The vet’s office: Pooch presentation
Tips on dog introductions
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Many dog owners would like to add another dog to the family at some point. There are many reasons why this can be a good idea. Dogs are social animals and can readily adapt to living with other dogs in the home. Like wolves, dogs use a very well-developed system of communication with each other. People are still the leaders in the home, but they cannot duplicate this social support.
Dogs also play with each other in physical ways and help each other get more exercise. Many times we hear that a new, younger dog brings out the puppy in an older dog that had been slowing down.
If you are thinking of getting another dog, you will want to make sure you are familiar with canine body language. Dogs that are showing tension during an introduction to another dog may lick their lips, yawn, or look or turn their bodies away. Knowing what to look for will help as you can adjust the situation as needed.
Adult dogs, especially, should have well-planned meetings, preferably in an area of the home that is not considered the prime living area. Meetings can also take place away from the home in a neutral territory. Just like with cats, introducing a dog’s scent on blankets or bedding to the other dog before they meet can make the first encounter easier.
If there are multiple dogs in the home, it is best to do introductions one at a time rather than together with the entire group. Both dogs should be given a lot of praise during the encounters. It may also be helpful to attach a long leash to each dog and let it drag on the floor. This will give you something to grab if you need to separate the dogs. Pheromones can be used ahead of time to add calm to the environment. These are specific chemicals that reduce a dog’s feelings of stress.
Another important component of the scene is a relaxed owner. Dogs are good at reading human body language, and they will assume tension in their owner means that there is reason to be concerned about this new, unfamiliar dog. The area must be large enough so that you can move the dogs farther away from each other if needed to reduce tension. You may even want an experienced dog trainer present to help make the first meeting go well.
More effort and planning during introductions will reduce the chance of future conflicts. Not all dogs are meant to be best friends with each other, but they should be able to get along.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.