Welcome to the Pack: How to Introduce Another Dog into Your Family
Bringing home a new dog is an exciting time for the whole family. TV Show Host and Professional Dog Trainer Joel Silverman breaks down how with a little love, patience, and preparation you can help your newest furry family member transition into their forever home.
Before You Start: Find What Type of Dog is Right for You
It can be hard to resist the urge to head to the local animal shelter or quality dog breeder and pick the first cute pup you see. Before you do that, you should consider what personality would be the best fit for you and your family.
“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.”
Silverman has created a method of assigning colors to different breeds to help pet parents understand that different breeds exhibit different personality traits. These colors help categorize breeds so new parents understand the expectations associated with taking care of that dog as well as how to properly train their new furry friend.
Red Dogs are high-energy and high-spirited, like Jack Russell Terriers and Australian Cattle Dogs. They tend to excite easily and can get into mischief as a result. If you have a busy lifestyle or cannot dedicate the necessary time and attention to an energetic “red” breed, these dog’s needs may not be the best fit for your family.
Yellow Dogs are known for their mellow, laid-back attitudes. Golden Retrievers, Labs, and most mixed breeds are great examples of dogs that fall on Silverman’s yellow spectrum. In general, these mellow yellow pups are going to be relaxed and great around kids.
Speaking of children, another important factor you will want to consider when bringing a new furry family member home is age of the dog as well as the age of your family. As much as people love puppies, caring for and training them takes time. Families with small kids and busy schedules probably won’t be able to give a lively puppy the attention they need to thrive.
“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.”
Silverman suggests that instead of a puppy, these families should consider getting a full-grown dog that won’t require as much hands-on attention.
Each individual dog and family situation is different. Before embracing a new pup, talk with the shelter or dog breeder about personality, energy level, grooming expectations, and training needs to make sure you can provide the right home for these lovable friends.
How to Introduce Dogs to Each Other
If you already have a pup at home, the first time that your dogs meet is a big moment. You’ll want to carefully break the ice and monitor how your dogs interact when your furry friends meet.
“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.”
Silverman suggests following a few simple rules to ensure both your new dog and your resident pup feel comfortable and safe during their initial introductions.
Find Neutral Ground
When you bring a new dog home, you want to have a calm, neutral area for them to meet. Consider going to a local park or open field. It is important to find a space where neither dog has “claimed” through frequent visits or walks. This neutral space will make sure both dogs feel comfortable and help avoid any territorial behavior.
You will also want to clear the neutral space of anything that may cause a tussle, like chew toys and dog bones. Your main goal is to create a welcoming, nonthreatening environment for both pups.
Walk the Dogs Together
Once you have your neutral meeting spot, bring them in on-leash so they can see each other from a distance. Watch for body language queues to gauge how each dog feels. If neither dog is exhibiting tense postures, a tucked tail, or freezing in place, feel free to move closer together.
Once the pups are about six feet apart, try going for a walk. This activity allows the dogs to not only see more of each other but smell each other from a safe distance. If both dogs exhibit relaxed, calm behaviors towards one another, consider decreasing the distance between them. Separate the dogs if they start showing signs of stress, but if they seem relaxed you can try walking them side by side.
Time to Go Off-Leash
Resist the temptation to go right into the house when you return home after a successful first introduction. Head to the backyard for some off-leash fun. The dogs can run around, explore, and get to know their new furry friend. Dogs are social animals, so this playtime is a great way to help them bond. It will also give you the opportunity to further evaluate their body language and interactions before bringing them inside.
How to Introduce a Dog to Your 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.
When you first bring a new dog home, send your resident dog on an outside stroll. This will help create a non-threatening, calm environment for the new pup to explore. You will want to keep your new dog on a leash while they get acclimated to their new surroundings to avoid an issue.
“Without a leash, a new dog will run around and start getting into things they shouldn’t,” Silverman says. “At that point, you’ll start following the dog all around the house and telling them ‘no’ the entire time.”
After a few days, you can let the leash drag a bit so your pup can roam more freely. Keeping the leash on allows you to grab the leash if you need to control a troublesome situation. By the fourth or fifth day with your new friend, they have become accustomed to all the nooks and crannies of their new house and won’t be as likely to run around exploring. You can now take them off the leash for good.
Preparing Young Children for a New Dog
Adding a new furry friend to your family is exciting, but this process is a big transition, and it can be easy for the dog to be overwhelmed. If you have children, make sure they know that it’s not okay to follow them everywhere, grab them, or chase them.
When you set boundaries with your children and make sure that your new dog has some alone time early on, it will help your new addition adjust on their own terms.
Feeding Rituals and Treats
Feeding time is an essential 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 you start by feeding dogs in different rooms or separated by a gate. Doing this also makes it easier to provide your individual dogs with the specific nutrition they need, like small breed puppy food for a new puppy, or senior select formula dog food for your lifelong furry friend.
As for treats, make sure that the dogs are together when you give out tasty snacks like Bil-Jac Dog Treats. Lead the dogs to focus on both of your hands and show there is a treat in each. When you do this, both pups will understand that there is more than one treat and they’ll both receive a snack.
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 resident dogs will become more used to introducing 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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