Take care that the first encounter is as positive and uneventful as possible. Be confident and cheerful as your “old” dog might associate any tension on your part with the newcomer.
It might be a good idea to reduce the amount of attention your dog normally gets for a few days before you pick up your new dog. This will help him to make positive associations between an increase of attention, games and treats and the new dog.
Avoid putting the dogs into the car together until they have been properly introduced and are getting along. Use transport boxes or attach their leads to seatbelts for traveling, even if they seem ok in the car at first. Should anything unexpectedly spook the dogs the situation could become very dangerous for everybody involved. Safety first!
Before taking the dogs home find an unfamiliar open area for their first long walk together. You will need the assistance of a second person but rather not make it a family affair as you want to avoid too much excitement.
Walk the two dogs parallel to each other on a loose leash, avoiding head to head encounters and gradually let them have more and more contact with each other. Reward calm acknowledgement of the other dog; treat for looking at the other dog without showing signs of stress.
This is not the time to teach your new dog how to walk on a leash…
Walk side by side 4 -5m apart with the handlers next to each other and the dogs on the outside. Praise and treat good and calm behaviour. Slowly walk closer and closer until you and your partner are next to each other. Progress with only one person between the dogs, then with the two dogs next to each other, 1-2 m apart. Get closer until they are next to each other. Allow the dogs to greet on a loose leash.
Should the dogs look uncomfortable with each other you might not be able to progress to this step just yet. It will be a lot harder to get them to be comfortable with each other if there has been an incident. If scary situations can be avoided progress can be made a lot faster.
Maintaining a positive and confident attitude will help both dogs to relax. Be aware of the dogs body language and distract and separate them at any sign of aggression.
Throughout this first walk use plenty of treats, praise and encouragement.
When both are well exercised let them into your garden at home to give them a chance to further get acquainted before you take them into the house. Remove anything they are likely to fight over e.g. food, toys, bones, hooves, beds… until they have settled down.
Allow your new dog to investigate his entire new home. Avoid following and talking to the dog but interrupt any undesired behaviour by distraction for example by clapping your hands.
Try to ignore any small disagreements between the two dogs but watch out for signs of ensuing aggression.
In all cases of dog to dog aggression, there will be physical signs-- although sometimes subtle-- before the dog acts.
Tell-tale signs are :
- Stiffening up and rigid body language.
- Pulling the mouth closed tightly.
- Eye balling each other / one dog locking his gaze with the other dog.
- Curling of the upper lip.
- Lowering the head (in a stalking/hunting-like position)
- Dominant body language or seeking to be physically in a higher position than the other dog.
- Hackles up
- Lips curled tightly against the teeth, and showing of the teeth.
- Turning of the head, lip licking and yawning are also signs that the dog is uncomfortable and if not given space could break into fight or flight mode.
If animosities emerge take control the instant they begin to prevent any escalation. Distract the dogs. Stay as calm as possible and continue after peace has been restored as if nothing has happened. Do not fuss over either one.
If you are unsure whether they might fight keep short leashes attached to their collars which you can use to break up an incident if necessary.
In the unlikely event of a fight do not grab at the dogs as you might get bitten by accident.
Use the leads to separate them, make a loud noise just above their heads or throw a bucket of water or a heavy blanket over them. Place something between them to break the line of sight, so that they can be separated quickly without anyone getting hurt.
In a serious case grab both dogs at their hind legs and lift them up as high as possible. There will be a rush of blood to the dogs’ heads which will make it so uncomfortable that one or both will release their hold.
Separate them until everyone has calmed down but again do not fuss over either one.
During the settling in period be aware of situations that might aggravate any tension e.g. feeding times, you returning home, chews or bones, going for a walk…
Do not make such a fuss of the new dog that the resident dog feels excluded. In fact arrange that every time he has friendly contact to the new dog he gets rewarded with a nice treat.
Do not leave them alone together until you are confident that they have become friends. A crate could help you a lot, especially if you have other animals in the house. But please be sure that the dog is properly introduced to the crate before he is left in it for any length of time (never longer than an hour).
If you already own more than one dog introduce them one by one.
If, after a few attempts, the dogs are still aggressive towards each other, please get in touch with HAWS for further assistance.
* Recommended reading:
The Rescue Dog, Gwen Bailey