How to Train Your Dog to Accept a New Dog

How to Train Your Dog to Accept a New Dog
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Imagine a stranger walks into your house uninvited. He helps himself to food from the cupboard, sits on the sofa, and picks up your phone and starts fiddling with it. You'd be pretty irate!

Well, this is what it can feel like for the resident dog when a newbie four-legger enters into his world. 

Instead of the nuclear approach of bringing home a newbie and expecting the dogs to organically get along, try a different tack. By making gradual introductions and protecting the existing dog's  property and personal space, the two dogs are much more likely to hit it off rather than fight. 

Instead of the stranger invading your home, imagine a pleasant day trip to the beach. While swimming in the surf you encounter a like-minded individual and strike up a conversation. You get along so well that you spend the afternoon chatting and before you know it, it's time to go home. You're reluctant to part and are about to exchange phone numbers when your partner invites your new friend home for supper. Instead of the sadness of parting, you experience the joy of more time together. 

See the difference?

In terms of two dogs accepting one another, those early meetings are crucial for setting the tone of the future relationship. 

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog to accept another very much depends on understanding dog psychology and how their minds work. It's essential that their acceptance of each other is more than superficial, so you have confidence they will behave when you are present and, crucially, when you're not there. 

Acceptance is most likely to occur when there is a clear pecking order between the two dogs. This is because it is tussles for supremacy that are most likely to undermine their relationship. Since the new dog is entering into the established dog's territory, it is only fair to have your dog treated as if he's in charge with the newbie in a subordinate role. When the dogs receive this message loud and clear, they will get along together just fine. 

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Getting Started

It's never too soon to start preparing the established dog for a new arrival. Daily obedience training has numerous benefits, such as bonding the dog, improving his behavior, and getting him to listen to you. All of these factors are invaluable when introducing another pet. 

In addition, it's helpful to have: 

  • Individual equipment for each dog, such as collar, lead, bowls, toys, beds, and crates
  • Treats for training
  • The help of a friend
  • A new park or field to explore
  • Patience

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The Polite Introductions Method

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Understand the idea

Introductions are key for setting the groundwork to have the dogs accept one another. Get off on the wrong paw, and nothing but trouble lies ahead. Do things right, and the path is smoother. Dogs are creatures of habit, they like things 'just so' and don't like having their routine disrupted. They also have 'rules' of what is and isn't acceptable behavior from another dog. By respecting these rules and anticipating what might be difficult for the existing dog to deal with, you can ensure a smooth introduction and two happy hounds in the long term.

2

Compatible companions?

Ahead of the big day, make sure the dogs actually do get along. Try and arrange a walk at a neutral park, where the two dogs can 'accidentally' meet up. If they hit it off and start to play, then the chances are you're onto a winner. If either one of the dogs is cowed, aggressive, or unhappy, then it's time to reassess if this is the newbie dog for you.

3

Expend energy

When the two dogs are meeting for the first time, make sure they are both pleasantly tired. Take them for a walk (get the help of a friend if necessary, to walk them separately). This helps to burn off excess energy which might otherwise be put to mischievous purposes.

4

Meet and greet on neutral territory

Have the dogs meet somewhere neutral, such as a park that you don't normally visit. That way the resident dog isn't immediately protecting his territory, and is less likely to feel threatened by the newcomer. Praise and reward the established dog when he plays nicely with the newbie.

5

A managed homecoming

Bring the dogs home. Amuse the existing dog in the yard (be sure to give him attention, rather than leave him outside unattended) while the new dog goes indoors. Only let the newbie have access to one or two rooms. Let him sniff around and familiarize himself with the layout before bringing the existing dog indoors also.

The Respect the Resident Method

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Understand the idea

It's important to respect the residency rights of the established dog, over and above those of the newbie. To do otherwise risks distressing the first dog and making him antagonistic towards the new arrival. What works best is having a clear demarcation of which is 'top' dog, so the two canines don't fight for supremacy between them. Of course, over time which dog is 'top' may change depending on a range of factors, but when starting out, always favor the established dog over the newbie for a peaceful household.

