Introducing Dogs Into Homes
With Other Dogs
By ed Frawley
The problems encountered when introducing a new dog into a home which already has another dog are often underestimated and misunderstood by pet owners. This can be a difficult and potentially dangerous situation when its not handled correctly. You only need to go to Q&A section on my web site and read the hundreds of emails I have on dog fights.
Many people think they can just bring a new dog home and let the dogs work things out themselves. For the lucky ones this works out OK, but more often than not people find themselves in the middle of a dog fight and wonder what went wrong.
Dogs are pack animals. The average pet owner does not have a clue about how strong the genetic instincts are that float just under the fur of their lovable family pet.
The average pet owner does not realize how the addition of a second or third dog into their home will trigger a genetic pack drive or rAnK DrIVE response in their best friend. In fact many people are shocked and confused when they see the aggression that results from their family dog.
There is usually more than one thing going on that result in these problems. To name just a few; a house dog is often territorial; they can be rank or dominant; or there can be inter-male or inter-female issues that result in aggression.
Yesterday, I had a lady write me who has a serious problem. She owned 30 house dogs. People like her are called dog collectors. She takes in strays and if you can believe it she keeps the majority of them in her home.
The woman realized that she has an obsessive compulsive disorder.
As obvious as it is, this lady has created a huge dog pack and seen some awesome dog fights. The fact is the genetic instincts that control her 30 dog pack are the exact same instincts that start to flow in a home which only has 3 dogs. Three dogs are a dog pack.
tHrEE Dogs ArE A Dog PAcK !
The vast majority of pet owners don’t realize that 3 dogs are a dog pack.
Here are some of the issues that develop when people create dog packs:
Dogs become much more territorial (just like a wolf pack)
Three dogs will develop a pack or rAnK orDEr which includes a pack leader. Every dog in the pack knows exactly what it’s rank is within that dog pack and if they don’t feel they have a strong human pack leader, one of the three dogs will step to the line and become the leader.
Remember that a dog can love you and not respect you.
These are two totally different things.
Most dogs don’t want to be pack leaders. When it’s forcedon them they get stressed and nervous.
When a new dog is added to a home every dog in that house has to re-establish its personal ranking within the new family pack. Re-establishing rank is where dog fights come from.
By the way, the worst dog fights are inter-female dog fights (they are fierce)
When fights begin in a larger pack (4 or more dogs), most of the time all the dogs will gang up on the newer dog.
Once a dog has been attacked it is often traumatized for life. These dogs will always be leery of meeting new dogs.
In fact, once a dog has been attacked it will often become dog aggressive and automatically want to fight any new dogs that it sees.
Unless they receive the correct training these dogs will be fighters for the rest of their lives. They take the approach that a good offense is their best defense.
When dogs have strong pack leaders this does not happen. The human pack leader makes it crystal clear that this aggressive behavior is uncalled for and will not be tolerated.
In addition the human pack leader shows his dog or dogs that he will protect them FROM OTHER DOGS. This is very important issue that the average dog owner doesn’t realize, but I guarantee you your dog does.
Our goal in introducing a new dog into a family which already has other dogs comes down to “bringing another member into the family pack in a manner that is seamless and nonviolent”.
I can’t and won’t give you a step by step way to do this for every dog. Every dog is different, every owner has their own strengths and weaknesses and every pack has its own personality.
What I will do is provide you with training steps. It will be your responsibility to determine how many of these steps you need to use.
With this said I caution you about going to fast and skipping steps. You have nothing to lose in letting this process take some time and using all the steps, you have a lot to lose if you screw up and end up with a dog fight.
The most important part of this process is to get and use dog crates. We have a dog crate for every dog in the house. Just because your current dogs don’t use crates is not a good enough reason to not use them in this process.
We put the new dog in a dog crate in our home where the other dogs can go up and smell the new comer. If our house dogs growl at the new dog, we immediately step right in and give a strong correction.
Your job as tHE PAcK LEADEr Is to sHoW Your Dogs tHAt You WILL not toLErAtE AggrEssIon
toWArDs tHIs nEW PAcK MEMBEr.
Pack leaders decide when there will be a fight and by your stopping aggression you are reminding them who the leader is. If you want to learn about corrections you can read the article I wrote titled The Theory of Corrections in Dog Training.
We put prong collars or REMOTE COLLARS or dominant dog collars on our house dogs and let them drag a short leash around the house. If they growl we then have the tools in place to give an appropriate correction.
If you have a rank problem between you and your dog then you are going to have to deal with that before you introduce this new dog. If need be you may want to get DVD DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS.
