Adding a second, third or more dogs to your family can be an exciting and joyful time. It can also be great for your existing dog to have a “buddy” that gives him or her company during the day when everyone has gone to work or school. The initial introductions can also be stressful, or even viscous even when the dogs aren’t typically aggressive. The key to integrating a new dog it so follow a few simply steps so that the experience is one that is calm and pleasant for everyone.
I shared a couple weeks ago that we added a third dog to our family. We had had four basset hounds over the years and the new dog was also a basset hound so we felt we know the breed pretty well. We also knew that our two dogs are used to having other dogs in the house but it had just been the two for a long time which would take some adjusting.
We also knew that our two boys, both approaching 11, would be considerably older than the new dog we’d be bringing home (3 1/2). We decided early on that a puppy wasn’t the best option with two elderly dogs so we felt pretty good about our choice.
The new dog, Stewie, has never lived with other dogs of any kind and the former owners explained to us that he is usually afraid of other dogs regardless of size. We knew we had to do everything we could to welcome him in a calm, happy environment to avoid additional fears and anxiety.
How you come about getting your new dog could be quite different from our situation. We adopted Stewie from a family that needed to find a new home for him. We’ve only ever adopted through rescues before so it was a different experience for us. We knew ahead of time that Stewie took a while to warm up to strangers, especially men so our first meeting was in a park (neutral territory).
We wanted Stewie to feel comfortable around us so when he initially showed some fear, we ignored him and allowed him to inch up to us to sniff and check us out. Eventually Stewie allowed me to pet him and the leash was handed over to me. It took a little longer for him to come around to B but by that evening all was well.
Bringing the New Dog Home
Stewie was great on the long car ride home but coming into our yard, his nose started going on overdrive. We gave him some time to sniff in the yard and then I brought him into the house while B took our other two dogs outside so they didn’t know about each other yet. B stayed outside with our two boys while I gave Stewie a tour of the house. I kept him on his leash but allowed him time to explore everything. I even allowed him into rooms we typically keep closed up.
After Stewie got his tour of the house, B and I swapped again, allowing Elwood and LJ the opportunity to come back into the house and smell around at the new scent Stewie left behind.
The key to any pet introduction is to do it in neutral territory. Consider a local park; somewhere that’s fairly quiet and safe where no one has the feeling of protecting their territory. With having two dogs and wanting to keep this whole experience as welcoming for Stewie as possible, we decided to let Stewie meet the other two dogs one at a time. We first introduced LJ. We kept them both on leashes each holding one of them and carefully watched body language. LJ was quite calm about the entire experience. He tried to sniff Stewie a little bit and then walked away and laid down.
Stewie was a bit anxious at first. He put his tail between his legs and hid behind me but because everyone was so calm, he inched his way out, barked a couple times and then sniffed LJ while LJ just sat there. We allowed Stewie time to feel comfortable around LJ and then B got Elwood.
Elwood tends to be more nervous around strangers and other dogs so he was the one that we felt might take more time. As expected, Elwood barked a few times when he first saw Stewie and Stewie once again hid behind me. After a few barks though, Elwood calmed and got curious and in a short amount of time, Stewie was sharing in the curiosity.
Once we felt comfortable with the situation, we brought all three dogs together on leashes to make sure everyone was fine and then we allowed them into the house. We kept a close eye on everyone that first day but B and I were both amazed at how well everyone handled the situation. Stewie had to have been overwhelmed yet he was able to claim a spot on the couch and relax with us just like he’d been there forever. Every day after he become more and more a part of our family.
Food and Routines
Stewie’s family sent along what was left of his food which was different that the food we use. Sadly too, there wasn’t much to mix into our food to help Stewie’s belly adjust. It is common for dogs to get a bit of an upset tummy when they eat different food so we had a couple days where he had to go outside more often. If you are changing your new dog’s food, try gradually changing by mixing more and more of the new food into the food they are used to.
We also felt that he may have been a little stressed or anxious because he would always go to the gate in the yard like he wanted us to take him home. That part broke my heart almost as much as his former family saying their goodbyes. He was eating and drinking, sleeping and playing so we just did everything we could to make him feel equally a part of our family and things improved quickly.
Dogs like routine so I knew for me, working from home, the first several days may be difficult. I was hoping though, since dogs are also pack animals, that Stewie would follow the leader when it came to routines and habbits and things would work out easily. The first day of work was a little hard. Stewie didn’t understand why we were staying in the studio all day or why i wasn’t playing with them all day. By day two things were almost normal and I was thrilled when Stewie took to my assistant immediately without any hesitation.
One month in and it feels like Stewie has been a part of our family forever. While he still has some puppy tendencies, he is a very good dog, has a sweet disposition and I think he loves having two “buddies” to hang out with. He’s gone camping for the first time in his life, he’s gone to the pet store to pick out new toys and he’s been a great work companion.
While every dog is different and breeds are different, I believe that if you take the time to get to know your dog first, it will make your pet introductions easier. Introducing your pet to your home (their den) and to the other dogs in a neutral territory, the transition will be one that is positive and as stress-free as you can make it. Then, once the introductions are made, getting your dog into a consistent routine will teach him/her stability making them feel at home.
Have you recently brought home a new dog? How did you handle the introductions and first few days? Was it easy, challenging? Do you have any other tips?