Canine Behavior/introducing another dog to the household
Hi Jody, I have a 1 year old Doberman bitch and an 8 month old Cockapoo male. I am also a professional dog walker, so both my dogs are extremely well socialised and get on with all dogs. However I am seriously considering buying a 2 year old Doberman bitch who needs rehomed as the owner has Cancer and needs to rehome her 4 dogs. I have met this Doberman who is also very gentle and well socialised. However I would like some advice on how to introduce this new doberman into my household without upsetting my own Doberman, Maybe she will be fine, as she was when the Cockapoo arrived, however the Cockapoo was a tiny puppy and is male.Could you give me any advice please,
There are some variables that could affect the prognosis for these two dobie females to become friends enough to live together.
First - are the girls spayed? Intact females (even if only one of them is intact) are much more likely to fight than spayed females. So, if they are both more than 2 months post spaying, that increases the likelihood that we can create a living arrangement here.
Second - have your dogs met this dog? Do your dogs go with you for all your dog walks as part of your business? If they've met before and walked together without incident, that also bodes well for them developing a relationship that may allow them to live together.
If they've not ever met, then I encourage you to introduce them in a neutral territory at least twice before deciding whether or not to give the re-home a try.
To introduce them in neutral territory, if the owner is unable to participate, then you'll need to enlist a friend who can meet the new dog and then handle her on a leash. I would start with some parallel walking, with the dogs at least 10-20 feet apart (further if necessary). They should be separated enough that they notice each other, but don't care - they are not lunging, fixating, trying to get over to greet. When walking like this, an overhead shot should look like this: dog, person, 20 feet of space, person, dog. This way, the people act as an extra buffer between the two dogs, and will make it even clearer if the dogs are trying to get to each other because the dog will be cutting off the person walking her.
So, you need to start with as much distance as it takes for BOTH dogs to walk in a relaxed fashion - aware of the other dog, but not worried about the other dog. You will walk parallel to each other, in the same direction, for 20-40 paces, then turn around (keeping the dogs on the outside) and return the same 20-40 paces. Do this 3 or 4 times, then shift so that you're still walking in parallel lines, only now you're walking in opposite directions so the dogs are approaching/passing each other (still at the 10-20 foot distance - or however far it needs to be). You may find that when walking in opposite directions, at first, you need to increase the distance in order to keep the dogs calm. Do this several laps, and if the dogs are walking calmly and seem uninterested in each other, you can begin to close the gap.
Return to same-direction parallel walking, only now you'll be a few feet closer together. Do 3 or 4 laps this way, and then opposite-direction parallel walking for 3 or 4 laps (or however many it takes to get them to walk calmly without interest in each other). When they're calm for at least 2 laps (out and back once), you can decrease the distance again. Continue in this way until you're walking with the humans side-by-side and the dogs on the outside, but no real distance between you.
When you can do this, then you can stop and talk to each other. The leashes should have ZERO
tension on them. Tension on the leash will exaggerate any tension the dogs may be feeling about this introduction, which can lead to an altercation. Pay attention to them dogs and their body language. Allow them to do the greeting ritual - sniffing each other's genitals, belly, face, ears, etc. Pay attention. If one dog seems to be stiff, standing as tall as possible, hard staring at the other dog, shows teeth, vocalizes, etc, then turn and happily invite the dogs to walk away from each other in opposite directions. Do some more parallel walking until they're calm again and then try another greeting.
If the dogs are relaxed and engaging in play behavior, or (even better) if they're ignoring each other, averting their gaze, sniffing the ground intensely, turning their head or body away, sitting down, laying down, etc. these are all GREAT signs of communicating and active efforts to avoid conflict. That's excellent.
Once we have a comfortable greeting, then we can walk to your house (or meet up again outside your house), and go directly to the garden (not through the house) so that they can engage without you holding the leash. There should still be two of you, in case you do need to disrupt something, and you may want them to drag their leash while they're playing in the first encounter to make it easier if you need to separate them.
During this first play, pay close attention to them. If they're taking multiple time outs fairly regularly, then you can just enjoy the game. If they're not interrupting the game on their own, then I encourage you to interrupt it every 20 or 30 seconds (by words on a page, that seems awfully short, but 20 seconds during an active game is an eternity!).
