Introducing a New Dog to Your Pack

As a dog professional, I get a lot of clients that come into my work and discuss with me about getting another dog for their only dog. Most of the time, these individuals have some concerns and ask very good questions; however, there is always the occasional person that just decides to do it on a whim and has no idea how to properly introduce a new dog to the family.

These people usually come back to us in such a state of stress, they will even mention getting rid of the new dog because “it’s not just like my other dog” or “they are fighting all of the time and I can’t get them to stop!” Both of these situations are definitely difficult!

When you add a new pup to your home, you want everyone to be happy and get along. If you don’t introduce correctly and take the proper steps in doing this, though, you may end up with a bigger problem.

Below I will give a guideline on the steps you should take when deciding to add another dog to your family.

Do Your Research

This is important no matter if this is your first or your fifth dog! Spend plenty of time deciding the right breed to fit your family and your lifestyle. When adding a dog to a household with a dog, you need to keep your current dog in mind. What is their play style? Are there breeds they have issues with? Would a small dog be too overwhelmed by a big dog? Etc.

For example, I know that my dog doesn’t particularly like sight hounds. Their play style is too rowdy and she feels defensive; I also know she prefers male dogs and to be the instigator. So, if I were to choose another dog, I would look for a male dog that is either extremely patient or is able to return her same play style.

Introduce Them Beforehand

Once you have decided on a breed and if you are going to adopt or pick out a puppy, it’s time to have your dog meet some candidates. This is especially important if you are going to have a shelter dog as you don’t want to take it home only to return it again due to issues.

I would suggest going without your dog first to meet the dog and once you’ve chosen one, take your dog either to the shelter or ask them to meet you somewhere on neutral ground. You NEVER want to introduce a new dog on your property, as dogs can be extremely territorial and this will give you a bad start from the get-go.

If your dog can’t get along with the new dog on an unknown setting, then they definitely won’t get along in your home.

If all goes well and the dogs seem to like each other, let them play for awhile and try to return one or two more times before taking your new dog home.

With puppies, it is a little different. Puppies are not going to know how to behave around older dogs. At 8 or 12 weeks old, they are going to be shy, nervous, and extremely submissive. You should not allow your current dog to jump on them or completely overwhelm them as this can cause future issues with fear. Only allow greetings when your dog is calm and ready to meet the puppy nicely.

The puppy may feel a bit braver and may jump or teethe on your current dog; it is okay to let your dog correct the puppy, but don’t let it turn into aggression. If your dog has absolutely no tolerance for puppy behavior, then perhaps a puppy is not the right choice for your family. You don’t want any injuries to occur from an impatient older dog!

Bringing the New Dog Home

Once you get your new dog home, there should immediately be some ground rules.

  • Outside time should be monitored to make sure there is no bullying behavior at the start.
  • When you are not home, each dog should have its own quiet space, separated from each other so that there are no fights or that they don’t join forces and tear up your house!
  • Meal times should be separated so that you can determine if there will be any food aggression issues
  • Discipline should be the same for both dogs; it is a learning process for both of them and one dog cannot be favored over the other
  • At night dogs should sleep separately until you are sure they are safe to be left together

I know it seems a little harsh and maybe overdone, but you should definitely err on the side of caution rather than just assume your dog is going to be okay with a new family member.

Things that you should do with your current dog(s) and the new dog are:

  • Take walks with them
  • Do training exercises with them and reward them the same
  • Play with both of them
  • Show equal amounts of affection
  • Aside from the high-energy times (feeding, bed time, potty breaks, etc) give them time apart to regroup and spend some alone time. This will help keep the bond healthy, and not form them into an extremely co-dependent habit

I know it seems like a lot to remember but following these steps will help you maintain a healthy balance in your home with multiple dogs. Just know that they are animals and they will naturally have to establish a pack order; they will figure it out on their own. If you are finding that the two or more dogs are having issues way above your level, seek help from a professional trainer or animal behaviorist. Do not assume that you can handle everything, or that the only answer is to get rid of a dog. There is help out there!

If done properly, your dog will have a best friend for life. This will help keep them socialized and not feel lonely when you can’t be home. Plus, it doubles the joy in your life! Who can say no to more than one dog 🙂