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Animal agenda with RSPCA WA: Troubleshooting introducing a second dog to the household

RSPCA WAMidwest Times
A little patience will go a long way to creating a harmonious household with two dogs.
Camera IconA little patience will go a long way to creating a harmonious household with two dogs. Credit: RSPCA WA

First impressions count; a lesson worth remembering if you’re thinking about adding a second pooch to your family.

Simply putting your new and existing dog together and hoping for the best is never a good idea. This can, and does, backfire spectacularly.

Unfortunately, RSPCA WA is often left to pick up the pieces, with dogs surrendered because they can’t get along with their canine counterparts. Many have physical and psychological scars as a result.

This month, we’ve put together a crash course in canine introductions.

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The advice below is broadly true for puppies, adults and rescue dogs alike, although one benefit of adopting is that your new best friend should have been tested with other pups so you’ll have a better idea of how they’ll react.

Steps for a successful doggy meet

1. Have someone take your existing dog for a walk while you help your new dog or puppy explore the house.

2. Set up a meet on neutral territory, such as a local park, and keep things as relaxed and playful as possible. Bring treats to reward for good, calm behaviour.

3. At home, keep the area clear of items your dogs may value highly, such as toys, treats and empty bowls. Provide separate sleeping areas and feed separately.

4. Continue to keep interactions short and positive.

5. Try to give each dog individual attention.

6. Remember to take things very slowly, allowing your pets to become used to one another gradually at their own pace.

A common misconception is that dogs will “sort things out” on their own. But allowing disagreements will likely cause more damage in the long-term so it’s best to set up positive interactions and minimise negative ones.

Early stress signals include: lip licking; ears backwards or flattened; yawning; showing the whites of their eyes (whale eye); turning or trying to move away; low posture; low or tucked tail, tense body position.

It can be difficult if your pets are not getting along, but training and careful management may help. First, take precautions by separating your animals to ensure they are not together unsupervised.

Then try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Is your pet healthy, happy and well exercised? These factors can influence anxiety and antisocial behaviour.
  • Rewards through attention and food can go a long way. Reinforce positive interaction, rather than reprimanding undesirable behaviours.
  • A positive reinforcement trainer may be able to support and help you.

RSPCA WA MID WEST INSPECTOR PAUL ACTON:

A good first step if your pets aren’t getting along as well as you’d like is to identify any triggers. My own two dogs used to have a very rare fight, mainly when they were eating. Luckily, resource guarding food was a simple one to tackle. We moved their bowls away from each other so they could eat separately and that quickly sorted the problem out.

Other common triggers include treats, toys, owner attention and preferred resting places. It’s important to remember that fear or anxiety can also play a role in aggression, which is where a positive reinforcement trainer or veterinary behaviourist can help.

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