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Bringing home a new dog is an exciting time for the owner, but your senior pet may not agree. To ensure both pets become happy, healthy, lifelong friends, the tone of the relationship must be set in the first few weeks–and it all starts with the introduction. The tips below will help you and your pets get off to a great start.
1. Make Sure your Dogs are Healthy
Ensuring all of your pets (both new and old) have their most up-to-date vaccines is an important step when undergoing this transition.
Thankfully, most animal shelters and adoption centers require their dogs to be vaccinated before leaving the facility. If you are taking home a puppy, be sure to clarify which shots they have received as they often need a series of vaccines at different ages. See the ASPCA’s site for more information on when to vaccinate.
2. Remember that YOU are the Alpha
Love and respect mean two very different things to a dog. As territorial pack animals by instinct, dogs respond best to control and structure over excessive spoiling and relaxed “rules.” Make it clear from the start that aggressive behavior between your senior dog and new dog will not be tolerated. Stay on the lookout for alpha-dog behavior and take preventative measures to ensure that it does not develop into physical aggression, which is often permanently damaging to dogs’ relationships. Dog training expert Uncle Matty offers some good advice about types of aggression and what to look out for in your dogs.
During your new and senior dogs’ first interactions, remember to stay relaxed and use positive vocal reinforcement when appropriate. Reinforcing undesirable behaviors (such as petting or soothing an agitated or aggressive dog) will only end in confusion of expectations and ultimately misbehaving dogs. Fighting and aggression is often the result of confusion about which dog is the dominant “pack leader” in the relationship. By taking a stand as the alpha leader, you take pressure and stress off of both dogs to decide who has the power in the relationship. There should be no confusion: YOU are the alpha!
3. Consistency is Key
While this is an extremely exciting time for you as an owner, developing ground rules that everyone in the home follows is crucial to set the stage for success. Take the time to sit down with your household before the new dog arrives and go over rules and expectations to ensure everyone is on the same page. Some questions to consider might include:
- Who will feed the dogs? When & where?
- Who will walk and exercise the dogs? How regularly? Together or separately?
- Who will be responsible for the training and house training the new dog?
- Will both dogs be allowed on the furniture?
- Where and when will they sleep? In crates? On dog beds?
While we always advise keeping dogs off the furniture (again, maintaining the owner as the alpha), the key here is developing a list of expectations to remain consistent. Dogs respond well to structure; making sure they are fed and walked at the same time each day will help ease their stress and anxiety resulting in happier, more obedient dogs. If you already have this routine in place for your current dog, slowly ease the new dog into the same process, monitoring both dogs’ reactions every step of the way.
4. The First few Weeks
So, you’re ready to bring home your new dog! Many pet owners make the mistake of hoping their dogs will simply “work it out.” But by setting the appropriate tone and using some of these tips, you can ensure your dogs are set up to succeed.
We recommend introducing the dogs in an open and safe environment outdoors. This will help reduce some of the stress the senior dog may feel by having his territory or home invaded. The outdoors offers an open and neutral environment for their first introduction. Enlist the help of some friends and keep both dogs on a leash, making sure to keep it somewhat loose, as a tight leash often agitates aggressive tendencies.
Let the dogs sniff each other with caution and look for any signs of aggression. If you notice one of these signs, reprimand him immediately with a strong verbal warning (cue: “NO!”). Encourage positive actions such as sniffing, tail wagging, and relaxed demeanor with positive vocal encouragement. Your dogs will sense and react to your tone and mood. Try to stay relaxed and positive; the goal is to have your dogs mirror your mood and react in a positive way to one another.
Monitor your dogs’ behavior very carefully during the first few weeks–and keep the dogs separated unless you are there to supervise. By keeping this transition slow and phasing the new dog into your family, your senior dog will feel less threatened and will have time to adapt to the changes.
5. Use your Tools!
Leashes, toys and crates, oh my! These tools can work in your favor if used correctly and consistently. We recommend taking preventative steps during the first few weeks to make sure your dogs understand what each tool means.
Using leashes on both dogs reminds them that you are the alpha and helps you closely monitor and avoid any aggression between one another. Toys are a fantastic tool to encourage your dog to exercise and foster a bond between you and your dog. If you notice that toys are causing tension between your new and senior dog, remove them and bring them out only during designated play times. Crates should be thought of as a safe-haven for your dog, not a place for punishment. Crates may be used initially to separate your new and senior dog until they become comfortable around one another–allowing them to approach and sniff one another without the threat of a physical fight. Eventually crates should be left open for your dogs to use when they need a place to retreat and relax. Keeping toys, water, and comfortable bedding in the crate are all good ways to encourage its usage.
Introducing a new dog into your home is an exciting time and we hope these tips were helpful to your transition process. Help spread the word by clicking the “Like” button below and feel free to ask questions and offer your success stories on our Facebook page!
Related posts: Top 5 Reasons to Adopt Your Next Pet
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