Any time you welcome a new pet into your home, you’ll want to take time to properly introduce them to any other pets in the home as well as to learn the best ways to introduce the new pet to people. You probably wouldn’t feel very comfortable having a total stranger stay the night in your house, right? That’s how your existing pets will feel if you force them together before they have a chance to get to know each other.
Believe it or not, Tessa and Charlie didn’t get along all the time when we first got Tessa. Granted, some of that was hormonal, because Tessa was pregnant at the time (unbeknownst to us at first). Hormonal surges in pregnant dogs can lead to some aggressive outbursts periodically. If you happen to adopt or foster a pregnant dog, be very careful to supervise interactions with any other animals in the house, and be aware that even the gentlest mama dog can lash out at humans or other animals when pregnancy brain kicks in. She’ll get back to normal after the pups are weaned, honest!
It’s best to make first introductions on neutral space. If you’re adopting an animal from a shelter, ask if you can bring your existing pet there for supervised introductions. If this isn’t possible, try introducing the animals to each other in a yard or at a park, while both are on leash. Without making a fuss, have the dogs pass each other on leash, without stopping walking. Correct any lunges or aggressive posturing immediately, and only try another pass if both dogs are calm. If they can pass each other well, have them approach each other slowly and allow them to sniff each other.
Try to keep out of this process as much as possible, but do correct them if they show undesired behavior. Sniffing, licking, and yes, mounting each other is normal dog behavior. Growling or snapping is not. When you’re satisfied that the introductions are going well, take the dogs on a long walk together. Joint walks are a great way to help dogs bond with each other and see each other as part of the same “pack”.
Don’t rush these introductions. Be sure to supervise all interactions between the animals for at least the first few weeks. Make sure to give each dog some separate play time and training time with you during this transition phase, both to offer reassurance and to make sure that they both still see you as top of the pecking order. And try not to overwhelm your new pet by introducing them to lots of people right away. One-on-one interactions are best, especially with an animal that might be fearful of strangers. Always have a kennel or room ready as a safe haven for your dog should they get overwhelmed.
With patience, most dogs adapt very well to their new environments. Taking time to allow all the animals in the family to work out their place within the “pack” will make for a much happier group in the long run. Tessa and Charlie are now utterly bonded to each other, and spend most of their time cuddled up, despite having had a rough start. Ginny hadn’t been socialized much at all before we got her, and now she loves to play with the other dogs, especially Tonks. It took work, of course, but the happiness of our pets is worth it!