By Ken Piening
The introduction of unfamiliar dogs to other dogs may be a perilous journey. This can be very stressful for the dogs and the owners. But to help alleviate this stress, we must understand why the introduction is difficult for our dogs …
(Note: For the sake of this article your new dog coming into the home will be referred to as the “New Dog”. The resident dog will be referred to as the “Old Dog.”)
When the new dog enters the home, territorial instincts tell the old dog that he is to defend his home. These territorial feelings are the reason why dogs can not meet “the wrong way.” To understand the proper introduction, we must first realize that dogs live in a world of scent. Dogs rely on their keen sense of smell to introduce themselves to their surroundings. Therefore, training is based on their highly developed sense of smell. This is a difficult concept to grasp because humans depend on sight more than smell.
With this in mind, the home must be set up in a way that separates the two dogs so there is no visual contact. Visual contact creates posturing (a cold stare, growling and hackles raised). Dominant or submissive posturing immediately triggers a reaction in a the other dog and often leads to stress and tension between the two.
Introducing Two Dogs to Each Other in 4 Easy Steps
1. Place two cages in separate areas of the home (or use one cage and a laundry room). This is vital for a stress-free first meeting. Why? You use the cage as a training tool. The dogs, meanwhile, get a sense of comfort and security from the cage. It also important that the dogs do not make visual contact during this sensitive period. Instead of “meeting” each other visually, you will let them smell each other. This is done by placing a toy, tug, or even a blanket in their cages. These toys are called “scent articles”. Then as you swap these scent articles from one dog to the other, it will allow them to create a deeper bond. This form of communication is the only way they truly understand — communication through their nose!
2. Let the “new” dog roam around the house. This will allow him or her to get accustomed to a new home and group of humans (you). During this time, your “old” dog should be out of sight and harms way (under your control), because the newcomer will be exploring and leaving his scent on a territory that is still not his or her own.
The new dog should only be out of his cage for fifteen to twenty minutes, several times a day. This is plenty of time for him to check out his new environment and leave his own scent about the house. Then, when the new dog goes back in his cage, place the old dog’s scent articles with him.
3. Switch the dogs. Meaning, the new dog goes into the confined area and the old dog is allowed to play. The first time the old dog comes out, he will vigorously explore the scent left around the home by the new dog until he is satisfied the intruder has “escaped.” Your older dog might be overwhelmed and confused; this is when he needs your comfort. Allow him to sit on your lap or by your side as you read a magazine or a book, or perhaps while watching a rerun of Lassie (hey, the sound of another dog may serve him well). This quality time together is just what he needs during the scent discovery period.
To be truly effective, the old dog must be let out of the cage several times a day to understand the new smell — though it should only occur after the new dog has played and been put away. The more you do these short routines, the faster they will familiarize with each other.
So when do you know your older dog is ready for a close encounter? He or she will no longer furiously follow around the new dog’s scent around your home. This is a dog’s implicit way of saying, “Okay, I’m comfortable with that other dog now. When can we meet?”
4. The face-to-face meeting should not, for territorial reasons, occur on your property. A neighbor’s backyard, a ball park (when no other dogs or people might interfere), or any other enclosed area are far better places for the first meeting. And please do not think that leashes are sufficient enough to replace the security of an enclosed area; holding the leashes may in fact encite aggression in the dogs.
Instead, let the old dog run around the field (or other enclosed area), while the new dog is out of sight. Then switch and allow the new dog to play in the field while the old dog is out sight. Just like in your home, the dogs will detect a faimilar scent. Since the dogs have already been formally introduced via each other’s scent, they are ready to meet face to face. And because the area is confined and safe, they will not have a need or be able to run away. Instead the dogs will run over to greet each other, smell, posture … and will have no inclination to fight.
This stress-free and safe routine is the best way to introduce new dogs. In fact, it should easily work with trained or misbehaved dogs. You are allowing the dog’s natural instincts and primary sense (smell) be the teacher, which is both simple and effective.
A dog’s sense of smell is considered by many as its primary sense. Therefore, this training is based entirely upon the scent. This method will easily work with trained or misbehaved dogs. We are working hand in hand with the dog’s natural instincts. Allowing the dog’s instincts to teach the lesson will make learning simple yet efficient.