Introducing Dogs Into Your Home
Most issues that happen with dogs being introduced into a home are usually from dogs being let loose far too quickly to figure things out on their own. Know that dogs are going to be stressed upon arriving into your home because they are no longer in their familiar home, so don't be in a rush and take as much time as needed. This could be days, weeks, or months, it all depends on the dogs. Think "grade school". When children enter a classroom for the first time, they are anxious, nervous and unsure about what to expect. Dogs need to know a few things so they can be comfortable. Who is in charge? How do I fit in? What's expected of me? What are the other dogs about? Does anyone mean me harm? Am I safe? Can I trust you? Are we going to be friends or enemies? Like kids, some dogs adapt quickly, while others need more time.
To prevent problems in "grade school", we assign our dogs a "place" to go and lie down, such as a dog bed. Staying-put in their "place" is implied. You do not see school teachers saying "stay, staay, staaay" to the kids. If your dog gets up, have him return to his "place" and remain lying down. Repeat as many times as needed for your dog to get the message. Nobody is allowed to get up without permission from whoever is in charge. Being in "place" is a great way for dogs to get used to each otherís presence without the pressure of having to make decisions about each other. To be fair, give periodic breaks and allow them to move about, but only under your direct supervision. Potty breaks should also supervised.
Before allowing your dogs any off-leash freedom, be sure to teach ALL the dogs the basics: Walk politely on leash, come when called, be polite at thresholds, wait calmly for food, have a rock solid "place" command, and be polite around humans and their personal space. Even if your new dog is already trained, train again with you as the teacher. Teaching ALL dogs to be consistently in a relaxed and obedient state of mind will help them learn to coexist around each other.
Many things can trigger excitement or anxiety and ultimately unwanted behaviors, including aggression. Using crates will ensure all your dogs are safe when unsupervised. Crating your dogs near each other, side-by-side is best. However you have to ensure that all dogs in the crates are practicing good behaviors. If one or more of your dogs are stressed, barking, whining, carrying on, trying to escape, then youíve got a recipe for disaster brewing. (Imagine living next to the worst neighbor in the world and how it would make you feel. Same goes for your dogs.) If you canít ensure good behavior, place pegboard between the crates to block their view or crate them in different rooms until they are trained. Let them calm down before walking away. Do not give in to whining and barking to be let out or your dogs will learn to throw tantrums to get what they want. Once they are calm and quiet, you can provide a bone or chew toy to enjoy in their crates. This helps them associate good things happen while near each other.
Dogs are constantly assessing each other and you. If dogs see that you do not have control of the environment and everyone in it, you have a recipe for disaster brewing. If you donít create and demand polite, respectful behaviors, then you can almost guarantee that one of your dogs will.
Do not let your dogs compete over resources, this includes your attention and affection. There can be NO favoritism, no "teacher's pet". This can create competition and aggression. While you pet one dog, do not let another dog intrude and become the center of attention or you may create competition for your affection. Do not give your dog any attention for being nudgy, barking or jumping. Reward only polite behaviors.
Never let your dogs work it out among themselves, or you send a message that you do not want to be involved when there is social conflict. Bullying behaviors are not allowed. If your dogs growl or fight over an object, don't scold them, just remove it. If a dog intimidates another dog by staring at him, interrupt the stare and redirect that dog to another behavior. If a dog takes an object from another dog, give it back to the dog who originally had it. For some dogs, ALL toys, bones, chew toys, etc should be picked up and put away before allowing your dogs off-leash. Don't leave anything out for dogs to fight over. Remember to keep crate doors closed to prevent fighting over their "bedrooms".
Once your dogs are relaxed and obedient, take them out to your backyard. Take the time to see if they are relaxed and comfortable. If there are no issues (tension, staring, growling etc), drop the leashes and allow them to interact. If things go wrong, you can safely grab the leashes to separate them. If a fight happens, remain calm and do not yell or scold them. Stop the fight
, wait for both dogs (and you) to completely calm down before trying again. After a few backyard interactions without any incidents, you can remove the leashes.
Be patient! And when you think youíve been patient, be patient some more. Remember, taking time to do things right from the start is so much easier than trying to undo nasty tension and animosity later. Of course there are many dogs that you could throw all this out the window, turn them loose instantly and have zero issues. Unfortunately, I get all the calls for the dogs where it didnít work out that way.