You brought a new dog to join the family, but oh dear, the result is animosity, aggressiveness and a strained atmosphere. What are you to do to help the dogs to get along with each other?
Introducing dogs to each other can be challenging – and it can result in chaos. But this needn’t be the case, if you take some steps to prevent it from happening and know how to act if the situation threatens to get out of hand. However, if there is a so-called red zone dog involved, the help of a professional dog behaviorist will be necessary.
So, what steps can you take to create a harmonious coexistence for the four-legged family?
The first meeting
It is a mistake to bring a new dog into another dog’s territory and hope they’ll get along. You may be lucky and find it’s love at first sight, or they may not be able to stand the sight of each other. Remember that dogs are very territorial, and the existing dog or pack may become assertive and aggressive in order to defend their territory. The new dog may also become aggressive and fight back, or become submissive and fearful.
The best solution is to have the dogs meet on neutral territory for the first time, like taking them on a long walk together. When you get back home, the you enter first, followed by the dogs who live there, and then the new dog. This allows the dogs to first bond as a pack during their walk or playing in a park, and the ‘old’ dogs the bringing the ‘new’ one home. Just putting a new dog with existing dogs is an invasion of their space. A bit like arriving at relatives for an unlimited stay without an invitation…
What to do if a dog fight does happen
A dog fight can happen among the best adjusted and closest dogs. If it’s something specific that triggered the aggressiveness, the best is to try and prevent it from happening again. Your reaction is also very important. First thing to do is to stop the the fight, as quickly and calmly as possible.
To break up a fight, focus on the most aggressive dog, redirect his attention and pull him up (not back). Yelling and shouting wouldn’t accomplish anything, action and not your voice will help to break up the fight. When calm has been restored, it’s best not to dwell on the fight, unless there is something specific that caused the fight and which you are able to remove from the environment. If you’re worried and anxious that it will happen again, the dogs may pick up your body language and it will indeed happen again.
How do you prevent dog fights?
One of the main reasons dogs fight is because there’s no pack leader. If you are the pack leader, they wouldn’t compete amongst themselves. You need to establish boundaries and rules.The worst you can do is to isolate them from each other as they can still smell each other and will compete for territory and may fight each other for dominance. This is why socialization is so important for dogs, it creates a well balanced dog that gets along with other dogs.
You are the human in the pack and it’s up to you to provide leadership and teach the dogs what acceptable behavior is and what will not be tolerated. They want to please you, want to enjoy the company of their property canine family, and you can help them achieve that.