Time-outs will be momentary interruptions to the game where one or both dogs stop playing. You'll see one or both dogs avert their gaze (look away), turn their head, turn their body, do a full body shake, do a big doggie stretch (downward dog), start sniffing some unseen thing on the ground very intensely, sit, lay down, yawn, lick their lips.... It won't be all of these things, but it may be more than one of these things, as well as a few other things not listed - but clearly not engaged with the other dog. The other dog is likely to also do one of these things, either mirroring what the first dog did, or something else in response. The timeout may last just a fraction of a second, or it may last a minute or longer. If you see that disruption to the game, they're doing great!
If you don't see that disruption to the game, then you should interrupt it by calling them over to you, offering a yummy treat or pets/kisses/love and then telling them "OK, go play!" or similar. Doing this just helps them maintain some self control, keep the game from getting out of hand. New friends don't always know when enough is enough and frequent time outs allows everyone to catch their breath.
If one dog is chasing the other (hounding, mobbing, harassing, etc), then it's on the humans to disrupt that immediately and make it clear that this won't be allowed. You'll know this is the case if the target dog is trying to escape (running away and NOT looking back to see if the other dog is following), the back will be rounded, the tail (nub) will be pointed down, the expression will be concerned and not relaxed/happy. If the target dog is cornered, she is likely to snap at, growl, etc. trying to get the other dog to back off (this is NORMAL and APPROPRIATE communication). If this happens, the scold should be directed at the dog doing the harassing, not the dog requesting more space. Let me repeat that...
IF THE CORNERED DOG IS SNAPPING, GROWLING, SHOWING TEETH, THEN THE SCOLD SHOULD BE DIRECTED AT THE DOG DOING THE HARASSING, NOT THE DOG REQUESTING MORE SPACE.
Assuming this whole thing goes well, then you can expect it to take several weeks to a few months for the dogs to fully settle into a stable relationship with each other. When I take a new dog into my home, I always make clear that I reserve the right to return the dog if they are not a good fit with my existing dogs. So far, I've not had to return a dog, but I always give myself that out because it's not fair to the existing dogs, nor the new dog, to force a living situation if they just don't like each other. And not all dogs will get along with every other dog.
If the new dobie gets on with your existing dobie, you'll still need to do the whole introduction thing with your cockapoo as well (perhaps a different day so that the dobie is not worn out by the whole thing. And, of course, if the dogs are not too put off by each other, that parallel walk exercise may start side-by-side, which speeds the whole thing up. And if they've already met before as part of your dog-walking business, then you can skip that and go straight to the greeting outside your home (or the other dog's current home) and then head straight to the garden for a play session so they can get to know each other better.
REMEMBER, DURING THE INITIAL ON-LEASH GREETINGS, THERE SHOULD BE ZERO TENSION ON THE LEASH AS TENSION ON THE LEASH CAN EXAGGERATE ANY UNDERLYING ANXIETY THE DOG MAY BE FEELING, WHICH MAKES IT MORE LIKELY FOR A SCUFFLE TO OCCUR. KEEPING THE LEASH LOOSE, ALLOWS THE DOGS TO BETTER COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR INTENDED BODY LANGUAGE WITHOUT BEING STIFLED BY US, AND WITHOUT US CAUSING UNINTENDED BODY LANGUAGE BY PULLING UP ON THE LEASH WHICH RAISES THE DOG'S HEAD/CHEST WHICH IS AN AGGRESSIVE DISPLAY...
Pay attention to their body language, if they're soft and relaxed, if they're taking breaks (timeouts) during play, you're doing great. If they're tense or not taking timeouts on their own, interrupt their activity to help them regain composure so we help them keep everything calm.
Don't assume your little man will be fine with the dobie just because he's a male and she's a female. You'll need to introduce them as well to make sure that there is no immediate conflict there.
Once in your home, supervise activities with toys, and especially high value items such as marrow bones, raw hides, pigs ears, bully sticks, food loaded Kongs, etc. until you are confident that there are no fights over these things. If there are, then these items must be enjoyed separately - each dog in their own space so we avoid the conflict. (This is not necessarily a reason to not keep the dog, it just means that these types of toys are perhaps enjoyed during crate time, or on opposite sides of closed doors, and then picked up before the dogs are reunited.)
I hope this proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.
Los Angeles Behaviorist