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 from 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-day 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
xx

Read This Before You Take Your New Dog Home

Congratulations on making the best decision ever to adopt a dog into your family! How are you feeling? Over the moon happy? Nervous? Overwhelmed? A little bit of all of the above? Let me help you dispel some of those worries with a concrete Fido-Proof plan so we can focus on all the good feels that come with bringing home your new-to-the-family sweet and furry companion.

Gather supplies and prepare your home.

Before you bring home Fido home for the first time, make sure you’ve already done your supply run for a leash, collar, harness, food, etc. Once you have the basics, here are some less obvious preparations that I recommend in order to make your life that much easier in the long run:

  • If you will be using a crate, make sure it’s already set up before you bring your new dog home. Witnessing the set-up could make Fido even more hesitant to trust the dog-eating contraption that you are asking him to get into.

  • Designate and prepare a dog-proof space. I can’t stress how important this step is! I bring 10-15 new foster dogs into my home per year, and this was a rule I had to learn the hard way… (a few times). Save yourself from the potential destruction, accidents, and stress that can result from not having a dog-proof space. In many homes, this looks like a gated off area in the kitchen, mud room, or other non-carpeted space, using baby-gates, x-pens, crates, turned over coffee tables, and creatively placed chairs. This area should include Fido’s water and food dishes, a dog bed, a crate (if you’ve decided to use one), and a few chew toys (bully sticks, frozen stuffed kongs, etc).
Vida plotting her escape from her dog-proof space.
  • If you have children, now is a good time to teach them how to interact with their new furry friend. It’s also crucial that they not approach your new family member while he is eating or sleeping during the first few weeks.
  • If you have other pets in the home, be prepared to separate them for the first three days. Yes, your home is safe, and your family is likely the best thing to ever happen to Fido, but here’s the catch – he doesn’t know that yet. Something called a ‘stress event’ triggers when a dog’s schedule and environment changes. This means a whole lot of stress hormones flood Fido’s system, and continue to increase over a 3 day period before stabilizing to normal levels. It is a best practice to separate your new canine from the rest of the pack until he has had some time to decompress in his new environment. Even after 3 days, they should not be left together unsupervised during the first few weeks or perhaps months. It can take a long time for dogs to acclimate to one another in a new home, and spats over jealousy, territory, and miscommunication are to be expected. {Post on how to introduce a new dog to your pack coming in Jan 2019}
  • Find out what food he is currently eating so that you can keep him on it to avoid any tummy troubles. You can gradually transition him to a food of your choice over a 1-2 week period. Adding flora fiora or pumpkin can assist with this transition, but isn’t necessary.
  • Stock up on some training treats. Kibble can be used for a lot of training, but I recommend high value treats for anything that may be particularly challenging for your new dog (keeping in mind, that for some dogs, something as ‘easy’ as stairs might constitute a challenge that requires payment in a much higher currency).
  • Kongs and bully sticks! Give Fido something appropriate to chew on so that he isn’t tempted by your delicious looking baseboards.

Be prepared for the drive home.

Crate your new canine companion for the first ride home, or if he isn’t crate trained, have a second person with you to hold onto his leash during the drive. As much as you might want to show him off or introduce him to fun new experiences, avoid making any stops on the way home. Your first stop should be the area where you want him to do his business. Once he has done his business outside, you are ready to introduce him to his new home.

Create an errorless schedule for the first week.

It’s a good idea to keep a 10-15 feet lead on him as he explores the house. After he has had a chance to explore, help him get acquainted with the area that you’ve prepared for him. You can spend some time hand feeding him, and petting him while he gets adjusted to his designated space, but do make sure to leave him for an hour or two, preferably with a stuffed chew, to allow him some time to rest.

This is a general outline of what his routine should look for the first few days. When Fido isn’t in his designated area, it is a good practice to keep him on a 10-15 foot lead at all times during the first few days.

  • Wake up and let Fido out for a bathroom break
  • Feed breakfast
  • Bathroom break
  • Exercise, play, and/or family time
  • Bathroom break
  • Fido’s designated area
  • Repeat bathroom break-exercise, play and/or family time-bathroom break-Fido’s designated area circuit until it’s dinner time
  • Feed dinner
  • Bathroom break
  • Exercise, play, and/or family time
  • Bathroom break
  • Bedtime in Fido’s designated area

Note that there are tons of bathroom breaks to remove any room for error. You might be wondering why all the extra precautions? Perhaps your dog has already been housetrained, and has never gotten into anything he wasn’t supposed to in his foster home. Here’s the thing- dogs are terrible at generalizing. Just because he knew the rules in one household doesn’t necessarily mean he is going to realize those same rules apply to your household. That, coupled with the stress and anxiety of moving into a new household makes an accident that much more likely to occur.

Make the first week utterly unspectacular.

The first week should be relatively quiet and stress free. This week is all about bonding with Fido, and teaching him his new routine. Avoid introducing him to all kinds of new people, places, and animals. He needs time to feel safe, and to adjust to his new environment, people, and and routine. This is also a good week to practice a few short departures to prepare your new dog for the first time you have to leave him for an extended period of time.

Bear makes boring look cute.

Thanks for reading everyone! <3

Love Sammy & Bear xx