New dog introductions

My fiancé & I are planning to get married & move in together. We both have dogs, mine is an 8yr old female Weimaraner/Lab mix (Sandy) & his is a 4yr old male Lab (Storm). The 1st time we introduced them, she attacked him. She is fine with him now but he can't get over it. Is there anything we can do to teach them get along? I don't believe in getting rid of a dog. I think of them as our companions.

New dog introductions can be difficult and traumatic if one dog is aggressive towards the other. There are a few training tips that can help make this introductions easier. I know that they’ve already been ‘introduced’ but a ‘re-introduction’ may be necessary and is outlined below. Keep in mind that inter-dog interactions are complex and a trainer or behaviorist may need to be consulted in some cases.
Introductions should always take place in a ‘neutral’ space. Basically this means that the dogs are being introduced in a setting that doesn’t ‘belong’ to one dog or the other. This can be outdoors at a city park that is unfamiliar to the dogs or in the kitchen where both dogs are fed together. Some dogs will become territorial and aggressive if a new dog is suddenly introduced into their ‘space.’ After a few ‘introductions’ in a neutral space, you can continue this process in the home that you will share together.

Keep both dogs leashed during the entire introduction. This will ensure their (and your) safety. ALWAYS keep yourself safe as well. Many people are bitten or injured trying to separate fighting dogs. Be sure that their collars and leashes are fitted properly. If the dogs have had poor obedience training and are difficult to control on the leash, this process may be more difficult. 

Have both dogs sit and focus on YOU (the handler) during the first part of the introduction. When they are calm and focusing on you, reward with a small treat. I like to use Cherrios oat cereal as a training treat. They are small, easy to carry in your pocket and low-calorie. One or two is just enough to tell your dog that they’re being rewarded.

Have the more dominant dog (Sandy) lay down as Storm approaches. Again, be sure that you have a firm grip and control over them to prevent an attack. Roll Sandy onto her back and hold her there. If she is calm, reward her with treats. Slowly bring Storm over close to her and have them look each other in the face. Doing this exercise at least once a day can help change their relationship with each other and reinforces that Sandy needs to be calm and ‘submissive’ when Storm is around. Reward Storm too for being brave and approaching Sandy. Rewarding him can help reduce his fear response to Sandy over time.

As mentioned before, this is a good starting place for introducing dogs. Every case is different and it is difficult to make recommendations in writing without seeing the dogs interact. If you try this method for a couple of weeks and there is no improvement, please consult a local dog trainer or behaviorist.

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2 thoughts on “New dog introductions

  • Oct 20, 2013 at 12:00
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    when i brought home my boxer lab puppy he was only six weeks old we named him lucky our seven year old skipperkey little bear didint know what to think he would attack him for no reason but now that we have had lucky for over a year now you can not even try to seperate them they wont go anywhere without the other trust me once dogs take to eachother forget it you cant get them apart

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  • Nov 10, 2013 at 12:00
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    The suggestion to do an alpha roll on the dog who only showed aggression once is terrible advice as far as I am concerned. I can’t think of a less appropriate way to successfully introduce two dogs.
    The person asking for advice said the aggression only happened the first time they met, that’s not unusual for two dogs. What should be done now is to make both dogs feel as secure as possible and give them time to adjust to each other. They should be walked together, and praised every time they act playful with each other. It’s important not to be nervous yourself about how they will respond since they pick up on your emotions. I’m a pet sitter and many of my clients have two male dogs and all of them get along great with each other. I think dogs would want to have another dog around if given the choice, it just takes some time for them to get used to one. There is some additional advice at the ASPCA’s website. Under Virtual Behaviorist look for Introducing a Dog to Another Dog. And please, under no circumstances, do an alpha roll on your dog. I’m surrounded by about 15 dogs almost all the time. I have seven and I board about eight at a time. It’s easy for me to walk everyone at once and to have them all behave well. It’s because I have a bond with each of them and they want only to please me. I would ruin that bond by using unnecessarily harsh training techniques.

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