Google+ Followers

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Integrate With Success

 These two dogs may look like they are fighting
but they are actually best friends playing. They are neighbors
and play together almost daily. Look how far their tails are up in the air
 even though their teeth are showing.  

These are the same two dogs that were playing above, but the environment
is different. The room is big so there is room to play, but if you enter
food into the equation there is sometimes a squabble.  Both dogs
have a wonderful personality and food squabbles are usually ended
by the male who is the the less dominant dog moving away. However
the female,  with a command, will also leave the food alone.  This command
allows the owner to stop a possible escalating incident between dogs before
it gets out of hand.

Thinking of bringing in a new dog into the family? The first thing to know is  that it is easier to bring in a puppy verses a grown dog, it is easier to make  a male /female or Male/Male  combination get along, and easier to have two laid back happy personalities.  People misunderstand that laid back personality when they view a litter or a pound dog.   There is a tendency to take the dog that is lying in the corner of his cage over the dog that comes out to meet you.

 If you are unsure about the new dog’s temperament and unsure of your own dog’s temperament as it relates to a dog pack, not the dog to human bond, then it is suggested you hire someone who can temperament test your dog and the dog you have picked out.

Equipment needed: An extra person, Martingale collars, 6 ft. leads, 20 foot cotton training leads, harnesses, soft treats (of limited value, medium value, and high value), and treat bags that hang on your belt. ( use desired toys if your dog is not food motivated) 

Meeting Each Other:

Have the dog’s meet a couple of times away from your home and on neutral territory. I suggest a walk on a quiet street,  a fairly empty parking lot, or a park (providing both dogs have been protected with vaccinations).

When you bring a new dog into your residence and you are not sure what your resident dog’s personality is among other dogs, then you may see fighting right off the bat. Some resident dogs are just startled by the element of surprise when you bring that new dog into the home, others are content at being the only dog and just don’t want another dog in the home.  

Having them them meet at a space where the shelter or breeder property is you may get mixed signals that the two are getting along but do not rule out the fact that your dog is nervous in this environment and therefore giving you an impression that he may like this new dog.    

Kennels/ Rescues and Vet office’s are not the ideal place to introduced two dogs. Make sure the area of introduction is open so the dogs do not feel cornered. This whole experience may be new to both of them so you want them to feel as comfortable as possible.

Outside meetings:

Warm up time. Both need some warm up time to get to know the area as chances are the kennel dog has not been too far away from the facility in a while so you and your partner start on opposite sides of the street and give them a few minutes to explore their environment and just be a dog.

Once they have explored a bit walk each dog on the opposite side of the street to start; this should be a safe enough distance while allowing you to gage the personality and reaction of each dog. Gradually move them closer to each other by walking back and forth until you meet in the middle of a quiet street or lot. As you are walking, start tossing in some commands as well as this will give you  an idea on how well a dog is trained or how much more training a dog will need and this may include your own dog’s training!  We all know that Fido listens perfectly at home, but that is because there is nothing in the home to get Fido stimulated except the owner. So keep in mind your mission is to watch each dog’s reaction toward the other and gauge their reaction to commands.  

Getting Them Home:

You have gotten them both home and find you may have missed some cues in your outdoor walk and now you see they do not get along after all, but you love them dearly and want to keep them both. 

Ask Yourself,
Is making them get along the best thing for the dogs?
Are you going to be able to handle the possibility of six months of  stress between the two?
Will everyone in the family adhere to rules you set for the dogs?
Is it fair to your resident dog?
If even one of these questions is a negative then it may be best to return the dog

Confining them:

 Confining them to separate rooms in the home will allow them the time to get used to each other’s scent in the house. This can be done for a couple of weeks if needed. Take them out separately to the yard on a lead to let them eliminate as you can sometimes see agitation or excitement when they pick up the other dog’s scent. Over time this excitement should subside as they will smell it every day and it will become a recognized scent. 

