Author and Dog Parent | Alycia Neighbours
We recently completed a home improvement project of increasing our home by four feet. Four really big fuzzy feet belonging to a 10 month old English Mastiff. When you are an animal person this is the best home improvement project ever, but it can have some very tense moments.
Considering your new kid
The very first thing my family did when considering the new kid was to look at the breed. Yes, I know that we can’t judge a dog by the breed alone, but it helps to know some of the inherent qualities and personality traits. I will usually avoid dogs in the hunter class and the pastoral class. For my personality they tend to be a little more high maintenance. Mastiffs are a perfect fit for my family because the only “job” they will do is to be a guard/companion.
Secondly, I was very honest with the original owner about our family (both human and fur children) and its weaknesses. I made her aware that I had a large fenced yard and other animals. It would have been very unfair to the dog to bring her into a living situation that was not honest. I told her that I have a moderately aggressive lead male and a hyper second-in-command. She was also aware that I have many small children (which can quickly translate to negative stimuli for an unprepared dog.) The owner felt it was a good fit (since she is the one who knows the new kid), so it was settled.
Introducing the kids
I waited to pick up the dog until all the children were in school. This gives me time to get the house prepared and allows for less stimulation for the new dog. I put the other dogs outside in their normal routine. I removed all toys, food/water bowls and closed off my bedroom (which is the choice sleeping and retreat place for our lead dog)
We came in the front door so the other dogs wouldn’t see her and I gave her time to explore the house so she could be familiar with the layout. Then came time for the great meet and greet event.
I went outside and put the leash on my lead dog. This is his sign for my need for him to be on his best behavior. I had plenty of treats in my pocket and gave him a couple. I also put on his training collar which emits an audible beep controlled by a remote. He knows that if he hears the beep he is to heel immediately (Please consult your vet or trainer before using a training collar in any fashion).
I allowed the meet to happen in the back yard because it is more of a neutral ground for our dogs. Immediately seeing the new kid, our dogs went into investigation and protection mode. This can be stressful to watch, but it is normal behavior for dogs. I made it clear in my posture that I was going to protect the new kid, but I also have to let the dogs be dogs.
I then brought my lead dog inside and gave him a food bowl. This sends a message to him that his position is not being threatened by the new kid. After he finished eating, I brought in the new kid and this is where the real games begin.
Lead dog felt the need to establish his position immediately and in no time postured and growled until she lay down in submission. Second-in-command began to be a problem as he wasn’t content with her submission and began to pick on the new kid. This is where I cried out for help, because it’s hard to speak in doggy language and I hated seeing the submission game carried out to where the new kid was being picked on.
I received wonderful advice and began implementing it…
Now almost a week later, we have a workable three dog household. The boundaries have been established between the three dogs and our home improvement project is a success. They understand they don’t have to fight for resources and are content in their sibling type relationship. We still monitor interactions, just as we have to with our human children and continue to enforce and reward acceptable behavior.
How many dogs do you live with? Any tips you can share about adding a third dog to a home?