Family Matters: How to Introduce a New Dog to Your Current Dog

There have been times in every pet owner’s life when they have innocently found themselves perusing the “available pets” page of their local shelter. They tell themselves it’s not serious, that it’s perfectly normal to look at puppies on a Thursday night and that nothing will come of it. Until it does! It just takes that one perfect set of big doe eyes or that one crooked tongue hanging out of a smiling mouth and suddenly we start to think about what it might take to bring a new pet into our homes. 


Often, the process of finding and obtaining a new pet is not terribly complicated. The question is, what about the animals you already have? It can be challenging to bring a new dog into a home where you already have a pet in residence. There are several ways to make this an easier transition for everybody concerned and we at S'wooft are here to help. 


Follow these tips to settle your new family member into the home. 

Meet in a Neutral Location

Dogs can sometimes be territorial and it can be very helpful to introduce dogs to one another in a space that neither one sees as their own. Have a friend bring the new dog to a neutral space where you and your dog can meet them calmly and facilitate gentle introductions. You and your friend can also take the dogs for a walk together and gauge how well the dogs cope with being in one another’s space. This pack-walk style of exercise can allow the dogs to grow more accustomed to one another, their smell, behavior, and energy. Some shelters will even facilitate this for you if you are looking to adopt and find yourself unsure. 


Give Everyone Some Space

When you first bring a new dog into your home, give them their own space. Before you bring them home, set aside a room with a door that can be a designated area just for them for a while. If you plan to crate train, make sure the crate is located in this room. Moving to a new home can be incredibly stress-inducing for an animal, depending on their background, so having a space in which to feel safe is enormously important. Consider how valuable it is for us, as humans to enjoy some personal space when we feel anxious -- it is just as important for a pet. Most animal behaviorists recommend keeping the animals separate for a minimum of two days before having them interact. 

Making sure it's a room with a door is valuable, not only for a feeling of security, but because you don’t yet know how the animals will react to one another. Both dogs could be wonderfully social and thoroughly enjoy playtime at the park, but having another dog in the home can be an entirely different experience. The simplest and most effective way to avoid anyone ending up with a bite history is to give everyone a safe space where they can quietly sniff at one another, possibly under a door frame, for a couple of days. 


Scented Introductions

Speaking of sniffing under a door frame, scent is a major component of dogs growing used to one another’s presence. Moving blankets and toys between the two pets can allow them to become familiar with the idea of having another dog in the house. You can, in the time you have the dogs separated, incorporate scented items into each dog’s life so they are able to appreciate that the other animal in the home is not a threat. 


Additional Structured Meetings

When it is finally time for the dogs to share space you can introduce this idea by, again, taking both dogs (with a helper) to a neutral space where they can meet again and walk home together. When you arrive home, the dogs should be somewhat used to one another and should adjust to being home together, slowly but surely. 


Supervised Time and Resources

It is enormously important throughout all of these stages that the dogs are closely supervised. Monitor the behavior of the dogs and be aware if either one seems anxious or shows signs of aggression. This can include baring of teeth, growling, snarling, or air-snapping. 


It is also very important to remove all treats, toys, and valuable resources from the area around your dogs. Having resources around can lead to resource guarding and can take an unfortunate turn very quickly. Keeping the area around your dog resource free will give them the opportunity to meet on even ground where neither one has something the other wants. 

This also means that meal times should be kept separate for a while, as well as quality owner time. Make sure that you are making time for both dogs individually, whether that is letting them out in the yard for a game of fetch one at a time, or just taking some time in a room with each dog. If you have older children in the house, they can be especially helpful in making sure both dogs get 1-on-1 family play time. Everybody wants to feel special, and your dog is no exception. After all, you are the most important resource of all!

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Shelters across the city are reaching capacity as they aid in the rescue of animals from all over the country who have been displaced by natural disasters. If you find yourself tempted to introduce a new dog to your home, your local shelter is a great place to start looking. Bringing a new animal home might seem daunting at first, but follow our helpful guide and your dog will have a new best friend in no time!

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