Dogs are social animals. When the number of dogs in the family is increased, there can sometimes be problems if the owners move too fast.
The transition must be handled slowly and carefully. Two dogs are more difficult to manage than one. And three or more dogs are a “pack.”
Whenever a new dog is added to a home, drive is elevated. Dogs may become much more territorial and may compete for resources such as beds, food, bones, toys, treats and even owner attention. When dogs don’t have a clear human leader, these problems can intensify.
THE SOLUTIONS: OBEDIENCE TRAINING, CONTROL OF RESOURCES
AND CLEAR HUMAN LEADERSHIP
When dogs have strong human leadership in the home, fights are less likely to occur. The owner makes it clear that aggressive behavior will not be tolerated.
Even so-called “difficult” dogs – once they are introduced into a home with a strong human leader – can live peacefully with other dogs. Dogs pick up on very subtle behavior cues (most of them non-verbal) from their owners.
These are some of the skills we teach owners in our training programs. Good human leaders are perceived by their dogs to be unquestionably in charge.
They are benevolent, not dictatorial. They use correction – but never violence – to enforce the rules when necessary. In multi-dog families, the owners must show the dog(s) that they will protect them from the other dogs if necessary. When it’s done right, introducing a new dog into a family which already has other dogs is an orderly, organized, nonviolent process.
The owner must carefully manage the introduction phase. For example:
- The new dog must be kept on a 6 foot leash held by the owner, both inside and outside of the home for several days, from the moment he arrives. The number of days will vary depending on the behavior of your dogs, but generally we recommend that for the first 5 to 10 days, the new dog be kept on leash at all times.
- Being on a leash requires the dog to “follow the leader” from room to room. It also controls access to resources and helps form a strong bond with the owner right from the start.
- Sometimes it is advisable for the existing family dog(s) to spend some time on leash inside the home as well.
- Dog crates should be used. When the new dog cannot be kept on leash, he can rest safely and securely in his crate.
- Obedience training must be practiced with all of the dogs, not just the new one. Regular obedience lessons can help provide human leadership and control.
- An occasional growl can be part of a dog’s normal communication process, but the key is to prevent circumstances which make these displays necessary. More aggressive behavior (snapping, lunging or biting) must be corrected immediately with a firm “no” and immediate removal of the offending dog(s) from the room for a while.
- The owner must control access to all resources to prevent the dogs from competing for them. Common triggers of dog fights include things like food, bones, toys, treats, owner attention and high places (like furniture or beds).
- Young puppies and older dogs have different play styles. Do not allow a puppy to “bully” an older dog with rough play. Often, the older dog will tolerate a certain amount of rude behavior from a young puppy, but later when the older dog detects maturity in the puppy, he will begin to aggressively defend himself.