There is no reason to rush the introduction of a new dog into your home. It can take weeks or even months for that matter. We have 5 house dogs. We have 5 crates in our basement furnace room. Three of our dogs can be out together and the other two are never out when another dog is loose. The odds are they never will be out with other dogs. We accept this as a fact of life.
We rotate our dogs through the house, through their dog crates and through the outside dog kennels and yards.
During the period that you are introducing an adult dog into your home you will have times when your existing dogs are in their crates and the new dog is loose or on a line in the house. This is the time that you establish your relationship with this new dog. This is done through grooming, walks, play, and obedience training.
Establishing a relationship means that you are subtly teaching the dog that you are the boss (or pack leader). This is done by controlling every aspect of this dogs life. I have written extensively on this process and it’s covered in my DVD on dominant dogs.
Even if you don’t have a dominant dog you should still read the article I wrote titled Dealing with the
Dominant Dogs. Being aware of the kinds of situations which can lead to dominant behavior can help to circumvent this type ot behavior.
This is the protocol we use in our home to introduce new dogs and puppies.
Now back to introducing a the dogs.
During the first weeks the only time our dogs are around one another is when one of them is in a crate and the others are loose. We will know when they are beginning to accept one another because they will begin to ignore one another.
This means that they are beginning to accept one another as pack members.
When that happens you can start to think about how to introduce the dogs outside of the crates.
We always handle introductions with both dogs on leash and either a prong collar or a dominant dog collar. I would like to make the point here that for this work I prefer a dominant dog collar over a prong collar.
Many times a prong collar correction can over stimulate a dog and result in redirected aggression. This means a stressed dog attacking either the handler or the other dog.
I explain it to new handlers like this - a prong can put more drive into a dog and a dominant dog collar takes drive out of a dog. At this point we want to take drive out of a dog.
We handle the introduction by taking the dogs for walks together. If there is even the slightest possibility of a fight we will muzzle the dogs (more on that later) The bottom line is to error on the side of caution and safety.
Your first walks should be away from your home and the route you take should not be the normal route you have walked your house dogs for the past 3 years. They consider that route their personal territory and you run the risk of territorial aggression.
During the introductory walks keep the leash loose. If they dogs pull they need a firm POP correction. A tight leash can causes frustration in the dogs and this could trigger re-directed aggressive.
If things go well on these walks then that’s great, but again there is no hurry. You have the rest of your dog’s lives to get things settled. One mistake at this stage could lead to a fight from which some dogs never mentally recover.
When the walks have gone well we will introduce them on either side of a chain link fence. The leash is dropped and dragging on the ground. One dog goes inside the yard by itself and the second dog is on a leash outside the yard.
They can sniff through the fence like they did through the dog crate, but here they feel less restricted. They certainly cannot get into a real fight. I demonstrate this process in my DVD - DEALING WITH A DOMINANT DOG.
That DVD has excellent examples of dogs being aggressive through fences. The DVD also demonstrates when a smaller woman needs to consider a remote collar to be able to handle a large dog.
When the walks and fence are going well there comes a time to allow your dogs to meet face to face when you are not holding the leashes. Allow them to sniff one another. Talk to them in a firm commanding neutral voice.
Keep the meeting short. Then take them for a walk together. If there is any growling they always get a VERY STRONG VERBAL NO !!
Be prepared to use the dominant dog collar the way it is intended to be used (lift the dogs front feet off the ground by the leash). When dog fights begin they are often right out of the blue and lighting fast.
In extreme cases where you are not sure of what may happen, both dogs should have a muzzle on. We offer inexpensive plastic Jafco muzzles which work just fine.
We also offer excellent wire basket muzzles. That way if there is a fight the dogs will not get injured and you can step in and break the fight up without getting dog bit. If you screw up and a dog fight starts - NEVER STEP IN AND TRY TO BREAK UP THE FIGHT by grabbing both collar. There is a protocol to follow in breaking up dog fights. I have written and article on this.
DOG FIGHTS are very dangerous events. (Read the article I wrote on this). But with that said, know your physical limitations and always error on the side of safety.
When I introduce 2 adult dogs I will allow sniffing but no dominant posturing – it’s called “T-ing” off. In other words the dominant dog will put its head over the top shoulder of the other dog and press down.
One of the most common causes of dog fights in the home are fights over food and toys. Feed the dogs in dog crates or in different rooms. Pick any uneaten food up after 15 minutes. You will be surprised at how fast your dog will clean his food bowl when he understands that you always take the food away after 15 minutes.