Pet Wise: Introducing a new dog to your current dog safely

Before a new dog arrives into your home, advanced preparation is needed to prevent conflicts between the “newbie” and the resident dog. The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine recommends that when choosing another dog for your household, select a dog that might be compatible with your current dog, such as male and a female or a male with a male as the next best combination, however a female with a female may result in conflict. 

Another thing to consider is the current dog’s needs, especially if the older dog has health problems such as osteoarthritis therefore bringing home an active young dog will require protecting the older dog from the pup because “You will have to spend plenty of time with the new dog and offer distractions to keep the her from harassing the older dog.”


Take the time to study canine body language signals before the new dog arrives. We humans seem be more focused on listening for a dog’s vocalizations (barking, whining, howling, growling) and watching for wagging tails and miss the body language signals that dogs display to other dogs and to us. Watch for the following body signals when dogs interact

Angry dog body language

· Eyes in a fixed stare which means challenge, threat or confidence.


· Ears are pricked up or pointed forward.

· Mouth has lips curled, and teeth showing.

· Body is tense or stiff, hackles raised (hair on the neck, shoulders and back) to make the dog look bigger.

·  Tail is held upward and still over the back or wagging very fast.


Frightened dog body language

· Frightened dogs try to make themselves look smaller. They may show the whites of their eyes and avoid eye contact with people and other dogs.

· They may roll over on their backs and pee on themselves.

· Their body language message is ”I am not a threat so please don’t hurt me.”

· Frightened dogs or other animals may bite out of fear to protect themselves.

 Content dog body language

· Eyes have a soft sweet expression.

· Ears are in a relaxed position.

· Mouth is relaxed, almost in a smile for some dogs.

· Body is relaxed, and the dog might roll over on his back to ask for a tummy rub!

· Tail may be held level with the back or slightly low and wagging slowly. Dogs with very short or “docked” tails may have “wiggle butts."

Another delightful canine body language signal is the “play bow” when a dog invites another dog or human to play a game like tag. It starts with the dog approaching a human or another dog and lowering the front of its body with the tail held high and wagging, Barking serves as an invitation to join in the fun as well as a toy dropped into a lap!

By being aware of the above body language signals, we may be able to prevent confrontations between the dogs from occurring that could result in injuries to both dogs and the owners.

Preparing for new dog’s arrival

Arrange to have separate rooms for each dog containing the following items:

· Dog crate large enough to allow the dog to stand up and lay down comfortably and containing a washable crate pad or dog bed.

· Food and water bowls dogs should be fed in their crates to prevent food squabbles and some dogs need prescription diets that would not be appropriate for the other dog.

· Establish a consistent schedule for feeding, walking, play and “cuddle time." Animals feel more secure when they have predictability in their lives.

· Safe toys for chewing and enrichment like frozen Kongs stuffed with small dog biscuits and canned dog food to keep both dogs safe and busy in their crates when you are not home.

· Make sure that your resident dog is up-to-date with all inoculations and is free of internal and external parasites.

· The same holds true before bringing home the new dog. If the dog is a rescue from a shelter the dog’s medical history may be available. If the dog is from a breeder, insist on receiving a veterinarian’s health certificate.

· Before the new dog arrives try to introduce the dogs when you have at least a weekend to be at home. If you are lucky and have a dog-savvy friend who has been training dogs using positive training methods, ask for their assistance because each dog will need a handler and the experienced trainer can observe the dogs’ behavior and supervise them when they meet for the first time. If you don’t have such a friend you will need another adult to handle the other dog because both dogs must be on leash for control in a neutral location (not in your home or your backyard). Both dogs must be on leash wearing comfortable collars (not prong or choke chain) attached to a 6-foot leash (not retractable).

· The Ohio State Veterinary School recommends not to leave two newly introduced dogs alone before they have become acquainted and the new dog is at a least somewhat comfortable in the new home. They also advise the when introducing the dogs in a neutral area the dogs should remain on leash for control, but could be allowed a little room to maneuver and they might be calmer if they don’t feel completely restrained.

· The dogs might engage in the ritual of “butt sniffing” that we humans may think is a disgusting behavior yet serves as the dog’s version of a handshake! The dog’s remarkable sense of smell is about 100,000 times more sensitive than the human nose, and can detect such things as  the gender, health status, and mood of the other dog and if they met before.

·  The Ohio State Veterinary School recommends having the person walking the new dog approach from the side and “catch up” to you and your dog as you walk. Pick an area where you can walk together with a little distance between the dogs. Do this in an area without a lot of people and dogs so that neither dog is over-stimulated. The walk ends at your home. If you have a yard and weather permits, bring the dogs into the yard before going into the house first on a long leash until you notice relaxed and “wiggly” body postures and interest from both dogs. When they appear to be relaxed and interested in a friendly manner, drop the leashes so they may interact but don’t let them jostle each other in the entryway and try to get them both into the house quickly so that one doesn’t react to the other dogs’ entrance later.

· The home environment should provide more than one water bowl and more than one comfortable place to lie down. When feeding, feed the resident dog the way you have always done and feed the new dog in a different room or preferably feed both dogs in their crates. A very food-motivated dog will eat well from the start, but some dogs may need a person with them for the first day or two.

· The Veterinary School advises owners to wait until they feel confident that the dogs are comfortable with each other before offering high value treats like pig’s ears, bones and dental chews.  Owners are advised to supervise the dogs to watch for signs of aggression and may need to separate the dogs before giving them such treats.

· The resident dog may growl; and display aggressive body language signals try to keep the new dog away from things that are important to him and may block the new dog from water bowls, dog beds, toys, furniture, rooms in the home, and even members of the family. This behavior is known as “resource guarding” which is a natural survival skill that may trigger a fight response between the dogs. Should such an incident occur, owners are advised not to scold or punish the dogs but to distract them and seek guidance from a certified animal behaviorist.


· “The Power of Positive Dog Training,” by Pat Miller, 2nd Edition.


· The Humane Society of Carroll County is currently updating its website and will include a listing of certified dog trainers and animal behaviorists. Please check the website periodically for updated information at www.hscarroll.org.


Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.

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