First we looked at how to choose a compatible dog to add to your family you are ready to bring your new dog home. But before you do, make sure that know the do’s and the don’ts for successful integration. You cannot just bring the dog home, put the two dogs together, and hope for the best. In today’s article I take the guess work out of this process. Know what to do and what to expect and this process will go smoothly.
Before You Bring The Dog Home
You will want to make sure that you have all the supplies that you need for your new dog before the new dog arrives home. Beds, dishes, and even toys should not be shared with the other dog. Also, you will definitely want to have a crate handy for the new dog. Even if you do not plan on always crating the dog, you will need a crate for the time being. If you need help with crate training, please refer to my article, An Introduction to Crate Training. Also, make sure that you have someone available to help you on the day you bring your dog home as you should plan on walking all the dogs together before you ever bring them into the house together.
The Dog Arrives Home
Have your helper bring out your leashed dog from your house
With the new dog also on a leash, pick a neutral territory for both dogs to meet. Make sure that you encourage butt to nose meeting as face to face meetings are considered to be a more hostile way to greet another dog. Also, make sure that leashes are not tight during the meetings as this encourages dogs to charge forward. Please make sure to check out my article, Dealing With Leash Aggression, to avoid mishandling the dogs and adding more problems to this on-leash meeting.
Walk the dogs
When the dogs have calmed down from their initial meeting, begin walking the dogs. At first both you and the helper are going to walk far enough apart where the dogs do not react to each other. As you walk, begin reducing the distance between the dogs. If either dog becomes reactive do not bring them closer together yet. Just keep walking and try again in a few minutes. Ideally, you want the dogs to eventually be walking in close proximity to each other.
If possible take both leashes and walk both dogs together. You can have one dog on each side to begin with. This walk is about bonding as a group so pick a quiet route without much noise or dog traffic. When the dogs are able to calmly walk beside each other without reacting and they are well exercised, you are ready to come back to the house.
Inside The House
Once inside the house, you must carefully monitor and supervise all their interactions. Do not assume that just because they seem to get along that suddenly a fight will not break out. The first three weeks will be the most challenging and volatile time. During this time, you MUST be vigilant and stop all behaviours before they escalate into an explosion. Once dogs start fighting, you are reduced to trying to separate them. If you diffuse the problem behaviours as soon as they show up before they have grown in intensity, you can avoid a full blown dog fight.
Understand the body language
Familiarize yourself with dog body language so you can accurately interpret the communication signals from each dog. Please refer to my article, Understanding Husky Body Language, for a more detailed explanation of dog body language. Learn that not every growl is vicious and that a wagging tail does not always mean that a dog is being happy or playful. Learn how to read the dog’s communication signals and you can nip any problems in the bud before they get out of control.
Know and Monitor The “Hot Spots”
During the transition periods there are certain items and locations that have a high potential to trigger a dog fight. Listed below are some common volatile areas that may potentially trigger a dog fight. Be proactive and prevent the fight before it starts.
Avoid free feeding (food available all the time) as food can trigger food aggression or resource guarding between the dogs. All feeding should be done in the confines of the crates to avoid fights. Do not place crates in close proximity to each other as it will cause unnecessary anxiety. If necessary place a barrier between the dog crates to obstruct the dog’s view of each other while they are eating. Also, the use of treats, bones, chew treats should be avoided unless the dogs chew them inside of the crate to avoid triggered fights over the food. NEVER leave these items out unattended.
Toys should be dispensed and their use must be closely monitored. Dogs should not be near each other if toys are being used. Toy sharing should not be encouraged as this might trigger issues of jealousy or resource guarding issues. Toys should not be left out unattended. All play should refrain from competitive games like of tug of war, chasing each other, or wrestling until the dogs have had a better chance to bond.
Avoid Squeaky Toys and Long Rope Toys During Transition Time. Squeaky toys make a noise that sounds like an animal in distress, which is why dogs tend to like them in the first place. The last thing you want is to create unwanted excitement with the dogs. Long rope toys that encourage tug of war games should also be discouraged for now as they could trigger competition and resource guarding.
Keep all Beds and Sleeping Spots Separated. They MUST be monitored for issues of resource guarding and dogs trying encroach into the other dog’s space.
Know When To Intervene
Be on the look out for these subtle cues that behaviours are about to boil over. If you see these signals, immediately intervene. Put distance between the dogs until they can visibly calm down. Give corrections to behaviour when necessary. Remember to show the dogs what you DO want them to do instead of fighting or squabbling.
If you see these signals, it’s time to intervene:
- Eye to eye staring and challenging.
- Lip curls accompanied by snarls or growls.
- Stiffly carried body.
- Head held very high with ears held back or forward.
- Tail raised and standing erect and still or flagging.
- Hackles raised.
