Consider Breed, Gender When Adding New Dogs to Your Pack
PetSmart Cathy Sigmon/PetSmart
Bringing home a new baby can create anxiety for an older sibling. Similarly, introducing a new dog to your existing pack will likely cause upheaval and stress for pets and Pet Parents alike. While we may hope the new family member will be greeted with happy tail wags, the reality is that animals need to re-establish territory and pack order when a new pet joins the fold. Also, behavior differs by animal breed, sex, and age and can be unpredictable. There are actions you can take, however, to help minimize the disruption.
1. One of the best preparations for introducing a new household member is enrolling your existing dog or dogs in an obedience class, if you have been casual about training. Once your voice is his command, you will have significantly more authority to guide the initial encounters and assure a successful blended family.
2. Consider your current dog's personality - is he submissive or dominant? Playful or laid-back? A new puppy can stimulate an older dog's "inner puppy," as I can attest. When I brought home my new Dachshund puppy, Ollie, my Poodle-mix, Mia, was disdainful and snappish. After several weeks, she showed a remarkable turnaround, and no one was more astonished than Ollie!
3. Researching breeds can also help determine whether certain breed traits are more amenable to groups. When my husband and I got married and blended our dog families, conflict ensued between my gentle male Labrador and my husband's dominant female Coonhound. Subsequent research determined that Coonhounds (especially females) are often dog-aggressive. Years of togetherness and extensive training never fully eliminated the chance of sudden dog battles.
4. Bringing together two males or two females is considerably tricker than having one of each sex. Neutering male dogs should help with aggressive tendencies. Consider matching a new dog's personality type to your current dog - they can be rambunctious together or snooze together, depending on their tendencies, but one snoozer and one player can be problematic. You may want to consider dogs of roughly the same size, although my small-medium-large dog family is lively and convivial.
5. It's best to disrupt an existing pack order as little as possible, so respect a dominant dog's needs to eat and go outside first. However, don't reward new behaviors that are obsessive or unduly protective.
6. Once the new dog is in your home, a further precaution is to alternately crate the dogs, leaving one out to freely explore while the other is safely confined. When their behavior is more relaxed, you can move to leashed, supervised encounters. Don't leave the dogs unattended at any time until their actions have been reliably friendly for a week or two. If you have more than one dog already, introduce the newcomer to each pet individually before bringing them all together.
7. At least initially, separate the dogs feeding bowls and highly desirable toys to minimize conflicts. At the first few meetings, make sure items such as treats, bones, bowls and other important objects are removed. Each dog should have his own bowl, bed and toys, although a comfortable pack may eventually play interchangeably with toys and even share beds.