Do not confine them so that they can see each other at this point as sight aggressive behaviors can occur which over a period of time become learned behaviors.  A learned behavior is when the dog only learns one way to react toward another other dog, person, object, or situation.  So don’t separate them just by a door as they can still walk up to the door hear and smell the other dog and become agitated knowing that the other dog is behind the door. This is similar to fence aggression. Try to gate them off in separate ends of the home so there is scent, but no real contact and divide your time among them. You can switch out their areas to give one time with the family so they become used to being in rooms where the family spends their time. This is not a forever arrangement, it is temporary to get the new dog acclimated to the home and the old dog acclimated to the new dog’s smell in the home.


   Train each dog daily in obedience separately and train in short sessions, approximately 15 minutes at a time, but train throughout the day. You want to get them under your voice command so that they will want to obey you in all situations. This means do not confine training to the home, though it is a good place to start particularly if you see that commands are lacking. Training in a non distracting place first is best, and then you build up to more distracting places like the yard, the driveway, and the street. It is always best to start with a place that has the least distractions and gradually build up to more distracting places. If the dog does not listen to you as you move to more distracting places then that just means it is not ready to move on and you should continue training where the dog is succeeding a little longer.   Keep in mind you are going to train both dogs daily and separately in all areas mentioned above.

Come Together Successfully

Once you have trained each dog in commands in all the areas mentioned you should be able to have the dogs listen to commands in the street and this is where you want to start getting them together as it is neutral territory.   From this neutral territory you will work your way back to the home front.

Have a partner take one of the dogs and you take the other.  Work both dogs in commands on opposite sides of the street and gradually your goal will be to come closer/ side by side in the street without a bad reaction by either dog. Always praise and reward the dogs for any good behavior but as important as rewarding for good behavior it is also important to try to remove them from the situation before a negative reaction can occur. By doing this you are setting the dog up for success.   It is very important to watch body language and not depend on barks, growls, or snarls because a dog sends off messages with body posture as well. For instance they may  have a stare down, which is seen as a challenge, the tail may be wagging but is it up high in the air and wagging or is it straight out and wagging? If it is straight out and wagging this does not mean the dog is happy, it is a body posture that means it is ready to fight. Many mistake a wagging tail for a happy dog and this is not so.


From the road presuming all is going well, you want to walk them up your driveway. It might get a bit tricky here because now you are on the resident dog’s property and your dog is clearly seeing the other dog, but if you have trained successfully with each dog alone prior to this, then there should be little to no problems.  Start on opposite sides of the driveway and as you walk them back and forth for a while start to bring them closer together as you did in the street. Work on your ‘heel’ and ‘leave it’ commands constantly if you see one dog is getting too excited / anxious/ or aggressive about the other dog being there.  If there is still a problem between them, then the next time you come together at a safe distance you want to shorten the time they are near each other and heel them away  in different directions during  a time they have both reacted appropriately (no barking, growling, or bad body language)   and praise and reward that good behavior. Then try again to bring them closer and then part ways before they have a chance to act out. By doing this you are setting them up for success because you are removing them before they have a chance to get excited or aggressive and rewarding the good behavior they gave just you before you removed them from the situation. This tells them that getting close to other dog with a specific reaction (or non reaction) equals a yummy treat and praise by the owner/handler.  This is also the time you want to up the reward value, so if you trained with soft dog treats in the street on neutral territory then you want to use hot dog/turkey slivers as you move onto the property as a better reward.
From the driveway you are going to take them to the yard and repeat the above. Caution: make sure the yard does not have toys, bones, or food items lying around. If you see the dogs are fine with each other then you want them to interact, but you also want safety first so put a 20 foot cotton training lead on each dog and allow them to get distracted with each other. We use a cotton training lead because it is light weight the dog forgets they have it on, but the handler can reel the dog back to them if needed.  Throughout this time you should be giving a recall command as they get distracted  to make sure your commands are still working with them.  Once they come to you don’t make them obey any other command just hand them a mother load of treats and give a release command such as “Fido okay.”   This release tells Fido thanks for coming and you can now go back to being a dog. Both handlers should be doing recalls when they see their dog being distracted by the other. You want an outside recall to be firm and reliable so you can use it reliably in the home if needed.

