Saturday, March 1, 2014

Get Along Little Doggie ...

So you all know now that we've had our new Beagle puppy here for a week (9 days to be exact). She's fabulously fun and I'm going to be doing a one week post on her next. First, I wanted to address a question I've gotten many times since she arrived -- How are your other dogs liking her?

The answer is: I don't know. They haven't really met her yet.  See, it's my professional and expert opinion that any new dog (puppy or adult) that comes into a home with an existing dog (or dogs) should never just be tossed in with the mix right up front.  Actually they shouldn't physically mingle for several weeks, ideally several months. I understand that for the average pet home that's just not going to happen.  Either people don't agree with that or they think it's too much of a pain or ... I don't know they have some reason of their own.  But let me tell you why I choose to do this.

Contrary to what we like to think as humans about our dogs we need to understand a few things that are often hard for us to understand.  We don't think like dogs regardless of how hard we try. However, we need to run a household that runs smoothly and peacefully and to do this we should really stop putting human emotions on our dogs.  

Dogs don't necessarily need a canine buddy.
I see this a lot especially when a 2-dog home loses one of the dogs.  The common thought is that Fido misses Fluffy as they were such good pals. So they bring home a new dog for Fido.  Now he's got a new pal and this should ease his sadness of not having Fluffy anymore.

The truth is that Fido may have loved Fluffy. He may have actually been best buds with her.  However, that doesn't mean he's wanting a replacement.  It's like replacing your best friend. Sure you may get another friend and they may be a great person but they aren't going to be able to replace your BFF.

Also, dogs base just about everything with other dogs around resources.  For dogs the most common resources are: food, toys, sleeping areas (beds), crates (or safe areas), and their beloved humans.  When another dog comes in they can become quite reluctant, if not aggressive, about sharing any or all of these resources.  Dogs are not hard wired to share.  They are not like humans at all in this regard.  Teaching a dog to share is even more challenging than teaching a toddler to do so!  (However when they do understand sharing it's fabulous! And not all dogs don't share, some are ok with that.  All dogs are different.)

So, bringing Fido a brand new pal to replace Fluffy actually can do more harm than good if it's not done properly.  Fido will start to realize he has to now share all of his resources with Gidget, and Gidget is not Fluffy.  He and Fluffy already had long established who got what and when and how.  They did that years ago.  But Gidget, she's new. She doesn't know. What if she's going to steal all the food? What if she's here to get all the attention from human-mama?  Fido is now stressed out and isn't all too happy about you bringing home Gidget.

So, you're saying having more than one dog is not good? Adding a new dog is bad?!  
No. If you can do it properly and with good training and low-stress then it can work out beautifully.  Sometimes it doesn't work out and we may need to see if the dog was a poor fit to the home and/or other dog(s) in the home.  Also some dogs just don't want another companion, plain and simple. Some dogs are totally fine being the only dog in the home.  We have to respect that. Not all dogs need friends, and some do not want them!  You need to know your dog(s) very well and understand what will be best for your dog(s) and your home.

Signs your dog isn't happy about the new addition.
Your dog can show signs of stress in many,  many forms.  We often think if they didn't break out into a dog fight then all is well, right?  OR If they just have a few non-eventful squabbles every now and again that's ok. Well, not necessarily.

Here are a few common signs of stress with any new addition:
  • Regression in potty habits and/or marking starts to take place.
  • Becomes possessive of things that s/he didn't before.
  • Seems to be "stubborn" and won't listen to cues s/he knows reliably.
  • Becomes distant, doesn't sleep where s/he used to, goes and lies alone in other places.
  • Barks or vocalizes uncharacteristically and/or randomly.
  • Starts new poor habits (jumping up, barking, potty accidents, etc.)
  • May have some new medical issues pop up "out of the blue".
  • Shows signs of what humans would call "jealousy".
If your dog is doing any of the above after adding in a new dog it's likely that some steps backwards need to take place. If things are going rather poorly you need to hire a professional to come and assess the situation. Your dog may be with the wrong dog or may not be able or wanting to live with another dog.

Older dogs don't often like puppies.
Another thing is that adult dogs often completely dislike puppies and their annoying antics.  Some adult dogs do marvelous with puppies while others think they are too old and wise to deal with the spryness of a youngster.

Puppies bond quickly.
Puppies bond quickly to whomever spends the most time and engages with them the most.  If you have multiple dogs and your puppy gets to hang with them, it's likely she'll hang with them more than you.  Afterall, her canine housemates speak dog and you don't!  So it is very easy for a puppy to bond to a dog.  However, this can hinder your relationship with the puppy and will show through lack of what will look like "listening skills" and "disobedience".

It is vital that the human bond with the puppy and let the other household dog(s) come in later!

So, what do you do then?!
I keep all the dogs separated for several weeks.  Ideally for several months.  Yes, months.  They don't have to be completely isolated. At my house the puppy's crate is in our bedroom just like our other dogs'.  They all see each other come and go.  My two boys are out and moving about as normal and the puppy is in her crate and visa versa.  We also rotate who goes in the yard. My boys will go outside without me and hang for a bit but the puppy is taken out and supervised as we are still working on potty training (must go out to praise the potty in appropriate places!)

So,  here is a typical morning at my house over the past week.  
6 am - puppy goes out to potty, other dogs stay in our bedroom (I carry her outside)
She gets put back into crate after potty break and sleeps until I get up with my kiddos about 7:30-8 am
8 am - take her out again, leave my dogs in bedroom
Then I bring her in and put my dogs outside.
8:30 am - feed all dogs - my dogs eat in their crates, Charlotte currently eats in the kitchen with me via a puzzle toy and/or using the food as training rewards
I play with her for 15 minutes and train her some as well.
9 am - back out to potty then straight to crate for down time
I then let my dogs out of their crates and they hang with me while I then feed all my kids!  
Then rinse and repeat for the most part.

We added another dog and it went fabulous!
Remember, this doesn't apply to all dogs, nothing does. However, I don't throw caution to the wind when it comes to dogs. It's not fair and when/if things go south it's not going to be fun trying to back pedal!  So, it's best to take this approach with a new dog just to ensure less stress, more happiness and no surprises!

What if we want to add another dog, how should we do it?
If you are considering another dog or a new puppy to add to your house with a current dog (or dogs) then contact me or another trainer in your area to help you with the transition.  It will be some work and commitment in the beginning but it will be so worth it in the long run!

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