How do you successfully introduce a rescue dog to your current dog?
You may have decided that it was time for your dog to have a playmate, or perhaps you walked past an adoption event at your local pet store and couldn’t say no to a pair of sweet puppy-dog eyes looking up at you.
Whatever the reason, you’re now faced with integrating your current dog and your new rescue with as little fuss as possible.
It can be done!
Related: introducing a puppy to an aggressive dog
How to introduce a rescue dog to your current dog
First, information-gather about your rescue.
Where was she found? Had she been mistreated? How did she interact with other dogs after being rescued (rescues are often fostered at homes with other dogs)? What scares her (again, the foster parent might have some really good insight)? If you learn that your rescue has been aggressive toward other dogs, you need to be even more vigilant when you bring her home.
Prepare your current dog for the introduction.
Leave your new dog in the car or outside on a leash with a trusted adult while you go inside with the crate, dog bed, water and food dishes, and Leave your new dog in the car or outside on a leash with a trusted adult while you go inside with the crate, dog bed, water and food dishes, and toys (ideally, let the rescue play with one of the toys on the way home). Pet the new dog before you go inside, as well, and as soon as you get in the door, let your dog smell you. Then let him smell the toy that the rescue played with in the car. Pet him while he sniffs, reassure him with your words, and give him treats.
If you have a backyard where your dog is able to run, put both dogs in the yard before you try the house. If you don’t have a fenced yard, get the leash and head outside for the introduction. Your current dog is bound to feel territorial of his house, so taking it outside will help him get acclimated to the new dog without getting overly defensive.
Be aware of body language.
If the dogs are sniffing each other, their tails are up, and there isn’t any growling, you can move them inside relatively quickly. If either dog is acting aggressively, don’t push it. Give them a break by putting the rescue in her crate when you get inside.
Keep routines normal for your current dog.
Even if your current dog seems to be getting along well with your new rescue, try to keep his routines normal. He gets stressed, too! If he sleeps in your bedroom, let him keep doing so – without the new dog. There may come a time that your rescue will join, but start out with some separation. My Gracie used to sleep in my bedroom, but after we got Lucy, she decided to start sleeping downstairs. The important thing was that it was her choice!
Separate the dogs when you leave the house.
No matter how well it seems to be going, don’t chance it. Put your new dog in her crate when you leave the house to ensure the safety of both dogs. Socialize them as much as possible when you’re home, but don’t risk it when you’re not.
For most dogs, it will only take a couple of weeks for them to get used to each other and develop their new normal. If after a couple of weeks, your dogs are still not getting along, call the rescue agency and ask them their policy for returning a dog. Having two miserable dogs is not good for them, and it certainly isn’t good for you. Don’t worry, though – most dogs will be able to live together without any problems.