Back in 2010 when we decided to add Charlie Bear to our household we had a resident 10-year-old Golden Lab named Rex. He shared his domain with cats but never another dog. We weren’t worried about Rex, he’d been socialized around other dogs at doggie day care, overnighters, and the dog park and dog beach.
What we didn’t know was how this new little rascal would fit in, so we did some homework. Dr. Jon’s PetPlace Newsletter had wonderful advice.
“If you have a dog and you’re thinking about getting another dog…choose wisely. The better the “match”, the easier the transition will be. A natural hierarchy will develop over the first few weeks and in most cases the older incumbent dog will and should occupy the “alpha position.”
Here are some tips for choosing another dog:
1. Sex – It’s best to choose a dog of the opposite sex. This will decrease the chance of aggression.
2. Breed – Research dog breeds and choose the one that has the best chance of getting along with your resident dog.
3. Personality – Make sure the dogs’ personalities match. If the incumbent dog has lots of energy for playing, it would be appropriate to get a new puppy or young adult dog. If the incumbent is unlikely to tolerate the antics and energy of an adolescent dog, consider getting an older dog.
Once you select your new dog, the “dog-to-dog” introduction is important. Here are some tips on how to introduce two dogs:
1. Keep it friendly – It may be possible to introduce the dogs in a relaxed manner by just letting them sniff and play, as long as both are known to be friendly with other dogs.
2. Take it slow – If you are not sure how the dogs will react, start off cautiously by taking them for a walk together on neutral territory (e.g. a park, not your yard). When they show friendly behavior toward each other or begin to ignore each other, move the exercise to your back yard. Finally, allow the dogs to be together in your home.
3. Watch for signs – Be aware that wagging tails do not necessarily mean that dogs are happy to see each other. A straight up tail that wags stiffly is a dominant sign that may signal aggression. If one dog’s tail is tucked down between its legs, that dog is afraid and nervous. This calls for a gradual, well-supervised approach to avoid making the dog even more fearful. If a dog’s tail is horizontal and wagging in a relaxed fashion, it’s all systems go!
4. The dominant dog will emerge – When the dogs eventually meet off-leash, one of them is going to need to establish dominance. This is a normal and necessary step in a dog-dog relationship, but sometimes the process can look and sound pretty scary. The dogs will maneuver around each other and may even scuffle to the point at which one dog ends up on his back, with the other dog standing over him. There may be some nipping and grabbing of the neck or throat. Try not to worry too much when this happens. It is normal for dogs to engage in such roughness. Once the dominant dog establishes himself, he probably won’t feel the need to repeat these maneuvers.
5. Support the dominant dog – Once the dogs are together, make sure that you support one dog as dominant (this will probably be the resident dog). Show him that he is “number one” by feeding and petting him first and giving him the favorite sleeping area. Don’t expect the dogs to share. Sharing isn’t normal for most dogs. Feed them separately (across the room) and don’t give really delicious chew toys (rawhides, pig ears) until the hierarchy is secure.
Introducing a new dog into the home can be a lot simpler when it’s done correctly. Don’t get upset when the resident dog tells the newcomer to “bug off.” This is how the new dog learns the house rules. Eventually they should become fast friends.”
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Because we read this, our reaction to Charlie Bear and his aggression toward Rex was not unexpected. We wholeheartedly thank Dr. Jon for this great advice. Here are a couple of comments from folks on Facebook: Mark Carlson (author of Confessions of a Guide Dog: The Blonde Leading the Blind): “I’ve read and been told by other service dog owners that in the case of a very dominant ‘alpha’ male like my guide dog, Musket, to get a female of the same breed so he won’t feel threatened by her.” And from Julie: “I’ve been thinking about getting a new little dog. Good stuff to know.”
Have you added a new dog to your household? How did it go? Share your experiences by commenting here and also send your photos of your loved and cherished pets by email and we’ll post on a future blog. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you are thinking of adding a new dog, did this post help you?
Hugs and love from B.J.
Woofs & wiggles from Charlie Bear