A client came to me the other day, for help introducing a new puppy to her older, cranky-ish male terrier. She was terrified of the dogs meeting each other, fearful the older dog would fight first and ask questions later. I realized at the end of the session, that I had walked her through what must be a terribly anxious scenario for many other dog owners. During our session, she kept saying, “I would never have thought to do that!”, or “That’s just opposite of what I would have tried.” I decided to write a blog post around the advice I gave her.
Here it is:
1 ~ Choose a neutral place to for the existing family dog to meet the newcomer. A fenced outdoor area or large room is best – but NOT on the family dog’s turf. If dogs meet each other on the existing dog’s home turf, s/he might feel the need to guard it from the “intruder”.
2 ~ Remove all toys/food/other high-value objects from the meeting area. Again, you don’t want to encourage competition over a special resource.
3 ~ Decide which of the two dogs is most likely to be ‘snarky’ or bite-y. Attach a drag leash to that dog’s flat collar. (No training collars).
4 ~ No human interaction, please. No talking, no petting, no nothing. No physical affection to either dog. Let the meeting occur in its purest, natural form. Inserting yourself into the mix can sometimes make you the object of jealousy, especially for the existing family dog. Jealousy causes fights. Don’t we know!
5 ~ Do NOT pull on the leash, even if you think the dogs are approaching “critical mass” and a fight might break out at any moment. If a fight IS on the brink, pulling on the leash can actually tip the scale and cause the fight to begin. Only use the leash to extract one of the dogs if a skirmish actually occurs. Otherwise, leave them alone.
6 ~ If the dogs come close to where you are standing, move away from the dogs. Distance yourself physically from both dogs whenever possible. Again, it’s the jealousy thing, as well as the two’s-company, three’s-a-crowd thing.
7 ~ If you are sitting in a chair, stand UP if the dogs congregate near your feet. Sitting, you too close to the action, and again more likely to be that “bone of contention.”
8 ~ Do NOT reprimand one dog in front of the other. That just messes with the hierarchy that the dogs are trying diligently to determine. Let them figure out who will be boss.
9 ~ Don’t predetermine who should be boss and who should play second fiddle. Let nature and the dogs figure that out! The boss might not be whom you think, or even whom you want. Nature might have other plans, and you must go along.
10 ~ When both dogs seem to be walking around comfortably, repeat the same process in the existing dog’s backyard. If that goes well, repeat the process inside the family dog’s home. Then you’re set!