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Canine Behavior/3 yr old lab mix stressed about new bulldog puppy

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Question
Hello,

We recently adopted a 1 year old bulldog. The first day out black lab mix seemed to enjoy her and playing. The second day has been challenging. Our lab boy seems depressed and stressed out. It breaks my heart because he came from an sbusive home and it has taken us 2 years to get his confidence back. We decided on adopting the second dog because his confidence seems to increase when other dogs are around. However, it is not happening with the new puppy. Any advise would be greatly appreciated as we really want this to work out.

Answer
Thank you for your question. Adding to the family is exciting and a little stressful for everyone involved. When we bring a new dog into a home with an existing dog, we have to remember that we are disrupting the life and home of the existing dog. Even very social dogs may really enjoy a visitor for several hours and then sort of feel "Oh, you're still here..." It doesn't mean they won't settle into a comfortable relationship, but it takes time for both dogs to get to know this new 'norm.'

For your existing dog, there may be some exhaustion playing into the depressed/stressy behavior along with the getting used to having another dog present that is not leaving. It can be confusing and worrisome about what exactly is happening.

For the new dog to your home, there is an adjustment period as that dog gets to know all the individuals in the family, and figures out what the interactions are going to be like with each member of the family (of all species). That can also be stressful - both exciting and confusing and maybe even a little scary.

My best advice - so long as they're not fighting - is to give them time apart. They should be closely supervised when together and together time should only be for 30-60 minutes, followed by 1-2 hours separate for the first few days to few weeks - depending on how they're getting on. If they are settled and relaxed/napping in the same room, you can extend the together time for that session, and then build on that. But for the first few weeks, I would make sure that both dogs get good breaks from each other so they have time to rest and process this change of lifestyle.

Make sure that you spend quality alone time with each dog so neither is feeling left out.

In my own home, I have never left new unattended with existing dog for the first 2-5 months. This is just a matter of wanting to be able to closely monitor interactions and subtle body language cues so that I can ensure that both dogs are relaxed and comfortable, and equally importantly - that both dogs are being respectful of each other's signals.

I strongly encourage you to read the book On Talking Terms with Dogs - Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas. it's a super easy read and will open your world of understanding of canine communication. When you have 2 or more dogs living together, it's essential that you are able to understand the subtle cues such as a lip-lick or an ear twitch, a yawn or a squinty eye so that you can intervene if necessary before either dog feels a need to become defensive.

http://www.amazon.com/Talking-Terms-Dogs-Calming-Signals/dp/1929242360/ref=sr_1_

But as you mentioned, you only brought this new dog into your house a day or so ago. Make sure they get plenty of relaxing, quiet time away from each other along with supervised interactions as they get to know each other, and give your lab/mix some time to adjust. He'll probably bounce back in a few days and be thrilled to have a new friend.

But, it is important to know that no dog will get along with every other dog, so there is always a possibility that this will not be a good match. This is why those early weeks need to be so heavily monitored so you can be assessing their relationship. And it may be necessary to put your own emotional connections aside if it's not a good fit and re-home the newcomer if your resident dog just cannot get comfortable with a 'sibling.' This is not necessarily what's going to happen, but it's important to have this in the back of your head on the off chance that they don't develop a good friendship.

Also (finally), there are perfectly comfortable dog-dog relationships that are not super interactive. There are doggie housemates that co-exist quite comfortably but they don't play together or cuddle and the like. As long as both dogs are comfortable, not fighting, no jealousy and the humans are providing tons of love and fun, this is a totally OK lifestyle.

Bottom line here - give it time. They only just met. Give them breaks, supervise, supervise, supervise. Read the book so you know what to watch for and can intervene if necessary. But I'd be willing to bet you'll followup in a week or so and tell me they're best buddies and all is well. :-)

Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Worcester, MA Behavior Specialist
Masters Candidate - Animals and Public Policy (Animal Behavior)
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
http://NutzAboutMutz.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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