For a more detailed explanation of dog aggression, how to recognize the signs, and knowing how to work with these behaviours please refer to my articles, Aggression and Biting In Huskies; How To Deal With An Aggressive Husky; Different Types Of Aggression In Huskies; Offensive, Defensive, And Fearful Huskies; And How to Avoid Dog Bites.
The Daily Do’s and Don’ts
- Daily walks as a group. These walks are not just about exercise, they are crucial to build and strengthen the bond between the group.
- Supervise all interactions between the dogs. If the dogs cannot be directly supervised, then either crate the dogs or at very least place a barrier between them so they cannot have access to each other to fight in your absence.
- Barricade off other parts of the house to keep dogs restricted to those areas where they are visible to you.
- Have all the rules and expectations the same for both dogs. People often give extra attention to the new dog thinking that it will help in the transitions process but it only causes problems with the existing dog who may become jealous or resentful of the new dog.
- Create a new daily routine and adhere to it. It helps to make the dogs feel more secure when they know what to expect in their environment.
- Carefully supervise young children and other pets when they interact with the new dog. Do not assume that the new dog’s behaviour is going to be fine.
- Intervene quickly to all signs of dominance.
- Familiarize yourself with how to handle a physical altercation should one happen. If a fight breaks out you have no time to go look up information on what to do about a dog fight.
- Allow dogs together while unsupervised.
- Just place the dogs together out in the yard and assume that they will “work it out” among themselves. In the wild, dogs settle issues of rank by fighting. You do not want to encourage fights. If the humans demonstrate that they are the only leaders then the dogs have no choice but to fall in under their leadership.
- Allow dogs up on the furniture or beds until the dogs have bonded as a pack (about one to three months) Being high up off the ground can add to the issue of signals for elevated social ranking. Do not add fuel to the fire.
- Allow any postures or body language related to dominance or any issued challenges or threats. Immediately call a halt to these behaviours.
- Encourage the sharing of toys, food, or beds until dogs have had a chance to bond.
Why Is My New Dog’s Behaviour Suddenly Different Now?
You initially choose a dog based on the behaviours that you saw exhibited by them. But what happens when the behaviours of the dog are now different from when you first saw him at the shelter dog rescue?
For many owners of adopted dogs the reality is that one day suddenly the personality of their adopted dog suddenly changes. Some owners are lucky and they witness a delightful personality emerge from their dog. Some owners are not quite that lucky.
Dogs that were once timid and submissive may suddenly become obnoxious and pushy. Dogs that might have first gotten along with other animals in the house, now suddenly attack and fight with them. Dogs that once responded to cues now suddenly don’t listen. What happened? What happened is that the Honeymoon period is over! And what unsuspecting owners do not understand is that often it was the signals that humans gave to the dog in those first days and weeks that helps to contribute to the attitude that the dog later adopts.
The Honeymoon Period
The reason that your dog behaved differently in the beginning of your relationship has nothing to do with a willful misrepresentation on the part of the dog. Rather, this phenomenon occurs partly as the dog’s reaction to the severe adjustment to the dog’s existence. It’s entire world and everything in it has changed and the dog shuts down emotionally (some dogs shut down a little, some dogs shut down a lot) while they try to absorb and sort out their place in this new world.
But dogs also change in response to the signals and cues first given by the owners as to where the dog fits into the new society. If the owner has not set any limits on behaviours then the dog can easily assume that he can do whatever he wants and that he must surely be the leader. When owners understand that this is what is going on for their dogs it makes it much easier to have compassion and understanding for some of the challenging behaviours they may encounter once the Honeymoon Period is over.
What Can I Do?
You can help make this transition time easier for your dog by making sure that you have a good sustainable plan for your dog right from the start. Having one set of lax or unsustainable rules and expectations in the beginning of your relationship and then changing those rules later on will only serve to add to the feelings of confusion and instability that your dog is already feeling. From day one implement a routine for the dog.
Make sure walks, feeding, and play time routines are maintained in a predictable way. Make sure that expectations of behaviour are put into place immediately and that they too are sustainable. Dogs thrive on stability and predictability because they equate these things to their safety and survival.
Make sure too that you clearly show your dog, in way that is easily understood by him, what behaviours you do not condone AND make sure that you also show him what you DO want him to do. Far too often owners stop their instructions at telling their dogs NO but never show them what behaviours they want them to do instead of what they are now doing.
You can read more about his topic in my article, Why Did My Adopted Husky’s Behaviour Suddenly Change?
The keys to a successful pack integration
- Planning ahead. Make sure that you that you have a well thought out sustainable long term plan for being a multi-dog household.
- Choosing the right dog to fit with your family, your lifestyle, and your with your current dog.
- Make a commitment to be a strong leader and a responsible dog owner.
As always, we welcome your questions, comments and your stories regarding this topic. When we share our stories we may well be helping someone who is currently struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.