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This week on the PupJoy Post: DOG WARS.
You: Let’s get a second dog! Norm needs a playmate.
Your family: Yay! He’d be so happy!
Norm: … say what now?
Up until now, ol’ Norm has had the benefit of your full focus, all your love, and run of the house. You may be right about him enjoying a playmate, but if you want a smooth transition, you need to consider his instincts.
Dogs — in case you didn’t know — are territorial. Your home (and your yard) are Norm’s territory. He eats, sleeps and plays there. You and your family are his pack.
If this were the wild, and some interloper dog showed up, Norm would be suspicious and protective. He might even get aggressive.
Your job is to smooth the transition and help Norm feel comfortable with the newcomer. We can all moon over pictures of doggy BFFs, but the truth is it takes most dogs a little transition time to get there.
Rule #1: Create Neutral Ground
Enlist a friend to walk Norm on a route you don’t normally take. Then, take your new dog for a walk on the same route, and just “happen” to run into each other. The dogs will be able to meet on neutral ground, do some butt sniffing, and start getting used to each other.
There may be some growling, barking, and a fair bit of posturing. That’s okay — just get them walking.
After a 30-45 minute walk, the dogs start to form a bond. At the very least they get to know each other a little better.
Rule #2: Break Up Fights Calmly
If a ruckus breaks out, don’t freak. They’re fighting for dominance in the pack — but who’s the boss of the pack?
Stay calm and separate them. If you scream and panic, it puts both dogs on edge and can escalate the fight.
FYI, even lifelong doggie buddies can get into mild scuffles. This whole “stay calm” thing applies forever.
Rule #3: Gotta Keep ‘em Separated
At first, keep your new dog confined to just a few rooms in the house. This will help Norm feel secure over his territory (his bed, etc.), and give the dogs time to ease into to living together. It also teaches the new dog that there are rules in your house, and sets the tone for future training.
Norm can smell the newbie, and maybe interact with her, on his own terms. Gradually increase their face-to-face time so they can bond slowly.
Rule #4: Give it Time
Some dogs become instant besties. Others take a few days, and some take months! There’s no way to predict how they’ll do.
Give both dogs time to get used to the new situation. They may never be best friends, but almost all dogs will form some sort of bond.
In rare cases (because, let’s be honest, most dogs love each other), Norm might not ever accept your new dog. If after a few months they still can’t get along, you may want to call in a trainer or behaviorist for help.
Rule #5: Keep Them Occupied
One of the biggest benefits to bringing in a second dog is to keep Norm company when you go away.
Some dogs can play for what seems like hours, but if they’re going to be stuck inside for long hours, they need plenty of their own toys to play with in case one of them gets bored. (You don’t want them roughing each other up or ruining the furniture.)
Ideally they’ll have different tastes in toys so they won’t have to fight over the same ones.
And remember: when the dogs start acting up, or you're having trouble getting them to calm down, or you just need a self-esteem boost...
Who's the boss of the pack?