According to the Humane Society, about forty percent of US households that have dogs have more than one dog, with the large majority of that number (twenty-eight percent) having two dogs. It’s probably safe to assume that not every dog in those multiple-pet households arrived at the same time. So, if you’re considering adding a new dog to your pack, what are the do’s and don’ts of the introduction?
The number one rule when bringing a new dog into a household that already has dogs is to do it gradually. The worst mistake people can make when adding a new pack member is to just bring the dog into the house. To the dogs that were already there, this is an intrusion on their territory by a stranger. To the new dog, being thrust into an unknown environment leaves it without any rules to follow or boundaries to respect.
This method of introduction is the formula for disaster. Do it this way, and you’ll wind up with a pack that fights, competes over everything, and is generally not fun to deal with.
A Proper Introduction
In order to bring a new dog into the pack, you’ll need the assistance of a friend or family member who is well-known by your current dog or pack. All of you will meet on neutral territory — a place where you do not walk your current dog regularly, and which is probably not familiar to the new dog.
As with bringing home any new dog, the process begins with a long walk. In the case of bringing a new dog into a pack, this is even more important, as it will drain energy from the pack and allow them to become familiar with each other in a place that none of them “owns.”
At the start of this walk, you will take the lead with your existing dogs, while your friend or family member follows behind with the new dog. After a while, it’s time to drop back and let your original dog sniff the new dog’s rear, but don’t let them meet face-to-face yet, as that can lead to fights. Resume the walk with the original dog in front, and then let the new dog have a sniff.
Gradually, you can bring the entire pack together, with the dogs walking on the outside and the humans in-between. When they are in a calm state and walking together without incident, then it’s time to bring the pack home. From here, the process is very similar to the one outlined in the book “Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog,” which you can read in this excerpt from the chapter “Bringing Your New Dog Home.”
The one essential difference with multiple dogs is that your original dogs enter the home first with you, and then you bring the new dog in. This allows your original dogs to “invite” their new pack member into the territory.
After the First Day
Finally, once your dogs have become a pack, it is important that you let them establish the hierarchy among themselves, with you and the other humans in the house as the pack leaders, of course. It can be a natural tendency for us to show favor to the dogs that have been in the pack longer and try to make them the dominant dogs, in the same way that parents may give more responsibility to their older children.
However, dogs don’t work this way, and if you try to force a submissive dog into a dominant position, it will only make the submissive dog very anxious and insecure, while making the dominant dog resentful. Your new pack will let you know which dog is dominant and which one is submissive (or they will take equal positions on their own), and they will be happier for it if you allow them to make this one rule for themselves. Remember: Work with Mother Nature, not against her.