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Introducing a New Dog to Your Pack

Adding a new dog to your family is one of the most exciting things you can do, but it can also be a bit stressful for everyone in your home. We all have our routines–including our pets–so when a new pack member is added, whether it’s a puppy, adult dog or even a cat, things can get thrown off balance as everyone settles in and figures out their new relationship and routine.

I had the pleasure of adding Moe to our pack as a puppy; but I made a lot of mistakes when introducing him to Barley, our first Golden. Lucky for me, Barley took kindly to Moe, even though he would still rather interact with humans instead of other dogs. Barley can be selective, and for that reason alone, I was nervous to bring in another new dog, especially one that was older. I researched and made sure we had a solid plan for when we added Cassie, our 3 year old rescue Golden, to our crew.

The saying “better safe than sorry” most definitely applies here–it is important to set everyone in the home up for success from the get go. Here are a few tips we learned along the way that helped me to set our dogs up for success!

Have the Initial Introduction in a Neutral Space

Inviting someone into your home rather than meeting them out for a walk at the park is a LOT different. Dogs can become possessive of their space, especially their SAFE space, so handling the initial meeting in a neutral spot can set things off on the right foot from the start.

If you bring home a new dog and initially it’s into all of your dog's things, your dog can feel like their space is being invaded and may feel the need to protect it. It’s also a great way to get a sense of how your dogs will vibe from the start as they may be more open to meeting a new friend at the park than they are at their home.

It’s also important to note that you should be aware of how your current dogs react to meeting new dogs before you introduce them. Some dogs can have leash reactivity or actually prefer to meet new dogs in a certain way, so make sure you set them up for success by advocating for all parties from the beginning.

Be Aware of and Avoid Possible Triggers While the Dogs Settle in Together

When your new dog is laying on your current dog’s favorite bed on his first night home, or playing with his favorite squeaky toy, you can see how a problem may arise.

This is one of the main mistakes I made with Barley and Moe when we brought him home as a puppy. After speaking with a few trainers, we opted to remove all toys and possible triggers from our home until everyone settled in when we brought Cassie home. Spending some time without toys and other triggers allowed me to be able to get a better read on how each dog was settling in together.

Things like food, water, and crates are also possible triggers, so making sure you give each dog space during meal time or rest is important. As your dogs become more comfortable you can start to slowly reintroduce these items back into your household.

Utilize Pack Walks and Adventures as Bonding Time

We all like to do things we enjoy, and for my dogs, it’s going for walks or on adventures. Regardless of who we’re with, they ALWAYS have a good time, and are excited to get out and do things.

Your dog will be much more excited and happy when out on a walk or adventure, and when you bring your new dog along and they can all share in the fun, together, it helps them to bond and accept the new dog as one of their “crew”.

Allowing them to get used to each other on leash without having to have direct interactions is also a great way for some of the initial excitement to wear off. When you head out for a walk with your new dog in tow, the experience should be positive, and can lead to positive reinforcement for ALL dogs in your pack as they look forward to getting out and exploring together.

Always Have a Safe Space for Each Animal

Having your entire routine switched up can be exhausting, so make sure you plan for periods where your dog can have “normal” time to play or rest and spend time away from the rest of the pack. This could be by utilizing crate training, baby gates, or even one-on-one time, like walks, adventures, or anything else they love so that they can decompress. Making sure they still feel like they have your attention is also so important to making sure everyone is safe and happy in their “new” home.

Having a safe spot setup for your new animal is crucial as well. Both Cassie AND Moe loved their crates when they first got home, and opted to rest in them 9 times out of 10 when they needed a break or wanted to relax. Making sure the other dogs respected their space from the beginning also led to more respectful interactions from the start, and each of my dogs knew they had a spot they could go if needed where they felt safe.

Stuff Happens

Regardless of HOW much planning you do or how perfect you plan for your initial meeting to be, stuff ALWAYS happens, so it's important to be ready to adjust as you go. I did everything in my power to set my crew up for success, and regardless, Cassie and Bar still had a few tiffs while they figured out how to co-exist in their new world. If you haven’t already, find a good trainer that can help you if needed, and plan for things to take some time while everyone adjusts.

To this day, each of my dogs has such a different relationship with each other, and it’s constantly evolving, too. It’s not something you can predict, but with some planning to set them all up for success as best you can, consistency, and a lot of love, sooner than later, your pack (and hearts) will officially grow by four paws–and there’s really nothing more rewarding!

- Rachel, Barley, Moe & Cassie

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