We have just recently become a 4 dog family, and this got me thinking about the best ways of integrating Jack into the pack. The status of the existing pack is very clear. First there was Lucy, and then about a year later, I adopted Oscar. About seven years later, we met Kobe. They are on the totem pole if you will, in that order. And now, one year later, enter Jack. How can I be sure we keep our perfectly happy homeostasis while welcoming this little guy to our family?
Whether it is your first dog or your fourth dog, adding a new furry friend to your family can be tricky. Following a few important steps can help make sure everyone builds a loving relationship with each other. I’ve listed below what I feel are the 5 MOST important tips to adding a new pup to your pack.
#1: GO SLOW!
I cannot emphasize this enough. The #1 rule with introducing a new pet to any setting is the 333 rule:
3 Days: Compared to the shelter, your home is a bright and shiny new world. Your dog is going to be overwhelmed with all the new sights, scents, and space. There’s likely to be a lot of excitement, a lot of energy, and a lot of unpredictability. This is their main focus for at least days 1-3.
3 Weeks: After about 3 weeks, your pup is starting to understand your routine and getting more comfortable in their new home. Their personality will start to shine through and they will really start playing with their new pack members. They should still be monitored closely during this time. Don’t let your guard down just because everyone is being friendly so far.
3 Months: Your dog knows that your home is their home now. Yay! This is a great time to sign up for a group obedience training class if you haven’t already. Training is a fantastic way to bond with your pup, and it helps them continue to be introduced to new settings, people and dogs. I signed Kobe up for basic obedience when he was 6 months old (3 months after we adopted him). When we started, he was terrified to be in the car, to meet new people, of basically everything. By the end of the 6 week course, he was so much more confident!
The timeline is different for every dog. They are individuals and should be cared for that way!
#2: Respect your other dogs.
Your other dogs may not be ready to be BFFs with the new puppy right away. It is important that you know your dogs, and that you read their signals. They are depending on you to keep them safe! For my pack, Oscar is always a go to when it comes to introducing a puppy. Puppies are HIS JAM. Kobe is very friendly with other dogs, but he is HIGH ENERGY and a very rough & tumble pup. Lucy is vision impaired, and she always wants to lick other dogs faces, so to keep her safe, she is always the last intro. For the first couple of days, I always keep the puppy (the new, unpredictable friend) on a leash when with the other dogs. This helps me keep control of his actions and allows me to quickly remove him if needed. I also only allow individual interactions for at least the first day or two. This again helps keep control of the situation, and lets me watch both dogs carefully. If anyone gives the slightest indication that they are not happy, the play time is calmly but quickly stopped. Interactions should be done in short, small spurts, with the time increasing a little each round. Be mindful of cherished toys or space. If your dog has a favorite spot on the couch, do not let the puppy come running full force to jump in that space. If your dog is having cuddle time with you, make sure the puppy is not allowed to leap into your lap and steal your attention. This will help make sure you are keeping the new friend safe while respecting your pack.
#3: Set everyone up for success.
Know what you’re getting into! If your dog doesn’t do well with in-your-face, high energy dogs, then maybe don’t adopt a working breed as they typically are bouncy energetic friends. If you have a human baby, look for dogs who are more mellow and less vocal. Don’t get a dog without really considering what this means for you and anyone else in your family. Are you prepared to keep your pets separated for awhile until they are comfortable with each other? Do you know how to recognize when your dog is unhappy? Do you know how much more money this new pet will cost on a monthly basis? For example, a large breed dog eats a lot more food than a small breed. If you adopt a dog on a whim, you may very well be setting yourself and/or your pack up for failure. Be mindful of what it means to your existing pack to bring home a new dog. Are you prepared to give the time it takes to ensure a long lasting, successful relationship for all involved? No matter how friendly your dog may be, do NOT expect them to love every dog they meet. Some dogs just do not mesh well. Research, be aware of the attributes you are looking for in a new dog, and be patient to find the right one!
#4: Provide clear boundaries for everyone.
It is important for your new pup to have boundaries. He needs to know where his space is, what he isn’t allowed to do, etc. But it is also important to reinforce any boundaries for your existing pack. They need to know what your expectations are for them now that there is someone new sharing their space. It is also important for them to know that just because there is a new baby around, they haven’t lost your love and attention. Some dogs may not need any extra attention. Take Lucy for example. She could care less when new friends are here. She is a very confident dog and never waivers in her self appointed status of Queen Bee. Oscar is a mama’s boy and he will ALWAYS check in with me when a new dog is around. He does a drive by pounce to make sure he’s still my #1 guy, and then he goes back to puppyland. Kobe also likes some 1:1 attention. As I mentioned above, it’s so important to know your dogs. Because I am aware of Oscar & Kobe’s needs, I make sure I give them some individual time with the Mama so that they don’t have to be jealous of the new baby getting attention. I also make sure the existing pack still gets time together without the puppy, to reinforce their bond and remind them that everyone is still friends!
#5: Celebrate all successes, big and small!
Remember to give yourself, your pack and the new puppy some grace. Celebrate all of the things, big and small! If playtime doesn’t go well today, try again tomorrow. If a little tiff happens, calmly separate and try again later, and give TONS of praise when it goes well. I truly believe dogs feed off of your energy. If your pack feels a vibe from you that they are being good doggos, then they will be more likely to have a successful integration with any new friends. If you are feeling anxious, nervous or jittery, your dog WILL feel this. They will think there is a reason for them to be nervous too…and this may affect how they feel about this new friend you’ve brought home. So take a deep breath, feel the calm vibes, and celebrate each success your pack has!
Bonus Tip: Foster for a local shelter or rescue!
If you are thinking of getting your dog a friend but you aren’t sure if they are ready for that, or you aren’t ready yourself for a new perma-dog…I highly recommend fostering! I fostered over 25 dogs for Last Hope Rescue, and I learned SO much about dogs. But most importantly, I learned so much about Lucy & Oscar (my only pack members at the time). Fostering helped me see what Oscar & Lucy each needed when being introduced to a new dog, how to communicate with them that a new friend is a good thing, and so much more. I never saw myself as a 4-dog person. In fact, for 7 years of having just Lucy & Oscar, I insisted that I would always only have the two. But certain circumstances allowed me to consider adding a new pack member, and this has been successful twice now, all thanks to my fostering experience! And please, please, PLEASE don’t say “oh but I’d adopt them all” or “it would be too hard to say goodbye”. Trust me, you can do it, the dogs need you, and your soul will be so glad you did!
Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions about fostering, adopting or dogs in general!