2

Respect his space

Have separate beds or crates for both dogs. If the newbie lies on the established dog's bed, then say a firm "No", and remove him. Take him to his own bed (perhaps scatter a few treats inside it) and praise him when the dog gets in.

3

Allow the existing dog to 'boss' the newbie

It's important the existing dog feels in control. If the newbie gets uppity, the established dog may tell him off. This is fine (as long as no blood is shed!). Allow the first dog to growl at the newbie, in order for him to establish he is indeed in charge.

4

Greet the established dog first

When greeting the dogs after an absence, be sure to give the established dog first attention. Again, this bolsters his position as lead dog and in turn, this reduces conflict between the two dogs. Also, make sure you put the established dog's lead on first, put his food down first, and generally give him precedence.

5

Individual ownership

If the two dogs have to share resources such as toys or food, then there is more likely to be conflict and they are less likely to accept each other. Avoid this by making sure each dog has their own toys, food bowls, coats, collar, and beds.

The What NOT To Do Method

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Don't favor the newbie

If the two dogs are grumpy with one another, never chastise the established dog for growling. Instead, say "No" to the newbie and correct his behavior. This may sound strange, but what you should do is back up the authority of the established dog so there are clear lines of command as to which dog is in charge. It's when there is no clear leader, and the two dogs tussle for authority, that most fights happen.

2

Don't ignore the established dog

Especially when the newbie is a puppy or even a rescue dog that has been abused, it's tempting to give them the lion's share of the attention. However, imagine what it would be like if you went from a position of being the center of attention to being marginalized. Not nice! Even though you want to make a fuss of the newcomer, make a point of giving the existing dog lots of time and petting.

3

Don't crowd the dogs

Give the dogs space to investigate and accept each other. Avoid having the dogs together in a small room filled with lots of excited people, watching how they get on. This raises the dogs' anxiety levels and could result in fear turning to aggression. Try to give them plenty of space, and if you are worried about how they'll get on, leave leads trailing. This enables you to extricate one dog without harm, should tension mount.

4

Don't leave the dogs unsupervised

All seems to be going well and the dogs have accepted each other. Even so, be wary about leaving them unsupervised, especially in the early stages. It would be all too easy for the newbie to discover the established dog's favorite bone under the sofa... and the fur would fly. For those times you can't be present, put the dogs in separate rooms or crate train them.

5

Don't expect it to be smooth sailing

Some dogs have a hard time accepting each other. Anticipate this. It's really helpful to practice obedience training with both dogs (separately), with commands such as 'look', 'sit', and 'stay' being invaluable for diffusing incendiary situations. Know that there will be times of conflict, but back up the existing dog (no matter the rights or wrongs of the situation) and bring the dogs under control using commands rather than physical force.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 12/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Paisley

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Yorkshire Terrier

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8 Weeks

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Great dane adopted at 10 months they are both new int the house and she growls at the Dane which makes her excited and a bit defensive?

