Last year, I wrote about welcoming a foster pet into your family… Here was Cooper, my foster:
Well, turns out I adopted that foster dog! (Can you blame me?! Do you see that face?!?) Cooper joined my other two pups, Emmett and Lucas, a year ago. He’s been a great addition, but had I known we were going to officially adopt him, I might have arranged their introductions a little differently.
Here’s the thing: Dogs, just like people, can feel jealous. They experience that same sometimes-combative sense of displacement that an older sibling can feel upon arrival of a new baby. The trick is in orchestrating that first meeting – and the subsequent days and weeks – to make sure that new and existing pups feel welcome, happy, and comfortable!
But where to start?
Start before you adopt! If possible, arrange an introduction with your potential pup and your existing dogs. While it’s ideal to get a sense of how they’ll get along before you sign the adoption papers, there’s one big, huge caveat. Not all dogs in shelters behave the way they will once they’re home. They’re stressed. Most don’t get a lot of time or attention. Many don’t have much in the way of formal training or maybe even healthcare. Introduce them to make sure there aren’t huge problems, but know that you can work with and overcome many challenges.
Meet-and-greet on neutral ground. Yay! Congratulations! You’re bringing home your brand new adopted dog! As exciting as it is to rush home, don’t go there first. Instead, have a family member or friend walk your existing dog to a neutral location – say, an unfamiliar park or hiking trail. Meet them there with your new adoption. No one will feel threatened, like their territory is being hijacked. Dole out tons of treats equally and give lots of praise and pats. But, again, you know your dog better than anyone else. Lucas, for instance, HATES unfamiliar places, so I would never have introduced him to Cooper anywhere other than home. That’s an oddity, I know. Emmett does much better in a Green Zone.
Maintain whatever “normal” is for your family. So they’ve met. That’s huge. Next up is bringing your new pup home. Even though you know how much your life has changed, it’s critical to maintain normalcy for existing pets. Keep the feeding and walking routines the same. Did you play fetch every night after dinner? Play fetch after dinner! Even if it means your new pup has some crate time or spends time with a different family member, keep your dog’s routines the same while slowwwwlllly integrating the new dog into those routines. Set aside extra special time to shower your pet with attention – and squeeze in one-on-one time with your new pet, too. It’ll be a busy few weeks until things start to fall into place, but don’t allow resentment or jealously to build in the early days.
Build those bonds. This goes for the you/existing pup, you/new-pup, and all pups combos. You need to spend time playing, training, and snuggling with each dog individually and together. You need to arrange (and supervise!) daily play and walks with all your pups together. While I hate to put a timetable on this, experience has shown that it takes lots and lots and lots of time (almost a year for the Emmett/Lucas introduction; three to six solid months for the Emmett/Lucas/and-now-Cooper combo) for real bonds to form.
Watch the “hot” zones. Feed them separately until you know they can eat side-by-side. Dedicate separate water bowls until you know they can sip in solidarity. Monitor play time until you know they can share toys nicely. It may not be perfect every moment of every day, but it can be fun and full of love.
Give some wiggle room. Okay. This may not be advice you hear everywhere, but I say you have to allow a little growling or corrections. This goes doubly if you’re bringing a baby into your house. Your existing dog (Ahem, Emmett.) may not want to share his bed at night. And that’s okay. If you allow him to try to correct the unwanted advance, it may nip the behavior faster than if you step in every time. Of course, you don’t want full blown fights to erupt. But, really, it’s okay to let them work it out amongst themselves.
Bringing home a new dog is an exciting, happy time! With a little planning, time, and attention, it will be as seamless as it is fun!
What other recommendations do you have for introducing a new adopted dog to your existing dog?