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What’s better than a pet dog? Two pet dogs. It’s no surprise that millions of pet parents can’t stop at just one four-legged family member. Introducing additional pups to the household is not a decision to make lightly. Just because you’re ready for a new pet doesn’t mean your first dog is quite so enthusiastic about the idea.
Before the Meeting
A little preparation goes a long way in promoting smooth, stress-free interactions between your current dog and new puppy.
- Know the dogs: Dogs are social animals, but that doesn’t every dog is itching to see a new puppy introduced to their home. Make sure you understand the personalities and proclivities of both dogs before attempting to make an introduction. Enthusiastic and energetic as most puppies are, some won’t appreciate being asked to share the spotlight with another dog. An adult dog, on the other hand, may not like being asked to engage with a high-energy young puppy. Before bringing a new puppy home, make sure you’ve carefully reflected on both you and your dog’s readiness for a new addition to the family. That’s the first step in ensuring a peaceful multi-dog home.
- Work on leash training: Both dogs should be familiar with wearing a leash and understand the proper etiquette for interacting with people and other dogs while leashed before they’ve met. When picking out a new dog, try to learn about how they’ve been socialized and how their communication skills have developed. The team at a shelter or adoption center can help paint a picture of how your pup may respond to a new environment.
- Set the scene: Find or create the perfect location for a smooth introduction. Whether you’re indoors or out, create a space that’s free of clutter and offers plenty of room for dogs to engage one another or spend time on their own.
During the Initial Meeting
A proper introduction is just as important in the canine world as it is in the human world. You can’t just assume that two pups meeting for the first time will make fast friends. Here are some dos and don’ts to help you with the initial introduction as well as future interactions.
Dog Introductions: What to Do
- Pick Neutral Ground: Making an introduction at home, surrounded by familiar objects, could encourage territorial feelings in your current dog. This could mean a testy introduction or even a serious fight. Look for a neutral territory like a dog park, a friend’s house, or a neighbor’s yard next time you’re introducing two dogs.
- Keep Verbal Cues to a Minimum: Offer praise and verbal corrections when necessary, but try not to overwhelm either dog with too much sound. You can reward good behavior more emphatically once the first meeting is complete.
- Take Breaks: A little quality time can go a long way. It’s never a good idea to force unfamiliar dogs together for extended periods. If it seems like either dog’s energy is flagging, don’t be afraid to call it a day.
Dog Introductions: What Not to Do
- Don’t Allow Dogs to Fight: If you notice that your puppy playdate has taken a turn for the worse, step in immediately to separate the two dogs. While fights may be short-lived, it’s best not to take any chances.
- Don’t Leave Dogs Alone: Dogs should not be left unsupervised. If you must leave dogs alone for any period of time, ensure they’re kept in separate areas. For indoor intros, a baby gate, dog crate, or closed door can provide a useful barrier.
- Don’t Get Frustrated: It takes time to build strong bonds between dogs. Even if the first few introductions don’t go as planned, persistent pet parents are more than capable of enforcing house rules and helping pets get along.
What to Watch For
A dog’s body language during introductions and other meetings can tip you off to potential conflicts before they occur.
Watch out for these potential warning signs:
- Lip curling
- Raised tails or hackles (the hair at the back of a dog’s neck)
- Standing perfectly still
- Either dog putting their head over the shoulders of the other
Always remember that wagging tails do not always indicate happy dogs. A straight tail that’s wagging stiffly is potentially a signal of dominance and aggression.
After the Initial Meeting
Patience and persistence are everything when it comes to ensuring pet relationships start off on the right paw. Supervise interactions closely during your dogs’ initial weeks together, offering praise and positive reinforcement along the way. Keep an eye out for signs of conflict like those noted above and be ready to intervene if necessary. You’ll want to exercise special care around food and favorite toys, which may inspire tussles between your dogs.
Throughout the introductory phase, don’t forget to give plenty of attention and affection to both of your pets. Neither your puppy nor your older dog should ever think that they’re getting any less love than their new sibling.
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