"Hanging out on a Northern Spring day"
March 21, 2010: Blog Entry #2:
Why Can't we all just get along?
I will focus future blog entries on aggression in
its many forms, but I'd like to talk about how to properly introduce a new dog,
a friend/family member's dog, or someone's dog you got roped into looking after
for the weekend into your existing dog's home. Many times people will
bring a new dog home, whether from a shelter or as a puppy, and the current dog
gets very upset and can display a high degree of aggression. There are
some that would get rid of the old, and in with the new if this occurs, or
others will make their new pets live separate, but equal lives. Following
a few simple tips, a smooth transition is entirely possible, regardless of what
breeds, sex or age each dog is.
Let's first look at why dog #1 is being
aggressive... dogs are territorial by nature. Depending on the temperament
of the dog, one can have a dog who is very passive/submissive or very
dominant/territorial, regardless of breed. A dominant dog will typically
be more territorial, which means it is more likely to feel like it must guard
what is perceives as its home and lands. Some dogs think an entire
neighbourhood is theirs; others may just be territorial over their bed/food;
while others are complete pushovers and are indifferent to whomever treads on
Regardless of the temperament type of dog #1, the
dogs should be introduced on neutral territory, like the street or the ball
field down the road. If dog #1 has existing dog aggression issues, perhaps
they should be dealt with before considering another dog. By introducing
on neutral turf, you are allowing the dogs to get to know one another, their
body language and their smells in a place that neither have a strong connection
to. Once they seem to get along comfortably enough there, walk them home
together and into the house together. The owner goes first, followed by
each dog. One person, one dog. Dog #1 and his handler should go
Before bringing the second dog home, it is
important to remove all potential flashpoints. Pick up all toys, bones,
balls, dog beds and bowls. Allow the new dog to get a feel for the house
once it comes in. Allow the dogs to go room to room and investigate
everything. Make sure the new dog has a chance to fully empty his bladder
outside to reduce the chances of any marking that may occur. When feeding
the dogs, food bowls are down, with owner supervising until both dogs are done.
They should eat at opposite sides of the same room or perhaps even in different
rooms. If the food is not gone in a few minutes, pick up and put down at
the next feeding time. It is perfectly normal for a dog not to eat for a
day or two upon entering a new home environment.
Dog #1 will look to the owners for leadership and
examples. At NO time do you allow dogs to fight. They have ways of
establishing themselves, and growls, and maybe even a light snap are normal
behaviours. A fight is where both dogs are trying to hurt one another.
It is up to the owner(s) to establish themselves as the dominant one in the
house. That way, if there is a tussle, the dogs aren't fighting for what
they believe is top spot. Strong central leadership is important if you
want a stable, cohesive pack. Break up all fights immediately, punishing
proportionally based on fault/intensity. For example, if the new dog is
just defending itself because Dog #1 launched into him, you punish dog #1 and
possibly even comfort the new dog, if he seems distressed by the encounter.
Obedience training, preferably for both dogs, is
necessary to make sure there is structure and boundaries put in place, so both
dogs understand the rules. Allow them to play together, work together and
hang out together, and you will create a happy, stable pack unit that all can
enjoy and take comfort from. Be firm, be loving, be just.
"Puppy pack still has much to learn"