Integrating a new dog into your multi-dog household

The secret to having a peaceful and happy pack is all in how you manage your environment and expectations.

Bear & Honey went together like… well, Bears & Honey, but it wasn’t always that way.

Dogs are pack animals, right? So then, isn’t it fair to expect a harmonious pack right off the bat? I mean, initial introductions went considerably well, not to mention your dog is always so gleeful to meet other dogs at the park or on walks. You picture that same glee on Molly’s face when you bring Titan home for good, anticipating hours of chase, wrestling, and group naps. Except – despite the evidence and logic that supports otherwise, our expectations need a serious wake-up call.

“Did you really think this is what I wanted, mom?!!” – Bear

So, let us get on with it, and wake-up then. What are some realistic expectations, and how do we promote good PR (Puppy Relations)? You’ve already facilitated safe and slow introductions, as detailed here. What’s next?

Use barriers, crates, or baby gates to keep the pack separate from the new kid for the first few days

When a dog is moved to a new home, they are introduced to a new routine, family, rules, and environment that they are unfamiliar with, and this can be very stressful as they try to navigate their new life. For these reasons, it’s not uncommon for your new companion to experience something referred to as a ‘stress event,’ which triggers a release of various stress hormones including cortisol. Your dog can remain in this state for up to 3 days, and any further stressful events could escalate reactive behaviour. Think about the implications of having a dog chalked full of adrenaline and cortisol figuring out his place in the pack. It’s not a happy picture.

That’s not to say there aren’t some activities you can’t do to set the stage for a peaceful and trusting pack while invoking the 3-day rule of separation.

Group hand feeding: helps create a strong positive association between the pack, and also helps teach them patience and focus. Take turns giving each pup a piece of kibble, using barriers and/or leashes to keep everyone safe and respectful.

Group walks: allows the pack to acclimate to one another without the pressure and confrontation of direct greetings. The newbie should have his own walker.

Remove prized possessions from common areas

When you are ready to grant your new furry family member access to the rest of the pack and house, it’s important to remove toys, beds, food, and anything else your dogs may covet from shared areas. Feed your new dog in his own separate space, and enforce the same rule of separation when they are given chews or toys. This will help prevent spats over possessions and territory. After a few weeks, you can gradually re-introduce toys while you are actively supervising your pack.

The new dog should still be kept separate from the rest of the pack when they are not being supervised

Keep the dogs confined in separate areas of your home any time you are away or can’t watch them. It can take weeks, if not months before your pack finds their groove. It’s good practice to separate the new guy even when you are home every now and again, to give everyone some quiet time, especially if it seems one dog is not matching the other dog’s energy level. Breaks are a proactive way to prevent disputes and stress. You should still expect tiffs over jealousy, territory, and status. It’s all normal behaviour and part of the integration process. Think about the people that you have cohabitated with over the years. Did you always get along with them? No amount of baby gates or group walks will save my husband when he has taken the last bit of ice cream, and we have shared the same roof for years now!

In Summary:

1. Facilitate safe and managed introductions, as detailed here.
2. Invoke the 3-days of separation rule, and promote good PR (group hand feeding and group walks).
3. Remove prized possessions from common areas.
4. Invoke the rule of separation when you are not there to supervise the pack.

Thanks for stopping by!

Love, Sammy & Bear

An Awkward Hello & Pleased to Meet You!

I pay $100,000 per year for happiness, how about you?

Okay, let me back this up a bit before you start to get the wrong idea. After university, I spent nearly 10 years of my life chasing a pay cheque. But the whole ‘work to live’ thing wasn’t quite panning out the way I thought it would, and I found myself spending most of those pay cheques on a whole bunch of junk I didn’t need, as a bandaid to cover up the fact that I-HATED-EVERYTHING-ABOUT-MY-JOB-AND-MY-LIFE-AND-MY-JOB-AND-OH-MY-DOG-HELP-ME-IF-I-EVER-HAVE-TO-SIT-BEHIND-THAT-DESK-EVER-AGAIN. Errrr, too dramatic? Alright, so fast forward to July 2018 when I found the courage to just rip that bandaid off and do something about it already. I made the decision to walk away from my corporate career, and I made the jump without any safety net in sight. Goodbye corporate card, downtown parking spot, fancy-pantsy boozy lunches, and golf tournaments (okay, let’s be real – never having to ever golf again is maybe-probably the very best part of leaving my old job). I once defined my very own value in monetary terms; my self-esteem and self-worth tightly tied together with a number on a T4 slip. And I cut that tie in one very vulnerable and brave snip. Spoiler alert: I dug deep and found the meaning of happiness and fulfillment in a job that pays me $100,000 less per year, but I’ve never looked back. Not once. You can’t put a dollar sign on what this new job and life has given me, and friends- I promise that is not an exaggeration.

Hi everyone, I’m Sammy Musgrave, Behaviour Coordinator for a local animal rescue in Calgary, AB. This isn’t my first blog, but in my previous blogging-life I had mainly focused on mental health (hint hint – corporate Sammy wasn’t the happiest of humans out there). And now I am here to share everything I know about dogs and behaviour modification. Ultimately, my goal is to provide you with a one-stop shop for all your training questions and needs, and to share an insider’s view of rescue. Focusing on our furry canine friends isn’t that much of a leap from what I was writing about before, given that they have always been a form of therapy for me.

This is the kind of therapy that I subscribe to.

Anyways, enough about me! Here is what you need to know. This is a safe and accessible forum for those of you who foster, own, or care for dogs. I really want to hear your comments, and I don’t want you to be afraid to ask questions. The topic of training and animal welfare can be touchy! But don’t worry, I don’t usually bite and I have been taught amazing bite inhibition. Welcome to my lame and awkward sense of humour, and to my blog!