sure you take them out into the garden first so they can smell all the other animals in the family. Give them a good 30-40 minutes to explore the area without any other dogs being present. This will also allow them to burn off any anxious energy from the ride home.
3) Do the same for your existing dogs.
Swop out your new dog for your other dogs. Make sure your new dog goes somewhere quiet where they cannot see your existing dogs. Let your existing family smell the new dog trails in the grass. If they have urinated this will tell your existing dogs everything about your new one.
4) The first introduction.
Make sure you have at least two people present when you introduce the new dog to your family dogs. This should be done on a lead.
Bring them 2 metres apart and let them just look at each other. Don’t let them pull towards each other and more importantly don’t talk to them. If they seem to be non-reactive then allow them to touch nose to nose for 2-3 seconds, then bring
them back to 2 metre again. Don’t let them do the spinning around and but sniffing each other. If after the initial meeting they seem to be friends, start to take them for a walk together about 1 metre apart. Allow them to naturally come together and sniff each other if they want to.
Look out for all those displacement behaviours that dogs do to diffuse tension, like lip licking, yawning, looking away, sniffing. If your dogs mirror each other its going well.
5) Allow your existing dog off lead.
Once they have built up some trust, you can let your existing dog off lead. This may take a few days or even weeks. Its important to make sure that both dogs have the confidence to be around each other before you let them run around with each other. Firstly let the dog run around for a few minutes before you re-lead them. Build this up slowly until; they are completely comfortable.
6) Allowing your rescue dog off lead.
After 10 minutes if they seem to be ok you can let the new dog off lead as well. Depending on their relative ages they may play or they may just wander around. Do not allow the play to get too rough at this stage. Let the dogs build trust for each other. That way if mistakes are made then they’ll be more tolerant. It’s important that your existing dog is off lead first as they will set the tone. You should find that your rescue dog wants to fit in so they just copy your other dog.
7) Feeding to ensure tension is kept low.
For the first few week’s feed both dogs in a separate crate, so you don’t reinforce any resource guarding of food. Also sleep them in a crate so they have their own space. You may decide to continue this for ever, especially if you have multiple dogs in your family.
8) Hierarchy never works.
Don’t try and enforce any hierarchy on the dogs by treating one dog any different to the other. Its been scientifically show over and over again that dogs naturally live in a co-operative way, enforcing a hierarchy on them is only going to result in a lack of confidence in your dogs and that could create reactive moments.
9) It take time, do rush.
Give your new dog time to settle in before you put too much pressure on them. Let them find their own feet and understand what all those new things are around them. If we go into the training too strong at the beginning we may find the dogs get overwhelmed and struggle to cope.
10) Regular exercise is so important.
Regular walks with both dogs will start to form a strong bond between them and keep those stress levels low. Make sure you give them plenty of exercise, separately and together. It’s very important that you keep your new dog on lead for the next few months. Give your dog time to build a bond with you before you expect them to recall faultlessly. Chances are they aren’t going to come straight back and that could be putting you dog in danger.
Finally, always remember that dogs don’t live on our time scale. It will take as long as it takes for your dogs to become friends.. And like all family members sometimes thy’ll fall out, doesn’t mean they can’t still be friends, just means the trust wasn’t as strong as we thought.