introducing new dogs watch for resources guarding over toys
General Dog Talk,  Houston Shelter Pets

10 Things to Do When Bringing Home a New Dog

Bringing home a new dog is so exciting! You’re ready to integrate your new pup into your life. But maybe your current dog is a little less excited than you are. These 10 tips can help you make the adjustment with your dogs.

Remember the 3-3-3 rule. This is a general guideline for the adjustment period of bringing your dog home from the shelter.

Introducing Your New Dog to Current Pet

  1. Take some time. Never introduce your new dog to your current dog directly out of the shelter. You probably took your current dog to the shelter for a meet and greet with your new pet. That went fine, but meeting in your home is a whole new ballgame. Your new shelter dog has been overwhelmed with noise, commotion and containment. They need to decompress. Your current dog may be protective of their home and people, and thrown off by all the commotion. Avoid the first day scuffle by never letting it happen.
  2. Introduce outside the home on a walk. Recruit a friend to bring your current dog outside to meet your new dog. Don’t allow nose to nose sniffing on leash. Just start walking on leash, next to your friend. Allow the dogs to get close or ignore each other. Enter the home after the walk, and keep the dogs separated.
  3. Use physical barriers like crates, x-pens and baby gates to separate them. Let them get familiar with each other through a barrier.
  4. Learn about dog body language so you can interrupt if things are getting tense. Put some coins in a water bottle and use it as a shaker to distract and interrupt a potential scuffle. If you can’t interrupt fast enough and it escalates into a fight, throw a blanket over them. Temporarily blinding the dogs gives them a distraction and confuses them, allowing them to separate. If outside, use a hose to spray water between them. Never reach between dogs or try to grab collars to break up a fight. You will surely be bitten.
  5. Understand normal dog play. Dog play often looks ruff and tumble, with growling, barking, snapping and play biting. This video shows some great examples of how dogs behave. Dogs Playing for Life, which teaches shelters how to run play groups, also has some great instructional tools.
  6. Restrict precious resources. Resources guarding can cause a fight. Anything of value, including toys, chews, bones, food bowls and people, can cause a disagreement. Remove the items that dogs may fight over and give them out with restrictions and monitoring.
  7. Separate during feeding. Don’t run the risk of a brawl at dinner time. Separate your dogs during feeding time. And if you are giving treats, work to separate the dogs by feeding each dog from a different hand.
  8. Give individual attention. You want to bond with your new pet without making your old pet jealous. Give each dog some individual attention, and then group attention. Work to give each dog equal amounts of love when together.
  9. Manage kid & dog interactions. Both dogs will be more on edge than normal. Your new dog is coming into a new environment. Your old dog may welcome a companion but their life is changing too. Adding small kids to the mix may put things over the top. Let the dogs interact without the added stress of little ones. Learn more in our article on introducing kids and babies.
  10. Don’t be surprised. You’ve had your new dog and old dog for a few weeks now and suddenly a fight breaks out over nothing. Or more likely you’ve let your guard down, perhaps allowing dogs to take

Do not leave new dogs unsupervised initially. Your supervision is needed to observe their behavior. Also, leave leashes on both dogs so you can grab and separate dogs if needed.

Hopefully these tips will let you fully and safely integrate a new pet into your home.

HoustonDogMom Rebecca G. is a Houston-based dog lover and shelter volunteer.