Introducing a New Dog to an Existing Pack

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Introducing a new dog to your existing dog or pack depending on how many you have is not always as easy as it seems. I am neither a professional dog behaviorist nor a trainer but I do observe our canine members and believe there is a proper way to bring in another furry family member so the chances of success are greatly improved. I have done this over the years on several occasions and found if the new addition is properly introduced that blending new to established pack is easier and more successful. While it is not complicated it is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together one piece at a time.

Bringing a new member home and bringing them into the living quarters can not only diminish the chances for success but also can be hazardous to your fur friends as they seek to find their order within the pack itself. It takes time to put together a jigsaw puzzle and it takes time and effort to introduce a new family member. Some may mistakenly believe that because theirs is a rescue dog that it is just grateful to have a new forever home and will seek the approval of the existing pack members. It can take a great deal of vigilance on the new owners part and requires forethought, careful planning and preparation. Anything less may work one time depending on the dog’s personality, but not consistently in the long haul.

I am not saying my method works any better than other methods but it has consistently worked for us over the years and may be worth considering. Our canine friends understand more than many think they do. Ours are German Shepherd  Dogs and they are highly intelligent and may already suspect there is a new family member coming. We prefer to tell them and it is clear that they fully understand that the pack will soon be increased.

Introduce New Dogs Slowly, On Neutral Grounds

It is best to understand your existing canine friends individual temperament and behavior in a realistic light and not put human characteristics on them. We recently introduced a new pack member to our pack and now have four furry-friend family members. The first and one of the most important steps is to arrange the first meeting on neutral ground.

As we approached our newest member’s home, we stopped and waited about two hundred yards from our property. Carol then brought our dogs one at a time to meet the newcomer. Since the newcomer (Bosley, or “Boz”) was male, she brought our female, Sarah, first, our senior male second and our younger male last. After a respectful round of sniffing and checking out personal parts in a neutral area, they all seemed to accept each other as friends. While you may know your canine companions well you most likely don’t know the new addition that well so you especially need to be very alert as this step of the process is very important. Tail up, ears back, head lowered or low growl are an indication that there may be conflict brewing. Being distracted at this point could end in injury to one or both dogs.

How to Not Overwhelm Your New Dog

Since our youngest is our most exuberant of the three, even though he is mostly very laid back, we know he is also the most fearful of the three. We left him third and then after proper introductions I walked him and the new addition home together. We let them in the fenced backyard together and then allowed the other two out to explore the backyard together and to relieve themselves before going into the house.

With the first two hurdles safely accomplished they were happy to allow the new addition into the house to explore and check all the rooms out. The new addition had already smelled the other three so he quickly discerned where they ate, slept and most frequented. The new addition was very careful and respectful, and with meticulous detail checked out each aspect of the house.

New additions are sometimes traumatized or overly joyful to have a new home. Bosley’s parents were gracious enough to stay and have a meal with us so he had time to calm down. Not everyone has this opportunity, but it helped to settle him down considerably. When it came time for them to leave he was fully aware of what was going on and he didn’t want to face a goodbye so he stood and looked into the corner until they had left. While everything was new to him he adapted very quickly and is conforming to our routine almost instantly. In spite of his serious ear infection, he is working very hard to become part of the pack.

Start Grooming Early

I have also found some things lay the foundation for future behavior. Grooming is one of those areas that I try to do while the canine is still putting forth all their effort to please us. By doing it when they are still striving to please makes it easier to do in the future. Within the first day Bosley received a good brushing and had a much needed pet-a-cure or had his toenails clipped. Next time it is needed he will already know it was done without hurting him and be willing to cooperate. It will also give the new owner a chance to check the newcomer over carefully for any trouble spots.

This system has worked very well for us on numerous occasions and I’m sure modifications to fit different circumstances would work equally well; however we tend to follow the above steps very carefully. Like putting a jigsaw puzzle together it takes time to fit the entire puzzle together and make sure all the pieces work together to form a proper picture. As the days go by and by modifying or putting another piece into the puzzle it forms a long lasting relationship and bond that serves every member of the household including the newcomer. It is efficient and has worked for us very well over the years. The primary objective is to introduce the dog safely and make them comfortable as soon as possible.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their fur family go toBruce and Carol’s website.

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