Dogcharmer: Welcome to the family

How to introduce your new dog to your old dog.

Sylvie’s rescue puppy from Panama. — Courtesy Sylvana Carmella Dole

Hi Tom,

You’ve been so helpful training Coco and Loretta. Now I need you once more. I am bringing a rescue puppy home with me from Panama, and I’d like to know, what is the best way to introduce her to my other two dogs? She’s very sweet and loves all the people and dogs that she has met so far. I want Coco and Loli to feel comfortable with the new puppy, and I want the new puppy to feel comfortable coming into a new home with new dogs. She was living on the street the first four months of her life, and even living in a house is new for her. Thank you for all the help you have given my furry little rescue family.


Sylvie and Kahlua


Dear Sylvie,

Thank you for transforming the life of now a third dog from a miserable future, and likely early death, to the luxurious life of a Martha’s Vineyard dog. Knowing you, if there’s reincarnation, I’d love to come back as your dog.

“The Meet!” is how I think of the initial introduction of a new pack member in a case like this. I read somewhere that “diplomacy is the art of getting someone to see things your way.” Sylvie, that’s your goal, getting Loli and Coco to see Kahlua as a joyous addition for extra play and interaction, a plus for the family. Have them meet off your property to reduce territoriality. I might suggest you have Kahlua on leash as a friend approaches you with the other two. As soon as the dogs see each other, you go into Meryl Streep mode, acting as joyous as you’ve ever been: “Oh, the overwhelming joy at the happy family we will be!” This positive attitude is of course coupled with treats Coco and Loli never really get, filet mignon from the Square Rigger or something comparable for them will do. Their first association with their new sister should be as positive as possible. Try to keep all three dogs moving toward your property as you joyously dispense treats.

Once on the home front, as long as no overt aggression is being displayed, have them all interact off-leash in a fenced area, if available. In the great majority of cases, the best thing you can do to have dogs get along is to interfere as little as possible. Let them work it out!

Before entering the house, make sure there are no toys, bones, or food available, so as to avoid the possible eruption of resource guarding by any of the three new BFFs. The new puppy should quickly be acclimatized to a crate on a positive basis, so as to immediately get started with housebreaking, and the prevention of destructive chewing and other potential unwanted behaviors. Initially, feeding should be in separate areas, and dispersal of toys needs to be monitored closely for signs of possessive aggression. In dog training, it’s easier to prevent than to correct, so observe the reactions when Kahlua gets a toy while in the crate, or vice versa. The more time they spend together interacting without any issues, the sooner they become soulmates. If there are real issues, or you don’t feel comfortable with what you’re seeing, I’d suggest you call in a pro to help with the co-mingling.

So, congratulations on your new family member, and best of luck.


The Dogcharmer

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