Welcome to the Pack: How to Introduce Another Dog into Your Family
Thinking about adding another furry friend to your family? Bringing a new dog home is an exciting event. Not only is your brood going to get fluffier, you’ll be able to create great memories with your new fur baby. With a little love, patience and preparation, you can help your dogs’ transition be a smooth one. TV Show Host and Professional Animal Trainer Joel Silverman breaks down what you should do to make sure your furry family members are prepared for success.
Do Some Planning Ahead of Time
There are a variety of factors that can impact just how well a new dog can integrate into your family. Some dogs are not a good fit for certain families and vice versa. By weighing these factors before you adopt or make that selection, you can help ensure that you find the right furry friend to join your family.
Find the Right Personality
Before you head to an animal shelter or find a quality dog breeder, you should consider what personality would be best fit for your household.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they don’t get the right dog for the whole family,” Silverman says. “A lot of dogs are returned to animal shelters when they don’t mix well with the family because they weren’t right for that family from the very beginning.”
Different breeds tend to feature different personality traits, each of which can be associated with a color. For example, a Red Dog is high-strung and high-spirited, like that cute little Jack Russell Terrier your kids fell in love with at the shelter. However, Red Dogs are easily excited and can get into trouble as a result. If you already have a busy lifestyle, or small children that also need your time and attention, and cannot dedicate the time and energy to a “red” dog breed, this is typically not the best environment for them.
Yellow Dogs are much more mellow. Golden Retriever, Labs, and mixes of those breeds are great examples of dogs that tend the be on the Yellow spectrum. In general, they’re going to be a lot more laid back and won’t be as reactive to kids being loud or other stimuli that would negatively affect other new dogs.
Of course, each individual dog and family situation is different. More challenging dogs, like those on the Red spectrum, can be amazing additions to your family with the right training and environment. Be sure to talk with the shelter or dog breeder about the personality of the dog, energy level, grooming expectations and training needs for the dog you are considering adding to your family upfront.
Consider the Ages of the Dog and Your Family
As much as people love puppies, they’re not always a good fit for every family. Caring for and training a puppy takes time, so families that have busy schedules or other commitments won’t be able to give the puppy the attention he needs to thrive. This is often an issue for parents with small children who want to add a little furry friend to their “pack”.
“I would really recommend not getting a puppy if you have small kids,” Silverman explains. “If your kids need a lot of time right now, it will most likely be challenging for you to be able to put in the time that a puppy needs.”
Instead, Silverman suggests getting a full-grown dog that won’t require as much attention right away. High-strung or timid dogs require extra patience and care at first, which may not be something you’re able to give. A mellow Yellow Dog will be easier to train, which could make for a better fit in the long run.
Introducing A New Furry Friend to Your Dog
The first time that your dogs meet is a big moment, especially if one dog has had the run of the house for a while. As a result, a dog can become territorial about his home if you’re not careful.
“All of a sudden a great dog can become aggressive and territorial,” Silverman says. “This is because he doesn’t know what’s going on. You just brought in another dog and turned it loose in the house.”
Carefully breaking the ice between your dogs is an important step to having them become used to each other. After a few steps, your dogs will begin to understand each other.
Take Them for a Walk
When you bring a new dog home, you want to have your new pooch and your other dog(s) meet in a neutral area. This can be in front of the house or down the street. Have both dogs on leashes and walk with them about 100 yards, making sure to keep the dogs about six feet apart. This allows the dogs to pick up each other’s scent and see each other. After some time, allow them to get a little closer together, but not close enough to truly meet.
Once you arrive back at your place, give the dogs about five seconds to briefly smell each other. Now you can walk them like you did before, except now the dogs can be about a foot apart, allowing them to get as close as six inches apart by the time you return. When you’re back at home, let them smell each other again. A lot of times, one dog will bow down and stick his butt in the air and wag his tail. That’s a great sign because that means he wants to play. However, not all dogs like to play, so don’t be worried if this doesn’t happen.
