Integrating a new dog into a household with an existing dog can be tricky, but most dogs successfully ease into the transition if given the right kind of guidance from the start. Peaceful coexistence can be achieved in a number of ways, including monitoring both dogs’ interactions with each other and reducing situational and environmental stress.
Before you bring your new dog home, remove any triggers that could create tension between them such as food, treats or toys. This will reduce the need for either dog to compete over resources and avoid the location guarding that commonly occurs in multi-dog households.
Start Outside the Home
If you can, introduce your existing dog to the new dog outside and on neutral territory. The more space both dogs have to either interact or put distance between themselves and explore, the better. There are more interesting things to discover outside than in the home, and distractions give both dogs a chance to focus on something else rather than being forced to interact.
Keep the dogs on leash until they are comfortable and then give them some time for off-leash discovery or play before bringing them inside. Give your new dog the chance to discover her new environment with or without the other dog present.
Teach a Good Scenario
If your existing dog is uncomfortable with the new arrival, create a teaching scenario where the new dog’s presence means good things happen to your existing dog. Stand in the room with your existing dog and have a friend or family member walk into the room with the new dog. As the dog is brought into the room, give praise, high-value treats or play a game with your existing dog. Tell your new dog how good she is, too, so that both receive positive attention in the other’s presence.
Relaxed, fluid body language and a willingness to engage in social contact with each other will indicate that the technique has been successful.
Keep Resources Separate
Until you have a clearer picture about how protective they might be over resources, toys, chews and meals should only be given when the dogs are separated. (This also can include favorite spots, like dog beds.) If your new dog is naturally inquisitive, she might want to investigate your existing dog’s food bowl or share the toy he is chewing. This will likely cause a disagreement that could escalate into something more serious.
It is essential that both dogs feel safe around each other with their resources. Identifying triggers and minimizing stress for them will prevent challenges moving forward.
Ease Into Together Time
Walking the dogs together allows them to have positive experiences in each other’s presence. The new dog might require less exercise than your existing dog to begin with, but a small walk every day will help build up stamina and increase the bond between them.
Start teaching your new dog life skills and cues that she can follow, while giving your existing dog a refresher course. Teach each dog separately at first before bringing them to do the exercises together, and be careful that the rewards you use while teaching do not cause tension between them.
Management is equally important to maintain calm, and baby gates are very effective for giving each dog space and time apart — important in any multidog household. If your dogs are not comfortable around each other, gates could also have the reverse effect and exacerbate tensions. In this case, put your dogs in separate rooms where they can’t see each other, and only allow them to interact if they are safe and have space around them, such as in your backyard.
Be Prepared and Stay Sensitive
Be prepared for occasional quarrels that happen even between the best of friends. Hopefully these will be few and far between if you take care not to subject either dog to any situation that causes discomfort.
If your existing dog does not adapt to the new dog in time, re-homing options might have to be explored for the new dog. However, this can be avoided if you are diligent in applying all teaching and management procedures so that both dogs can live peacefully together in a stress-free environment. Remember, your existing dog might not have had much say in choosing his new friend, so be sensitive to the adjustments he has to make in order to adapt to the changes you will all have to make when you bring a new dog into the home.