If you are preparing to add another dog to your household or to introduce your dog to a potential new friend, there are ways to help make that introduction more successful.
When considering adding another dog to your household or finding playmates for your dog, first consider whether your dog really wants a companion. There is often the mistaken belief that all dogs want to interact with other dogs or that they are lonely and need a doggy companion. Dogs have different personalities, like people. Some are gregarious and enjoy playing with other dogs, but many are introverts and are perfectly happy just enjoying the company of their people. Introducing dogs to a potential playmate or play group is easier and requires less preparation than bringing another dog into your household because they are only together for a short period of time. Most of the tips in this article are useful for bringing a new dog into your home.
If your dog happily engages and eagerly seeks out the company of other dogs, the next thing to decide is what type dog would make the best companion for your dog. The best matches are dogs of similar age, size, and breed or breed type. Different breeds (or breed mixes) have different play styles, make sure you know your dog’s play style. Bully breeds generally love rougher play with lots of body contact. Some dogs, particularly herding dogs, generally prefer chase play.
Dogs that are about five years or older are generally less tolerant of young, active dogs, and a puppy or rowdy adolescent would not be a good fit.
There is a real possibility of injury when matching a large dog with a small dog. A large dog could unintentionally hurt a small dog with one playful paw or knock the small dog over when running. In some cases, a small dog can trigger predatory behavior in a larger dog, particularly if there are other dogs in the picture, and cause the larger dog to attack the small dog. While this is not common, it is a real consideration and can result in serious injury or death to the small dog.
Set up your odds for successful matches by selecting opposite sex playmates. Male/female matches are the choice in most cases. Male matches are better if both males are neutered. Caution should be used when matching two unspayed females. Behaviorists know the worse fights in a home are between female siblings, and the next worse and likely fights are between two mature female dogs. The best chance for success in introducing two female dogs is to have an age difference.
If your dog is a toy or food guarder and you choose to bring another dog into your home, any source of conflict should be kept out of reach permanently, and the dogs should only be allowed to have access to those items when separated.
Every dog owner should familiarize themselves with canine body language, especially if you plan on introducing your dog to other dogs. There are many good resources for learning about canine body language, including videos on YouTube (Fear Free Happy Homes and Zoom Room are examples), videos on the website of Eileen and Dogs (www.eileenanddogs.com), and books.
Once you’ve decided your dog would enjoy having a companion, you can begin the steps to introduce them correctly.
If you have the luxury of time, begin by familiarizing your dog with the scent of the new dog (and vice versa). Rub a cloth or towel over each dog’s body, including the anal area and paw pads. A week before the introduction, bring the towel with the scent of the dog to the other dog. Put the towel under their food bowls and in their beds.
The next step is to introduce the dogs in neutral territory. Off-leash introductions are best; tight leashes can increase tension between the dogs. Smell provides important information to dogs. First allow one dog to roam a fenced in area, checking out and marking the area with his urine, while your dog is out of sight. Then, take out the new dog and let your dog roam, smell, and mark the area while the new dog is out of sight. Watch the dogs’ body language carefully as they smell the other’s scent. Body language should remain relaxed. In the best scenario, you will do this successfully for several days before allowing them off-leash (or leash dragging) together in the same area.
If you do not have the option of introducing the dogs gradually in an off-leash area, you can begin by parallel walking. You need a friend or family member to help with this. Walk them in a large park where you can begin with lots of distance between you. If either dog becomes too tense or fixated on the other dog, interrupt the dog with treats to refocus on the handler. Gradually, as the dogs relax, you can begin walking closer. Doing this over several days is preferable.
The next step is to introduce at the home. A fenced (not electric fence) front yard, is the best place. Allow them to wander for an hour or so. If that goes well, allow them to interact in the backyard. Try to stay out of the way while observing their body language. If you observe tension or arousal, even in play, cheerfully interrupt and separate them.
If all goes well with these outdoor introductions, you can bring them inside, but first remove any items of potential conflict like food bowls or toys. During the early weeks of integration, keep the dogs separate unless you are there to monitor their interactions.