|Barked: Fri Jun 20, '08 11:27am PST |
|Dogs are social.. so I always think more than one is best.. that said here are some tips for getting them off on the right paw:
Why do you want another dog?
Okay you have decided you want another dog. Now why do you want another dog? Your reasoning makes a huge difference in the choices you make along the way. I have classified these into two different categories.
The Arranged Marriage. I like to think of it this way because the dog really has no choice in the selection of the other dog. For one reason or another the humans of the family have decided they want a particular dog. Now these two dogs must learn to get along together. Sort of like two humans being marooned on an island together, they have to learn how to trust and like each other at all costs. It can be a rocky road, but it is workable.
The Companion Dog. This is the family that wants to find a friend for their scruffy. Often you will find that you allow your dog to pick out who he or she likes from a few different dog choices. Sort of like the dating game. Finding a companion for your current dog is a lot like a marriage. Understand that along the way they will have their disagreements, but that have to have a basic like for each other. Most people don't just meet someone, get married and move in together all in the span of hours. We take our time feeling each other out getting to know each others quirks and limits. When you're comfortable enough to leave a toothbrush at their house, eww he snores, he leaves the toilet seat up, etc…. we all learn how to handle each others quirks and limits. You gradually learn to build a trust in each other. We know enough to take it slowly, why can't we give our dogs the same space? Thankfully our dogs are little more forgiving, as we do force them into this type of situation all the time. They are often much more adaptable than we are in these situations. However, it is very important that we help them to establish their limits and learn each others quirks slowly when learning to live together. That's the biggest difference with humans and dogs are that dogs aren't equipped with all the games and gray areas involved in human-human relationships. Normally you can get a good feel for the dogs liking each other in the span of just a few short hours. Along the way we do need to instill a few rules to help make sure there relationship stays on the right track.
It's important in dog-dog interactions to also understand a few different things. Dogs are not looking to create problems by instinct. They are instinctually conflict solving animals. They are instinctually pack animals. They are not walking around looking to pick a fight, unless they have been taught to do so. The problem is that often us humans get in the way and teach our dogs some pretty bad social skills with other dogs. At times some dogs are just not comfortable around other dogs because they haven't been socialized with other dogs. Maybe the two dogs just don't like each other, it's possible... not all humans like every person they meet.
Introductions - Getting them off on the Right Paw.
Whether you are creating an Arranged Marriage or picking out a Companion Animal there a few things you should do to make sure things so as smoothly as possible. First impressions mean a lot to us, why would we expect any less from our dogs. Fortunately, dogs are often more forgiving than we are. However, when introducing two dogs it makes everyone's life much easier if we help them make the best of their first meeting. This meeting scenario was written to help introduce dogs into a new home, when there are questions about the social skills of either or both dogs. Ideally it is always best to allow the dogs to meet without a leash in a secure open area, however due to the fact that most dogs these days are not highly socialized with other dogs, this is the safest way to handle the situation.
Phase one: The Initial Meeting on Leash
Step 1: Both dogs must be leashed on a choke collar or martingale collar with a 6-foot lead. Do not use a flexi-lead, harness or gentle leader for the introductions. Each dog should be handled by an adult who can control the dog.
Step 2: Each handler should have good control of their dog and should be keeping their dog on a loose leash. Loose leash means no tension. Tension in the leashes can cause unnecessary restraint on the dogs which will actually cause the dogs to become upset.
Step 3: Have the two dogs meet on a neutral territory. Encourage letting the dogs sniff each others hind-quarters. Do not force the dogs to meet face-to-face in fact avoid it. While humans like to meet face to face, this is actually against the doggie language to meet this way. Let them maneuver around and sniff each other. Each handler should be focused on the dog under their control and ensuring that a loose leash remains constant.
Step 4: If either handler is inept at getting the dog on a loose leash or you seem to have some troubles getting good reactions out of the two dogs, you may need to walk the dogs single file together. One in front of the other forcing the butt sniffing. Take turns with one in front of the other then try Step 3 again.
Assuming you have gotten a good calm but interested reaction out of the two dogs or some play mode you can move on to the next step. If not then it's possible that one or both of the dogs has some social skill problems or it's possible the dogs just don't like each other. Not all dogs have to like every dog they meet. There are things that can be done to resolve these problems but that's another lesson. Things that you want to watch for are total disinterest in the other dog. Tails wagging (which despite popular belief) is not always happy sign. The scruff stands up, and a lot of standing still in a rigid posture by either of the dogs.
Phase two: Outside Loose together (in the securely fenced yard): this is best but if not available more to Inside loose together.
Step 1: Make sure that ALL toys, bones, dog food, cat food, kitty litter boxes and treats are up off the ground and out of reach. Step 2: Take the dogs to the fenced in yard. Repeat steps 1-4 of the initial meeting.
Step 3: Allow the leashes to drop, but leave the leashes on. Makes life easier to break thing up if the leashes are still attached.
Step 4: Normally the newer dog is going to spend about 5 minutes checking out the lay of the land before becoming interested in the other dog. Let them interact and move around together. Keep close watch and make sure you help to prevent any leash tangles.
Assuming you have gotten a good calm but interested reaction out of the two dogs or some play mode you can move on to the next step.
Phase three: Inside Loose together
Step 1: Make sure that ALL toys, bones, dog food, cat food, kitty litter boxes and treats are up off the ground and out of reach.
Step 2: Make sure any crates or room that are off limits, are just that... off limits.
Step 3: Take the dogs inside. Repeat steps 1-4 of the initial meeting.
Step 4: Allow the leashes to drop, but leave the leashes on. Makes life easier to break thing up if the leashes are still attached.
Step 5: The new dog again is going to spend about 5 minutes checking out the lay of the land before becoming interested in the other dog. Let them interact and move around together. Keep close watch and make sure you help to prevent any leash tangles.
Getting an initial read – Do they like each other?
Having followed all the dog-dog introduction steps you should be able to tell a few things about each dog and their comfort level with each other. Again I stress the keys of having them meeting on leash is to have that loose leash in the meeting. After you have gone through the initial meet with the two dogs, and they have done about 1 minute of good solid focus on each other you should be able to have a good idea about a few things.
When you are evaluating dog-dog interactions here are a few things to watch for:
-moving around each other fast
-foot movements and shifting weight from paw to paw
-slow stiff movement from the dogs
-growling and nose crinkling
-the dogs are totally ignoring each other
-one dog tries their best to stay away from the other dog
Who is in charge here?
From day one, you need to make a huge decision. Are you going to let them work it out? Or do you want them to look to you for the end result? Not sure what I mean? Well let's use a human example here. Two 8 year old kids are put into a room with a Nintendo and a ONE controller. Would you like the kids to work it out themselves or come to you to resolve the issue? Inevitably both ways there will be an end result, but let's face the facts here. Letting them work it out can get mighty ugly and not many people can handle the letting the whole scenario play out.
Letting them work it out, well the two dogs may nash it out and one will succumb to the other. There may be bloodshed but usually there will be one huge rip-roaring fight. The way this plays out depends on a lot of different factors including each dog's socialization, their personalities; there are a LOT of different varying factors here. This route can also get extremely ugly if the two dogs have the same type of personalities and neither wants to back down.
Looking to you for resolving the conflicts. Bottom line here is this; you need from day one to explain fighting is not allowed! Period end of story. The best way to convey this to your dogs is to prevent conflicts, and number two get your dogs under control. They NEED to know who is in charge from the start. You can teach them later on, but it is much easier on everyone to teach them from day one.
Either route you choose, you need to decide from day one which one it is going to be otherwise you are only going to confuse the situation.
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