By this time both dogs have already met either at the foster home, your home or another location and now it's time to bring your new dog home. Below are helpful tips on what to do the first day you bring your dog home as well as the days following.
If you follow this advice and steps carefully you, your new dog, and resident dog will have a much easier time making the first few days and weeks less stressful and can result in a much happier beginning. Educate yourself on your dog's breeds even if they are a mixed breed because some of their inherited and pre-disposed genetic breed traits will be present.
The biggest mistake people make is thinking they can put the dogs together and everything will be fine. Dogs are very ritualistic but those rituals can vary depending on the dog and their past experiences with other dogs. Your job is to supervise, guide and intervene if necessary. We want this adoption to not only go well for the adopted dog but your current dog as well.
- Do not bring your new dog home unless you have at least one hour to do reintroductions.
- Even though the dogs have already met, introductions are to be done on leash. Even if you feel your dog may be one that does better off leash, don't risk it with an unknown dog. Both people helping with the reintroductions must have control over the dogs at all times.
- If there is more than one other dog in the home following introduction steps separately with each dog then when you're comfortable add the other dog.
- Have treats handy to reward each dog for nice behavior. Do not "treat" the dogs while they are too close (next to each other) at first.
- Relax and your dogs will most likely relax too.
- If you feel tense STOP – take a deep breath in and blow it out.
- Consciously relax your NECK – SHOULDERS – ARMS – HANDS
- Now start your 30 minute walk together.
- Do a self check often for how relaxed you are. Let your relaxed posture and attitude go down the leash.
- During the walk, have them walk side by side.
- If one dog is more nervous, alternate walking one in front of the other for a while, then go back to side by side again.
- Praise both dogs for friendly greetings and walking nicely with each other. Keep moving!
- Observe both dogs body language while on the walk.
- If one dog has to pee or poop on the walk, take the other dog a few steps away and give the dog time to finish. Allow the other to sniff but after the dog has finished.
- Once you return home from your walk, take both dogs in the back yard (fenced) and let go of the leashes but keep the leashes on the dogs.
- Look for sniffing, play bowing and other things dogs do to entice playing with each other. Praise them while they're playing and interacting appropriately.
- Some dogs may go off sniffing on their own. This is normal. The dog is giving the other dog signs to hold off and let them de-stress a bit and get use to their new surroundings.
- You may see lip licking, yawning or stretching. These are calming signals to the other dog (and sometimes meant for YOU.)
- Once the dogs begin to interact or play, keep the interaction and play sessions short in order to avoid one dog getting overly aroused.
- Intervene, calling the dogs to you, then send them off with an "okay!" to interact or play again for a few minutes.
- Provide each dog with a water bowl. Most dogs will share water but some do not. You may see one or both dogs drinking a LOT or not at all. This too is normal.
- Before going inside, make sure all toys, food bowls, bones and other items are put away.
- One thing to keep in your mind at all times – when it comes to dog/dog possession – in their mind possession is 10/10th of the law. What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine. However this should not apply to dog/humans so consult a professional if your dog does not want to share any resource with you.
- Many dogs do not like sharing what they would consider high value items. Those items could be balls, Kongs, especially bones, and their food or bowl.
- Keep food bowls picked up at all times.
- Remember to feed apart (not right next to each other) on opposite sides of the room, separate rooms or in their crates, until you know for sure neither guards their food or bowl.
- Ideally you've purchased a sturdy/safe baby gate and have it installed.
- Keep their leashes on for awhile once indoors.
- If there has been only positive interaction between the dogs, while you are able to directly supervise them (this does NOT mean going in another room to fix a snack, checking your email or getting distracted by anything else), allow them to interact indoors.
- If there has been any indication of negative interaction between the dogs, for the next 3-5 days, any time you cannot supervise them while you're home, separate them with a baby gate or crate.
- Any time you leave the house, both dogs should be crated.
- Leaving one dog in a crate and the other running loose or placed outdoors or in another room could create anxiety with the crated dog or the dog that is loose.
- If the crated dog was to escape their crate, you could come home to the aftermath of a dog fight or destruction of your home.
- Get familiar with dog body language – the signs they give whether stressed, calming, submissive, becoming aroused, or giving a "dirty look."
- Be prepared to give a verbal correction before a potential problem happens. (HEY!/ UH-UH!/ACK!/NO!)
- Do not think you can or try to make one dog the "alpha" over the other. You have absolutely no say over who is the "top dog" between the dogs.
- The most important thing they know is they can count on you to be "the" top dog.
During this settling in period BOTH dogs are under a lot of stress and going through a lot of changes. Ask the foster parent questions about the settling in period when the dog first came to their home. But keep in mind the experience, leadership styles and routine is different in every home. But by following the above steps and tips, yours and your dogs chance of success increases dramatically.
Give your new dog and resident dog time to adjust. Don't feel just because the first day or two didn't go perfectly that things can't work out. Things may go wonderfully for the first few days or weeks and then they can get more complicated. You're dealing with animals and why it is important for you to be a caring, yet fair and consistent and leader. The more consistent you are with their routine and letting them know what your expectations are regarding their behavior, the easier things will be. We HIGHLY RECOMMEND you order this $4 booklet: How to be the Leader of the Pack...And have Your Dog Love You for It – Patricia B. McConnell.