From the yard you want to bring them into the home. Do not bottleneck them at the door to get inside. Dog number 1 (resident dog) goes in with the handler while dog number 2 waits outside with a handler. When the first handler gets into an open room in the home then bring in dog number 2.

Again, make sure there are no toys, bones, or food items lying around so there is nothing for either dog to feel the need to possess.

Inside the home and trade off:

 Work the dogs in a few commands because this is where you eventually are going to be alone with them without aide of a second handler.  The owner should be able to take the leash of one dog and heel past the other dog. Then exchange dogs and repeat. If the second handler is someone other than a co owner then it is important for the owner to be the one to give the commands inside the home at this time.  If both handlers are the owners of the dogs then both owners need to give commands and each can heel one dog past the other dog.

The reward value should be high because now they are no longer on neutral territory or an outside opening, so a combination of hot dogs and chicken (or use a dog treat that you know is of high value to the dog) should be used.

In some instances you will find that the dog is not food motivated at all and in that case you want to use the dog’s favorite toy/ball as a motivator, however you must keep a close eye on it and use it only as reward.  How does this work?  Have the non food motivated dog obey some commands and walk it past the other dog to a hallway or other room. If the dog is successful in walking with you with no reaction to the other dog you put the dog in a sit- stay,  toss the toy, then give the release command to get the toy. This way, all commands are run into one long command ( heel, sit, release) and the dog is rewarded for obeying all of these commands immediately when released to get the ball/toy. By giving a three step command you are also keeping the dogs focus on you. 

 Keep in mind that once you have taught a dog a command, the food /toy rewards don't have to come right away but praise should be given. Eventually once the dog knows a command you are going to want to phase out treats/toy rewards and just give praise.  After all I am sure you are not going to carry a sack of hot dog pieces with you 24/7.   

First Few Days Together

Once you feel you have successfully integrated them inside the home, still take a bit of caution because things can backslide so be sure to put a harness on each dog and attach a piece of clothesline rope to it. The rope should be long enough so that it will drag on the floor.  Using the rope rather than a lead works similar to the principal of keeping something lightweight attached to the dog so it forgets there is something attached.   This way if you see trouble brewing you can safely step on the rope of the dog that is making the first aggressive move stopping the dog and at the same time give the ‘leave it’ command. Even though you  used your foot to stop the dog from moving forward by stepping on the lead, if the dog gave you its attention you should still reward the dog for ‘leaving it’.   The dog does not know you stepped on the rope to prevent it from moving  but will more associate your command of ‘leave it’ with why it was not able to move forward.

Though this should be a given, I would be remiss if I did not emphasize that you never leave the rope on the dog when you are not at home.

Once you have the dog’s attention, gently take a hold of the collar and get the dog under a heel command and remove it from the other dog to a safe place to cool down. This should be somewhere that neither dog can see the other one. This will be a time out for your dog but do not allow this time out to last more than 2 minutes before you bring him back in with the other dog to try again.   If the dog again acts out, you remove it to another room in the same manner as above.  Eventually the dog should get the idea that if it wants to be around you, the actions have to change. When you see the actions change always take that time to praise and reward the dog.  The more good behavior you can catch and reward the more you will see the better behavior emerge.  I want to emphasize that there is no need to treat the dog roughly or talk to it sternly; you have to think of it as just taking the dog for a walk to another room. If you show anger either in tone or body language the dog will pick up on that and any reward you may have given at the time for the dog looking at you and obeying the commands, will not be associated with you rewarding its good behavior, but rather it may be associated with the dogs bad behavior. The human body language and tone of voice can change the whole tone of any situation and the way the dog views that situation.   

