Tips for Bringing a New Dog into a Home with Existing Pets
Your very first action after officially adopting a new puppy or dog – before you take him or her home – should be to stop by your vet’s office for a thorough examination. If you have other pets at home, you don’t want to inadvertently expose them to a communicable illness. If the vet even suspects something contagious, like parvovirus or distemper, leave the animal there for treatment – don’t take him home yet!
It’s even a good idea in such cases to clean your exposed body parts with a bleach water mix to kill latent viruses and germs before you enter your home. Try to avoid direct contact with any pets. Immediately head to the laundry room and put your clothing in the washer with lots of detergent and hot water. If you ruin something, that’s certainly better than exposing your pets to a disease!
Your vet will, of course, know which vaccinations are required in your city and state. Most vets will administer inoculations in bundles (known as DHLP-P) to save time and expense. The injection includes vaccinations against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Rabies vaccine is given separately and is mandatory in virtually every locale.
If you have other pets at home, vaccinations are absolutely critical for any new dogs you add to the domestic mix. Get them done - and stay on schedule!
Pack Hierarchy Issues
Any time you bring a new pet into your home with existing dogs, there is potential for fights as the hierarchy of the ‘pack’ is thrown into temporary disarray. It’s often impossible to tell whether a new dog will be an alpha or not, especially when it’s a puppy. However, puppies are much easier to condition to a lesser status within your home’s pack, even if their natural tendency is toward dominance. Remember, even two dogs will often be driven to attempt to form a pack with a dominant-subordinate relationship.
Let the dogs work it out, unless open aggression erupts. Then, you might try bringing in a professional trainer or, if possible, separate fighting dogs by partitioning them in certain parts of your home. Caution: never attempt to physically separate fighting dogs with your hands or feet! Instead, spray or pour a copious amount of cold water on them. The cold and wetness will serve to startle them, which usually defuses the situation without you ending up with stitches.
There is, unfortunately, not much you can do to predict which animals will be dominant. Some breeds are more likely to have individuals that will assert themselves in the pack (German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls), but even there, you get a wide range of characteristics. So, plan for any contingency, including returning the new dog or finding a better home if it causes serious disruptions that are not naturally resolved within a few days.
If you’ve only had one dog in your home previously, an issue that can be a source of potential problems when you add a new one is feeding time. You don’t have to think about it with just one pet, but when you have two or more animals trying to eat in one space – especially a confined area – watch out! Early on, make sure you remain close by in case a fight breaks out. Even dogs that have always been docile and friendly can quickly turn on companion animals when food is in the mix.
If possible, segregate your pets so they can eat without any contact with the other(s). Not only will this eliminate the potential for aggression, but it may prevent other disasters as well. Dogs that eat in groups tend to gulp without properly chewing their food. This can lead to choking and a condition called ‘bloat’ that can be life threatening.
Don’t Ignore Your First Dog!
When you bring in a new pet, it’s easy to start ignoring your existing dog(s). You’re not a bad person! It’s a natural tendency. However, you should anticipate it and work hard to catch yourself doting on the new dog at the other’s expense. Dogs are very tied in to our feelings and actions. More than most owners ever realize. You will send the wrong “vibe” to your older pets if you change how much time and attention you give them. To keep everyone happy, spend quality time with them all and don’t play favorites – even when the new pet is really ‘new.’