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Introducing a New Dog into the Family

As Dog Geek reminded us recently, I am NOT Crazy. So, no … there are no new dogs at Chez Champion of My Heart, but I wanted to tell you about a new piece I wrote that went live last week on the pet health section of WebMD on this very topic of how best to introduce a new dog or puppy to your current canine pals.

Much of the advice I got from experts mirrored things we did when we nearly adopted Lilly’s best-best dog friend, Katie, the borzoi. We had to re-introduce Ginko and Katie because he pretty much tried to kick her butt the first time they met. When we gave it another go, we tried things like:

  • Proximity or parallel walks, where the dogs can be together but they don’t have to directly interact
  • Lots of praise and treats for calm, polite interaction, etc.

And, as you can see from this later video, the three got along just fine. Katie always deferred to Ginko, but I got to where I trusted the three of them alone outside playing.

Katie has AWESOME dog-dog skills, which made up for the fact that my 2 do not.

Future Dog-Dog Intros

It’ll be interesting down the road how Lilly might accept another dog into our home. I worry that too many dogs in shelters/rescues get tagged as needing to be an ONLY dog because of their issues.

Indeed some dogs are downright dangerous, but others like Lilly and Ginko … I think they can learn to accept other dogs. Maybe not all dogs, but the right dog into the right family.

This got axed out of the story, but Brad Phifer, one of the trainers I interviewed, had a client with a boxer who would literally jump through windows at his house so that he could chase down passing dogs.

That is scary!

So, when his family wanted another dog, Brad was like “Um, would NOT recommend that!”

But, against his advice, they indeed got another boxer puppy and their adult dog took it just fine. It probably helped that the new dog was a pup, but still.

Just goes to show. You never know.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Living Large - September 17, 2010

We had more problems introducing Chloe to her new family than I’ve ever had. Sade was very territorial at first. Three months later, as I type this, they’re sleeping together on one bed, although there are two beds they could use. 🙂

Sam - September 16, 2010

I should clarify.. Marge meets new dogs all the time, but the above encounter was the most similar to a “meeting a new family dog” scenario. Definitely different than just sniffing butts at class.

Sam - September 16, 2010

Big “eeek!” to the thought of a spray collar on a dog who is reacting to a new puppy. That’s the kind of stuff that leads to dogs making negative associations.

Marge may very well never live with another dog in her life. The closest thing we ever got to introducing her to a new dog was when I was doggy sitting (but the dog remained in her own home) and I walked her up to my house to go meet Marge. We met my sister and Marge in the big grassy field and walked parallel for at least a few hundred feet. My sister shoved cookies in Marge’s face, and she calmed down quickly.

I don’t even think it was the dog she was upset about initially.. it was the fact that I, her primary handler, was walking the dog and not her. I think it made her anxious, and, if we ever take them walking together again, I’m going to be the one to handle Marge.

Sharon Liveten - September 16, 2010

Since I’m in this situation (a week from Monday! yay!) I read this avidly. Unfortunately, the new puppy doesn’t walk well on a leash yet. My trainer recommended introducing them at a neutral place and putting a citronella bark collar on Murray, so if he starts to lunge and bark at the puppy, his attention will change. But I’m hoping that lots of treats and praise will help us avoid that. Cross your fingers.

    Roxanne Hawn - September 16, 2010

    Oh, Sharon! I hope you’ll decide against the spray collar to keep Murray in check. As you know, I’m NOT a fan of aversive training, and I’d REALLY hate for Murray’s first intro to the new puppy to be something negative. Think about it from his perspective … Puppy = spray in the face.

    It might keep his unwanted behaviors in check, but what lesson is he really learning about the new puppy?

    I wish, wish, wish I lived close by so that I could help with the introduction. It’s PARAMOUNT that you have someone handle one of the dogs, especially if you are worried that Murray might do something goofy or scare the pup.

    In fact, it might be better for you to handle HIM and let someone else handle the puppy the first time.

    I cannot wait to see photos/video of your new baby girl. I’m so jealous. Nothing is more exciting to me than the “promise” of having a new puppy in your life.

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