With over 89.7 million dogs registered as pets in the U.S, there’s no doubt there are many households with two or more dogs. That’s completely understandable, considering dogs are the most loyal best friends.
It might be amazing for us to have an addition to the pack, but our life-long companion might not be as happy! Even if our pup is an outgoing dog, bringing a new dog home can still harbor a grudge.
A common mistake people make when introducing dogs is by throwing them together and hoping they will get along. There’s a chance they will get along but equally, they may not.
This article provides useful tips on:
- How to make a smooth transition from single-dog to multi-dog family
- What to do if a dog fight happens
- How to avoid dog fights from happening in the first place.
- 1 How to introduce a new member to the family
- 2 What to do if a dog fight happens
- 3 How to avoid dog fights
- 4 Final thoughts on how to get dogs to get along
How to introduce a new member to the family
Some people may believe that a new dog can be simply introduced by throwing them into the pack. Your dogs may get along, but they may not.
The following tips will help you introduce a new member to the family without stress.
First impressions are crucial
For the first introduction, have a friend or family member help handle one of the dogs.
Make sure you don’t introduce a new dog in the existing dog’s home. This risks your current pup becoming assertive or aggressive as a way to protect their territory. They will feel less welcoming to the advances of a new dog, and may become submissive, fearful or aggressive.
Instead, introduce the dogs to each other in a neutral location. Choose somewhere your current dog hasn’t visited before.
Long stroll together
Walk beside your friend or family member with the dogs on opposite sides. By creating a barrier between the dogs, it will give them the opportunity to bond or at least become familiar to each other’s company without worry.
After the mini adventure, it’s time to introduce the new member to their new home.
Humans should enter the household first, followed by the current dog and lastly the new dog. By doing this, the current dog is inviting the new dog in, rather than the new dog invading the territory.
Who’s the boss?
Allow the dogs themselves establish who’s the leader. Your current dog may be happy to let another canine take that position, once they’ve welcomed the stranger on their own terms.
Keep their independence
Just because the dogs live together now, doesn’t mean they should start sharing food bowls, beds or toys.
Make sure to feed the dogs separately – whether this is daily food or high-value treats.
What to do if a dog fight happens
Even among the outwardly closest of canine pals, sometimes an event can happen that will trigger a fight. Perhaps you accidentally drop a food treat on the floor and both dogs fight for it. Perhaps one dog doesn’t respect the other’s space. The aggressive dog could be fearful of the other, or exhibiting dominance.
What’s important is your reaction to the fight. Break it up quickly. Use a loud shout, but the key is to remain calm. Focus on the dog with the higher level of intensity and pull them up, not back. This forces them to release if they are biting. Check out the video below for a visual demonstration:
Following a dog fight, it’s important that you forget it ever happened. By worrying when the next fight will happen and feeding them negative energy, it will only guarantee that it will.
Reward them when they are being calm and compliant, and correct them when they’re not.
How to avoid dog fights
As well as knowing what to do if a dog fight happens, it’s best to prevent dog fights from occurring in the first place. Even doggy siblings that have lived together for a while still don’t always get along. Follow these tips to help keep the peace in your home.
Make it clear that you’re the leader
Dogs tend to fight because they lack a strong pack leader. Make it clear that you’re the leader by establishing rules, boundaries and limitations for the entire pack. This will prevent them looking at each other as competition.
Identify potential stressors
Sometimes one dog’s stressor isn’t the other dog. By being attentive about what is, will help enormously in calming a unsettling environment. Try to establish what immediately lead to the altercation. When a dog reacts to a stressor, the other dog may see it as a threat and react accordingly.
Think of ways to remove the stress trigger. For example, if your dog barks and rushes to the window when the mailman comes, close the curtains before the mail delivery.
Walk your dogs together and increase exercise
When going on explorations, it’s essential to walk your dogs together and side-by-side. Exercise helps lower their energy and thus reduces the impulse to fight, while also focuses them on a common goal instead of each other. Spending time together in this way will provide more opportunities to play and likely to increase their pal-ship!
High-quality protein diet
As with all dogs, they need a diet that consists of high-quality protein. Poor quality protein or low protein intake inhibits the ability to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that supports mood regulation and sleep. Feeding your dog with a high-quality protein diet is important for wellbeing by reducing stress levels and reducing impulsions to react with aggression.
Teach basic obedience commands
Whether you join a training class, work on your own or with a trainer, teaching your dogs basic obedience commands will help them to understand their world better. When the environment can be understood, a dog’s behaviour will become predictable – and predictability reduces stress!
Final thoughts on how to get dogs to get along
Even the most outwardly composed dog pack will still occasionally have a fight. What’s important to remember is that you’re in control and conflict like this is nothing to obsess about.
There are many things that you can do to make dogs get along (whether they’ve just met or have lived together for a long time), prevent a dog fight from happening and ultimately keep a harmonious home.
Break up fights quickly and calmly, redirect the attention, take them for a walk together, reward when they’re obedient and don’t worry about whether a fight will happen again. The key to success is you!
Do you have any more tips on how to get dogs to get along? How did it go when you introduced the new member to the pack? What happened after a dog fight? We and our other readers would love to hear your stories and experience, so please leave a comment!