Jackman Telluride here, Jessie's new little brother and guest blogger today on adding a new puppy to an established pack. It feels like only yesterday that I joined my new pack. Yet, more than 5 months has passed. While my experience meeting Jessie was a bit unique there are key takeaways, which I'm sharing today, that many can use when introducing a new member to their pack.
Ensure your new puppy is old enough - Puppies should be a minimum of eight to ten weeks old. The bond between puppy and mother; and puppy and litter-mates is critical because they learn rights and wrongs from a doggy perspective.
Use a neutral environment, like a park - When introducing the new puppy choose a place that the current furry four-legged member(s) do not identify as theirs, e.g. the house or backyard. Rather, a dog park is a great place. In my case, the neutral place was where Jessie, and now me, stay when our humans are away, Club Fido. Even though Jessie identifies closely with this place she is not territorial about it because of the other dogs that are around.
Let the introduction happen naturally - Do not force the introduction. It will take time. In some cases, a long time. The introduction process for me took over an hour. This excludes the anticipation, from my first sleep with my new family, to the drive to the neutral spot, to finally being brought in the house. Rushing the introductions creates the potential risk of fear for the puppy, which could later be displayed as fear aggression.
Ensure the new puppy is safe - Place the puppy in a crate or an area that separates the new puppy from the existing one(s), but allows all to see and smell each other. Also, include a couple of toys and a blanket that will provide comfort to the puppy. Thank goodness for my crate because Jessie wasn't the only dog involved in the process. There were at least six other dogs. When the crate with me in it was placed in the lounge all the dogs swarmed the crate with their sniffers in high gear. Knowing that the dogs couldn't get to me made me feel a little bit safer. That was as long as the humans didn't open the crate door.
Let the puppy initiate the introductions - After some time with the puppy in its safe place it's time for the humans to gauge when it's ok to remove the safety barrier. At this stage it is imperative that once the barrier is removed the humans let the puppy come out on its own. As hard as it will be for the humans, do not coax, touch or pick-up the puppy. The puppy needs to learn to walk on their own and get the courage to meet their new friend(s). Once the crate door was opened I scooted myself to the back of the crate as dogs shoved their heads into the crate to get a better sniff of me. The overzealous dogs were gently reprimanded by the humans. Soon the hype of my being there didn't interest the dogs and they wandered off. With a bit of trepidation I slowly stepped out of the crate. I took a look around, took a few sniffs and then made a mad dash for the darkness of underneath the couch. In time, the one dog I needed to really like me, Jessie, found me in my hiding spot and sniffed me while I hid. I summoned up some more courage to crawl out from the couch. At that point all the dogs rushed out of the house and there I was running after them barking, "wait for me! Wait for me." The rest is essentially history. My humans had nothing to worry about me and Jessie. We were and are fast and furious buddies. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul of Club Fido and Sam of Balanced K9 for their help with introducing me to Jessie.
Having the support of dog experts made the process extremely relaxing and anxiety-free for my humans. While most humans and dogs won't be so lucky to have that support, the above common dos and donts will make the process much easier. Have you introduced a puppy to your pack? What's worked and not worked for you? Let us know and we'll update the list.
Until next time.
*Note, we are not dog experts. This list is based solely on our experience. if you're unsure, always consult your vet or an experienced dog trainer for guidance.