Introducing your new dog to the resident dog

The following advice is not exhaustive, nor is it ‘professional’ advice. It is based on our experience.

Don’t expect too much too soon from your new dog. After travelling in unfamiliar vehicles, spending time in several kennels and being handled by numerous people, your new dog may be understandably disorientated and scared. Add meeting your resident dog to this, and he could feel overwhelmed. Equally, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security if your new dog immediately appears fine with your resident dog and vice versa. This does not indicate they can be left unsupervised. Don’t forget your resident dog may view a new dog entering his territory as a threat. Therefore, it is vital to plan ahead, to remain relaxed but to be alert.

Introducing your dogs in the garden

  • Ideally one human should walk the resident dog away from the home to allow your new dog to arrive when no resident dog is present.
  • If possible, introduce the dogs in the garden (as it less territorial than the house), with slip leads on. This is not always possible if dogs arrive in the night (as our Scotland or Cornwall runs sometimes do).
  • We advise to have one human per dog when you introduce the dogs. The dogs will feel safer if the humans are between them: humans on the inside, dogs on the outside.
  • If the dogs appear relaxed, you can allow them to move slightly closer – but it is important not to force them to interact.
  • There is a useful three second rule for introductions. If they show signs of being interested in each other, move closer to allow them to sniff and greet each other – do this for three seconds and then gently move back apart again. You can repeat this a few times to allow them to get more comfortable with each other.
  • Stay calm and in control.
  • If you have several dogs, bring the most submissive/ friendly ones out to meet the new one first. Introduce your new dog to resident dogs one at a time so he won’t feel overwhelmed.
  • It is important to ensure your resident dog/pack feel secure, so do not to forget to praise them for their positive reactions to this newcomer.

Introducing your dogs in the house

  • Your new dog will be in a crate when he arrives home. If you are not able to open it and put a slip lead on straightaway to make introductions in the garden, we suggest that the resident dog is not in the home. If this is not possible, ensure the resident dog is confined to a separate area of the house. Your new dog can then investigate and sniff the room alone.
  • Remember what your dog has been through, both in Romania and on his journey to you. He may not initially understand that this is home, and he may not want to leave the safety of his crate.
  • Never approach the crate. Sit back on the sofa or go make a coffee and wait for him to come to you.
  • Remember if he is scared, he may growl if you walk towards his crate (safe place).
  • Remember it is threatening to some dogs to stroke the top of their heads.
  • If your new dog comes out of the crate, let him come to you. Pet him and show him where his new bed is.
  • Remember it is better to introduce your dog in the garden, but if you are unable to put a slip lead on your dog and take him to the garden, then you may introduce your resident dog inside.
  • It is a good idea to use a safety/ baby gate so the new dog and resident dog can see each other and adjust to the other’s presence, without either feeling threatened.
  • Allow your resident dog to have the rest of the house, so both dogs can get used to seeing each other through the stairgate.
  • Close off rooms so that your new dog does not immediately have access to the whole house.
  • Set aside “one to one” time for each dog and fuss each separately.

Food

  • We suggest giving your new dog a small amount of food after arrival. Do this in the kitchen without your resident dog being present. You may have to give your resident dog a tiny bowl at the same time, albeit in a different room. After five minutes pick the bowls up.
  • Ideally keep to your resident dog’s meal times. You may want to feed them in separate rooms, but always supervise your dogs for the first few weeks at feeding times. After five minutes pick all the food bowls up.

Toys & Treats

  • Understandably, you may want to give your new dog toys. However, this can cause some competition (your new dog will see these as “high value” possessions). Sadly, your new dog has probably never seen a toy before, and for weeks or even months may not know what to do with it. If he does want to play, allow one toy and after playtime, remove all toys. We advise keeping your resident dog in a separate room during this playtime.
  • If you want to use a few treats on day one, use these to praise something good – for example going to his bed, and always treat your resident dog too. Use quick eating treats: a bone left lying around again would be a “high value” possession.
  • We recommend never to leave any treats or toys lying around for at least the first few weeks.

Bed

  • Where you place your new dog’s bed/let him sleep should be away from your resident dog(s) at first, especially if he is unsupervised at night. If possible, a crate is the safest option. Ensure this is tucked away in a quiet area to provide a safe retreat.
  • Keep your resident dog’s sleeping area separate and in the usual place as it, so that he does not feel your new dog is threatening his territory. If he slept on your bed, continue to allow this. Keep your resident dog’s routine the same.

Top Tips

  • Plan ahead and have one human per dog for the arrival day.
  • It is vital to check the garden is secure (which it should be to pass home check) – Make sure there is nothing against the fence, like a nearby table or wheelie bin that your new dog could climb on to try to jump the fence.
  • Do not open your door to visitors without first making sure your new dog is safe behind a closed door. This is for any new dog but more so with one getting to know new resident dogs
  • Keep your new dog on a lead/harness around the home for a few days. This ensures you can get hold of the lead if problems with the other dog/pack arise. It also prevents escape. Signs of a potential escapee include burrowing and looking up at the top of fences.
  • Watch for body language that indicates stress. This can include a low/ tucked in tail, tucked back ears, hair standing up on the back, lunging, growling, prolonged staring. If you notice any of these reactions, lead the dogs away from each other quickly and get them to focus on you (use a treat), then introduce them again, briefly and slightly further away.

Research trigger stacking to help you learn more about your new dog. Trigger stacking builds when your dog is negatively exposed to uncomfortable sights, sounds and scents. How your new dog responds depends on how each trigger makes him feel. Triggers can include transport, kennels, crate in car, strange home, resident dog etc. Every dog is different. Your new dog can become fearful or anxious about anything, depending on their personality and character. Most dogs are fine and do not have these issues but is always helps to control the first meeting of the dogs.

A key tip is to remain as calm as possible yourself as dogs will react to your anxiety. Don’t worry or panic if any of the dogs growl or snap as it is normal communication and boundary setting. Simply move them away from each other and re -introduce again after ten minutes. It is not an indication of how they will get on over time. After a few months, the most soppy, loving dogs can be the ones who were feisty and snappy on arrival. Imagine how we would feel being transported for days and put in different places and then suddenly expected to get on with strangers in our own home. There are also timid quiet dogs who then get bossy when they find their ‘paws’, so don’t make too many assumptions based on the first day or two.

Please be patient and calm and give all the dogs time to adjust. Do not make assumptions about how they are/are not getting on after just a few hours. With patience and practical steps to settle new dogs, the reward and happiness you will have from your Paws2Rescue new dog will truly be worthwhile.

Give each dog attention individually. It helps to have one human per dog for this.

Your dog needs to know that you are in charge. Your new dog will just want to please you. Be firm, and we advise to only allow the new dog on the sofa when invited, and never to baby him. Your role is to teach him the boundaries.

Don’t forget that most rescue dogs have lived around other dogs and there should not be any issues but it always helps to be prepared, and to introduce your dogs in a controlled and calm manner.

Read Paws2Rescue’s article again on how a rescue dog feels – before you bring your new dog home, and remind yourself how he must feel: https://paws2rescue.com/before-you-adopt-consider-what-rescue-dog-means/