Dogcharmer: Fiona, the new friend

Take it one step at a time when introducing pups.

Koda and Doobie. —Jenna Lambert

Hi Tom,

Jenna here, in need of more doggy advice! We recently welcomed a little rescue puppy male to our family, a 9-month-old chihuahua/corgi/sheltie/Havanese mix, and he is the sweetest, nicest little guy, who loves all dogs and humans and everything else. He and my husky, Koda, get along amazingly. They play and cuddle and play and cuddle, and their relationship couldn’t be better.

My boyfriend and I recently finished the basement, and our friends have just moved in for the summer, with their senior female Wheaten terrier Fiona. Doobie and Fiona were getting along all right on the first night, until she snapped at Doobie and nipped him, and really scared him. He cried for about 10 minutes, and we inspected him but there was no injury, he was just scared.

The next day she met Koda and they growled at each other, so we just separated them. As of now we are just keeping Fiona in the apartment downstairs and my dogs in the house upstairs, and letting them into the big fenced-in backyard at separate times. If this is just how we have to live for the next few months, that would be fine, but I did want to check to see if you had any tips for helping them live harmoniously together. Because the renters downstairs are friends of ours, we would like to be able to all hang out on the same floor with the dogs, so I wanted to see if you think that could be a possibility, and, if so, if you have any advice for carrying that out in the best way possible.

Thank you in advance!


Dear Jenna,

I wish I could tell you to have all the dogs break bread, share some wine, and agree to be civil for the benefit of a peaceful household. But dogs being dogs, they’d probably squabble over the bread. So here’s what I’d suggest. Initial interactions between Fiona and your brood should be outside in the yard, with Koda and Fiona dragging two feet of a leash or rope (in case you need to pull anyone apart). All people’s attitude is upbeat and happy, with exclamations of how they’re all going to be great housemate friends, and observe with as little interference as possible. Your goal is to let them work it out. In the great majority of times when people interfere, they’re exhibiting anxiety in their body language and voice, which exacerbates the coming together of the dogs.

Toys (to argue over) are not available. After several successful (no squabbles) outdoor gatherings, they can come together indoors for short periods. Koda and Fiona are dragging those cutoff leads, and there’s nothing on the floor of interest other than two water bowls. Two-leggeds stay happy and upbeat.

Taking long walks and hikes with the dogs will aid the harmonization. The more often success builds on success (they’re interacting with no hassles), the better. So keep no-hassle interactions shorter than longer to keep building on successes. More and more time with no quarrels will result in more and more relaxing in one another’s company, which is your goal.

Good luck,

The Dogcharmer