With the holidays coming to an end, many families are finding that they have added a new canine member. They went to the animal shelter, pound, or breeder, and found the perfect dog or puppy for their family. All the household members met him and fell in love, and he loved them right back.
Sometimes with all the excitement of finally finding the perfect dog, it is forgotten that he will also have to get along with the dog (or dogs) that already live at home. Introducing a new dog to the dog that is already a resident of the home can be a challenge, even if there are no prior aggression issues toward other dogs.
Assuming this is true, and there have not been aggression issues from either dog in the past, there are steps one can take to ensure the family dogs (both new and old) will get along, and it can avoid blood shed or hospital visits. Something many people think is that they can bring home their new dog, no matter the size, and let him go in the house and let things work themselves out. Sometimes, you may get lucky, and the two dogs will sniff each other, wag their tails, and move on with their lives together. More often than not, though, this will make the dogs nervous, and it could result in a fight. No matter the size of the dog, when biting begins, there could be serious damage done.
To avoid injuries and stress, the initial introduction should be done on neutral territory. Whether it is a sidewalk by the house or a park away from crowds of people and other animals, neither dog should feel that they need to protect their territory. Both dogs need to be on leashes. Although leashes can cause some insecurities in dogs when doing an introduction because they feel that they won't be able to properly defend themselves should the need arise, they allow the owner and handler to control the interactions between dogs.
There needs to be multiple people for this introduction technique to work. One person should have the new dog on a leash, and the other (preferably the dog's owner) should have the other dog. The dog showing more aggression or aversion should walk with his handler behind the other dog and his handler. Both handlers need to be sure to have a good hold on their dog's leash to be sure that the dog doesn't run off or start a fight. The distance between the walking dogs should be enough that they cannot touch each other but close enough that they can still smell each other's scents. The handler walking the front dog should keep the dog facing forward with his attention on something other than the dog behind him.
After a couple minutes, the gap of distance can be closed slightly. This will allow the dogs to get to know each other better and learn that they are not threatened by the other's presence. In any of the steps in this process, if there are any signs of aggression shown (bared teeth, growling, raised hair, etc), things need to be slowed down. If this situation should arise, and one or both of the dogs become aggressive after closing the distance a bit, widen the gap again, and allow them to take things in more slowly.
After a few minutes walking at each distance, the gap can be closed more, as long as there is no aggression shown. Eventually, it will get to the point when the dog in back can closely smell the dog in front, and he might even be able to make contact. The front dog's handler should be sure to keep his dog's face forward. Allowing them to be nose to nose before they can properly smell each other can be dangerous. If after making contact like this there is still no aggression, the dogs can be allowed nose to nose, while making sure to keep a close eye out for any signs of tension between the dogs. The dogs can then be allowed to play together off their leashes (in a fenced in area, of course).
Remember, this is not a guaranteed process, but it is a process that many shelters use, and that has a pretty good success rate. It helps to limit the amount of stress placed on both dogs, and even the owners. Sometimes it will be a fast process, and it can be done in less than a half hour, but sometimes dogs will need more time to warm up to one another. If this is the case, patience is important, and a little bit of this introduction technique should be done each day.
Remember to show your resident dog that you will love him, even with the new dog, and eventually they should learn that they can get along, maybe even be friends. The most important thing to keep in mind is that animals do not like surprises, and they will react to them with nervousness and aggression, and it is very difficult to make progress after this. That's why things need to be taken at your dog's pace, as his house and his family are all he has, so he might be afraid that he will lose it. By using this process, the dogs can adjust to each other gradually, and there hopefully won't be a need for a trip to the emergency vet.