Bring Them to the Backyard
After you’re done with the first introduction, don’t go right into the house. Head to the backyard and let the dogs loose if your yard is fenced. The dogs will be able to run around, explore, and get to know each other. It’s important to watch the dogs to try and snuff out any aggressive behavior before anything has a chance to escalate.
After about 10 minutes in the backyard, you can let your original dog back into the house. In the meantime, stay outside with your new dog until he goes to the bathroom. Even if you’re told the dog is housebroken, it’s best to assume that a new furry friend will go to the bathroom in your house if given the chance. Once he relieves himself outside, you can bring him into the house, on a leash, for 10 to 15 minutes to help acclimate him to his new space. After that, let both dogs loose in the backyard again to continue getting to know each other.
Getting Your Dog Used to a New House
Once you’ve introduced your dog to your other furry friend, it’s time to help him adjust to his new home. Regardless of whether you already have a dog or you’re adding a furry friend to your family for the first time, there are some steps you should take to make sure the transition goes well.
Into the House
When you first bring a new dog into your house, it’s a good idea to keep him on a leash even after he’s gone to the bathroom outside. This leash will allow you to keep him near you so that he doesn’t have free reign of the house.
“Without a leash, a new dog will run around and start getting into things he shouldn’t,” Silverman says. “At that point, you’ll start following the dog all around the house and telling him ‘no’ the entire time.”
Keeping the dog on a leash will help you avoid this scenario. A six-foot leash will still give him enough room to move around and check out his surroundings, but not so much freedom that he’ll disappear into another room. After a few days, you can let the leash drag a bit. This helps extend his ability to move around, but you can still grab the leash if you need to reign him in a bit. By the fourth or fifth day, the dog should have learned not to run all over the house and you can take him off the leash for good.
Another important step once the dog is in the house is to have people kneel and get on the dog’s level early in the process so that the dog can come up to them and play while still on a leash. You want the dog to be able to spend some time acclimating to his new family, so this makes it easier for him to sniff you or give you kisses on his own terms.
Preparing Young Children for a New Dog
Adding a new furry friend to your family is exciting, but it’s important to make sure that the dog has some time to himself. This process is a big transition and it can be easy for the dog to be overwhelmed. Likewise, a new dog in the family can be overly exciting for small children. They will want to follow them everywhere, grab them, or chase them. This can scare a new dog and encourage bad behavior.
If you have children, make sure that they know that it’s not okay to chase the dog. Ensuring that your dog has some alone time early on can help him adjust on his on terms while setting some boundaries for your kids.
“If you have a dog that’s afraid, that’s the worst thing in the world because the dog wants to run away,” Silverman says. “Within a couple days, the dog will hide under a bed, kids will try to pull the dog out, and the dog may try to snap at the kids out of fear.”
Feeding Rituals and Treats
Feeding time is an important part of any dog’s life, but there can be some issues when you try to feed two dogs near each other.
“There are certain dogs that can be very protective of their food when you’re feeding them near another dog,” Silverman says. “A lot of times they’ll try to eat faster, and you don’t want that. You want them to be nice and relaxed.”
To solve this issue, Silverman suggests feeding dogs in separate rooms. Feeding dogs in their individual crates also works if they’re crate trained. Handing out treats should also be handled with caution in the first few weeks. Make sure that the dogs are together when you give out treats and have a treat in each hand. This will lead the dogs to focus on each hand so that they don’t get worried that they won’t receive a treat when you give them out.
Eventually, you’ll be able to treat your dogs separately without them becoming too anxious or aggressive. It’s also good to figure out which treats your new furry friend likes best. Silverman likes to use Bil-Jac Dog Treats because of the variety and quality of each treat. Over time, give your new dog small amounts of different treats and see which ones he likes the most. This way you can reward him with his favorite in the future.
Adding a New Friend to the Family
No matter how many dogs you add to your family, it’s always exciting to bring a new furry friend home. Over time, your original dogs will become more used to having a new dog in their pack. With just a few extra steps and lots of love, you’ll help make sure your newest family member starts off on the right paw.
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