A common question we are asked is how to introduce a new puppy into the mix of a multi-dog household.
It’s one of the things that you really want to get right from the get go.
We’ve had quite a few pups stay and go over the past year or so and although our guys aren’t fans of all of them, we have managed to do it all relatively peacefully.
The first thing we agreed on was that any new dog would not jeopardise the quality of the existing dog’s quality of life. Initially, we don’t necessarily aim for ‘introductions’ so to speak. We aim for peaceful co-existence. We don’t want to just let them work it out either. I don’t want, for example, Poodle feeling the need to tell the pup off all the time and potentially making the associations of new dogs even worse and the 'telling off' behaviour being offered more frequently. We can't forget that puppies don’t know what the rules are yet. There will be the odd altercation and sometimes it may be beneficial but it’s not something we aim for. It’s just a by-product of a multi-dog household.
We want our pups to be able to cope in the presence of other dogs without getting too excited or too nervous or even too annoying. We want them to choose us over the other dogs. This is not to say the puppies don’t get to interact or socialise. They interact daily but it’s not a big deal and it’s not something we try to encourage (not that we discourage it either unless there is an issue).
We avoid the common trap people fall in where they get their dog excited when they meet new dogs and before long whenever the dog sees another dog, they simply just cannot control their emotions. Then it's just easier to let the dog say hello and then things just get worse and worse. We want the dogs to learn the greeting another dog isn't a big deal and if they want to move away then that's a good choice.
Here's an introduction between Moana and our newest foster pup Dud:
We 'pay' both Dud and Moana for disengaging and walking away. Why? Because we don't want to create a dog that we can't get them to come back when they are with their mates. We also want the greeting to be calm and beneficial for both of them. We don't want Dud annoying Mo too much and we don't want Mo to feel the need to tell little Duds off.
There are a few 'rules' we want our dogs to follow:
The living room is for relaxing. We don't want the living room to be a play area, so excessive play is always interrupted here. If they want to play, that needs to happen outside.
They are all fed in seperate areas. We don't want to create any unnecessary conflict between our guys. They also seem much more relaxed when they can eat their food in peace.
If they see another dog, that doesn't mean they get to meet them.
We don't leave it up to the dogs to work things out. We don't want the puppy to practice annoying behaviours with our other dogs and we also don't want our dogs feeling that they need to keep telling off a puppy. It's not good for either of them
We have to accept that not all dogs are created equally. Some maybe more shy, or more confident. Some maybe very social whereas others may find it more intimidating. This should then determine how we proceed with introducing them to other dogs. We generally teach our guys to ignore first before they can interact. Here's how we do that:
Puppies also need A LOT of down time. They should be asleep more than they are awake. For a lot of pups, we need to help them relax and nap. This is where management comes in really handy. All our dogs know to settle, so this can help us create a vibe for the new pup. If they are on the 'thrill seeking' side and keep pestering the other dogs to play, we can simply put our dogs in a seperate area to make it more likely the puppy will then be able to settle.
So what do we like and not like when they do interact? We want it to be mutually fun. We don't want one dog doing all the chasing and the other dog always rolling over. We frequently do a test to determine if they are both having as much fun. This is quite simple. We simple stop the dog who seems to be REALLY enjoying the play and see what the other dog does. Does the dog immediately go back for more? Or do they go off and do their own thing? Depending on what they do usually then determines if we let the play continue. This video should be helpful to see what their body language might mean:
Socialising a puppy is setting early expectations for them so as they grow up, they develop into a dog that can cope and behave in a way that we find acceptable and that’s most beneficial for them to get by in our world.
It’s always so much easier starting off early and getting things right as opposed to having to undo all the things you got wrong.