Oct. 17, 2021

Paisley's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Debbie, First, I highly suggest crate training the puppy. Almost all puppies will cry the first two weeks of crate training - it is new to them and they have to be given the opportunity to learn to self-sooth and self-entertain to prepare them for environments they will have to be in later and prevent dangerous destructive chewing habits that happen without confinement. Use the Surprise method from the article linked below to gradually help pup learn to be calm in the crate and to relax by using rewards for being Quiet if pup isn't already used to the crate. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Crate pup at night and when you leave, and you can use an exercise pen with some toys in it also. When you cannot directly supervise the dogs together, puppy should be crated or in the pen. When you are supervising, teach both dogs the Out command (which means leave the area) and make whoever is causing issues leave the area as needed (which will be mostly puppy at this age). Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ I also recommend teaching Leave It. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Decide what your house rules are for both dogs and you be the one to enforce the rules instead of the dogs. No aggression, no pushiness, no stealing toys, no stealing food, no being possessive of people or things, or any other unwanted behavior - if one dog is causing a problem you be the one to enforce the rules so that the dogs are NOT working it out themselves. For example, if pup comes over to your older dog when they are trying to sleep, tell pup Out. If puppy obeys, praise and reward them. If puppy disobeys, stand in front of your older dog, blocking the pup from getting to them, and walk toward pup calmly but firmly until pup leaves the area and stops trying to go back to your older dog. If your older dog growls at your pup, make your older dog leave the room while also disciplining pup by having them leave the area too if needed. Be vigilant and take the pressure off of your older dog - you want puppy to learn respect for your older dog because you have taught it to pup and not because your older dog has had to resort to aggression or has to hide all the time. If you want pup to be free but don't want to chase after them while you are home, you can also clip them to yourself using a six-foot leash, so that pup has to stay near you and not wander near your other dog. Whenever puppy enters the room, give your older dog a treat while pup is not looking. Whenever they are calm, relaxed or tolerant of puppy also give them a treat. Try not to let the puppy see you rewarding them though so that they don’t run over and overwhelm your older dog. Enrolling pup in a puppy play group, class with play time, or moderated puppy play time with other friends' puppies, can also help pup learn how to control the pressure of their bite and give breaks when another dog indicates they need one. If you feel pup is unsafe I would also hire a professional trainer who oversee the training in person, and at this point, I would not leave the dogs alone together unattended partially due to the size difference and potential lack of impulse control with the Dane being young still. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 18, 2021

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Bella

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Yorkie mix

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6 Years

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I myself and my dog Bella had to move in with my daughter. She has 3 dogs. A shepherd lab mix 8 yrs old, English bulldog male but neutered and a female spade pit bull 4 yrs old.all dogs accept my dog except for the pit. The pit is very layed back and sweet. Never been aggressive but a month ago did kill a cat that got into the back yard. We keep my Bella separated from the pit. When the pit sees my dog Bella the pit growls and barks at her. Any suggestions how we can possibly safely try to get the pit and my dog Bella to get along. My dog does not try to get around any of the dogs. She doesn't bark, growl at any of them. In fact her favorite is the shepherd lab mix.my concern is the pit and my little Yorkie mix dog Bella. My daughter has a huge back yard, probably close to an acre. Could we maybe put the pit and my dog on leashes and walk them around I'm the back yard keeping my dog at a safe distance from the pit. Bella is not going to try to even get near the pit. The problem is with the pit. Bella and the other 2 dogs get along fine. Any helpful suggestions would be very appreciated.

April 19, 2021

Bella's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Cindy, How does the Pit do with other dogs outside the family? The issue could be a general lack of socialization with dogs other than the two they were raised with, in which case something like a G.R.O.W.L. class might help her get along better in general with new dogs if you can find one in your area for her to attend. The issue could also be predatory toward your Yorkie, in which case teaching the Pit to avoid your dog would be the best approach, since prey drive isn't something that you can get rid of but something that's managed long term. Prey drive toward other dogs is uncommon, so it's less likely that. It's more likely due to a lack of socialization with small dogs or pup being possessive or resource guarding around the new "intruder" in the house. Walking the dogs together with distance between them is a good exercise. Check out the Passing Approach and Walking Together methods from the article I have linked below. With dogs on leash I would practice those, starting with the Passing Approach method. I wouldn't allow them to get to the point where they can actually sniff though without professional supervision and the Pit wearing a basket muzzle, that they have been desensitized to ahead of time though, because of the size difference. I would also work on obedience commands to help with management like Place, Come, Heel, Out, Leave It, and crate training for the Pit. Out and Come for your dog to let them know when they need to move away from the Pit if they tense up also. For up close training together once they are doing better on leash with space, I would work with a professional trainer in person due to the safety concern involved. Passing Approach and Walking Together methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Muzzle introduction video - this should be done gradually, only progressing through the steps once pup is relaxed at the current step. Usually a two week process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 20, 2021


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