Never put a dog in a long sit stay in front of that which is irritating the dog as this gives the mind time to become more over stimulated. So remove the dog and  use the brief meetings just as you did in the street and the driveway, inside the home so that the dog succeeds.


Reward Values
Start with soft dog treats that the dogs do not usually get. Keep them small with no chewing needed. Never use hard treats, they crumble when chewed and that takes the dog’s attention off of you.
The more distracting in the place of training the higher reward value you need. Move from soft dog treats to hot dog or turkey dog slivers, to chicken to all three giving them by the handful.   

TRAINING  (always keep on a lead)

1) Keep dogs separate so that they can smell the other’s scent but cannot see each other.

 2) Train dogs separately several times over the course of a day for two weeks in basic obedience using a positive training method such as clicker training.  Clicker training site: click here  

3) Start out walking on opposite sides of the street while each handler works the dog in commands; gradually bring them closer together in the street.   
4) From the street you want to repeat those steps in the driveway of the home.

5) From the driveway you want to move to the yard in the same manner until you are confident they can smell each other and be near each other without fighting. Use your recall command often in the yard and reward  the  dog just for coming  to you (should be a handful of treats,) no other commands are needed as you want the dog to know you are just happy it came to you, praise and give the release command (“Fido okay!” )  This lets the dog know there are no more treats (or toy toss ) forthcoming and he can go be a dog again.  

6) Move from the yard into the home with the resident dog going to an open area of the home first then the second dog is brought in. Keep them at distance at first and the owner should be the one working both dogs in commands most of the time. If both handlers live in the home then both handlers will give commands.

7) Never bottle neck dogs in one area until you know they are okay with each other. So if you know there is still friction you don’t call them to you at the same time to pet them, don’t let them through any door at the same time, or allow them to congregate in a small area.  Any meals should be given on the opposite sides of the room or in some cases different rooms of  the house and pick up bowls immediately once they have walked away from their dish even if they have not finished their food.  Water dishes should be placed around the home so they always have access to water without the threat of the other dog being near.

 Letting Go

If there is no harmony in the home after trying all of the above measures you then have to be honest with yourself and ask, “Am I providing these animals with the best possible environment to live?” 

It is also unfair for an owner to ask a resident dog to put up with the impractical behaviors of a newly adopted dog if you have no time to train them appropriately or no time to protect the elderly resident dog from shenanigans.

And lastly please don't think of returning a dog to a rescue or a breeder as a failure, in fact you would be considered a good owner who is just realistic and has tried everything in your power but came to the realization that a dog may be better suited with a different family.

These two dogs live with each other.
The one in the back is the puppy, the one
in the front is a 12 year old. The 12 year
old cannot take the antics of a puppy all day
long so it is up to the owner to protect the
12 year old from constantly being bothered
by the antics of a young one. Their time together
is limited  to resting periods or when the older one
 initiates play. You can see that the puppy has its back
to the elder dog. This signifies the pups desire to  be
near the elder dog without trying to be irritating.
Of course both dogs are used to having their
picture taken so will look to the camera when called.


  1. Too many people have no idea about their own dog and can't read the "new" dogs signals and temperament either. After driving across country to pick up our newest rescue (2 yo male) I'm so glad I knew how to integrate him into the family! With 2 female newfs (one almost 11, one 3.5 years) that were already well trained I knew that proper introductions were essential. Our boy spent the first 3 weeks "home" wearing a leash all the time except at night in his crate. I spent a week sleeping with him in a spare bedroom until I KNEW he was ready to join the girls in the master bedroom and there would be no problems. (And he came with many challenges as a big boy with lack of training and socialization)! There was NO way he wasn't staying, I know my girls and knew what he needed to become part of the family. Four months later, they are all buddies with no issues at all between them.