So, you’ve decided to welcome a rescue dog into your home, and you’re probably wondering how to introduce them to your resident dog(s). Well, you’re in the right place. I’ve got some great tips and advice to help make the process smooth for everyone involved. As you can imagine, it’s super important to get this step right, as it WILL lay the foundation of their relationship for the foreseeable future, including yours! Do it right, and soon you might be wondering, “should I get a third dog?”.
In any case, this experience can be incredibly rewarding, and you’ll have a happy, harmonious dog family in no time. So, let’s dive in!
Preparing for the Introduction
Understand Your Rescue Dog’s History and Temperament
Do you know about your rescue’s previous interactions with other dogs or if they have any traumas or fears? While you’re getting to know it, pay close attention to their temperament to identify any signs of aggression or fear and assess their compatibility with your resident dog(s).
Evaluate Your Resident Dog(s)
I suppose you know yours pretty well. Are they dominant or submissive? Friendly or reserved? Knowing their traits will help you anticipate how they might react to your new rescue dog and prepare accordingly.
Create a Comfortable Environment
Designate separate spaces for each dog, like individual beds and feeding stations, to help reduce any initial territorial behavior. If you have a really fidgety one, consider using calming aids such as pheromone diffusers or calming treats to help ease any anxiety they may have.
The Introduction Process
Step 1: Neutral Territory
It’s important to set the right stage when you introduce two dogs to each other, and ideally, it should be done in a neutral space (it’s kind of like you don’t want either to have home team advantage). This could be a park or a quiet street, somewhere that neither dog feels possessive over. Keep both dogs on leashes, but make sure the leash is loose to avoid creating tension. As you start, maintain a healthy distance between them and gradually decrease it as they become more comfortable.
Step 2: Observation and Interaction
Things look like they are starting off well? Don’t let up though. Pay close attention to their body language. You want to look out for positive signals such as a relaxed body and a wagging tail, while negative signals might be growling or a stiff posture. Allow them to have controlled interactions, like brief sniffing or playful behavior, while keeping a close eye on them.
Step 3: Reinforcing Positive Behavior
The thing about dogs is that they can react well when they are directed properly. By reinforcing positive behavior, either by praising your dogs or giving them treats when they interact well, you will get a higher chance of success. If you notice any unwanted behavior, correct it firmly but gently, and avoid punishment. The goal is to create a positive and safe environment for both dogs.
Step 4: Home Introduction
Now that these guys are acquaintances, it’s time to bring them home. As they enter the house, be sure to control their entry, letting one dog in at a time only. For at least the first couple of days, you need to supervise their initial interactions, and keep them on leashes if necessary. As they become more comfortable with each other, you can gradually increase their freedom to roam.
Monitoring and Adjusting
Assess the Progress
Resource guarding is a real thing, so you have to observe their interactions over time, paying attention to their play behavior and how they share resources like food, water, and toys. Be on the lookout for any issues or setbacks, such as over-aggression or possessiveness.
If you are experienced around multiple dogs, you might be able to handle any pertinent issues on your own. In most cases, there’s always a solution. However, if you find that you’re struggling with this new arrangement, don’t hesitate to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist for expert guidance and advice. They can help you implement behavior modification techniques like counter-conditioning and desensitization to address any lingering issues.
Additional Tips to Help Introduce a Rescue Dog to Your Other Dogs and Make the Process as Smooth as Possible
- Organize a “doggy playdate” in advance: Before bringing your rescue dog home, ask a friend or family member with a well-socialized dog to join you for a playdate. This will allow your rescue dog to have a positive experience with another dog, helping them build confidence and social skills.
- Create a “scent handshake”: Exchange blankets or toys between your resident dog(s) and your rescue dog before the introduction. This way, they can get used to each other’s scent, making the face-to-face meeting less stressful.
- Use parallel walking: When introducing the dogs on neutral territory, walk them parallel to each other with a safe distance between them. This will allow them to observe and become familiar with each other without direct interaction, reducing the chances of conflict.
- Rotate playtime: To help your dogs adjust to each other’s presence, try rotating playtime with them. Spend time playing with your resident dog(s) while your rescue dog observes from a distance, and vice versa. This can help them learn each other’s body language and play styles.
- Incorporate puzzle toys: Introduce puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys during supervised playtime. This can create a positive and fun atmosphere, encouraging your dogs to bond over a shared activity.
- Establish a “time-out” signal: Develop a specific sound or word that indicates “time-out” during playtime. If play gets too rough or aggressive, use this signal to pause the interaction and allow the dogs to calm down.
- Capture positive interactions: Whenever you witness a positive interaction between your dogs, such as playing nicely or sharing a toy, snap a photo or record a video. This can be a great way to track their progress and remind yourself of the positive steps they’re making.
- Implement the “3-second rule”: When allowing your dogs to sniff each other, limit it to about 3 seconds at a time. This can help prevent overstimulation and reduce the chances of a negative reaction.
- Try doggy meditation: Practice calming activities with your dogs, such as gentle petting or relaxing together in a quiet space. This can help create a sense of unity and trust between your dogs and encourage a peaceful environment.
- Involve the whole family: Make sure everyone in your household is on board with the introduction process.
The key to successfully introducing a rescue dog to your other dogs is patience and consistency. Remember: Celebrate your dogs’ milestones and successes as they learn to live together harmoniously. And be proud of yourself, as you’re creating a loving and supportive environment for your new furry family member, and that’s something truly special.
Author bio: Zack Keithy is the Chief Editor at Daily Dog Drama. He was formerly a certified vet tech for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, he is still heavily involved in dog parenting duties with his two dogs, Molly and Bella. At the same time, he is busy creating lots of useful resources such as educating people on the number of puppies a dog can have and many other topics. Check them out on his blog!