2010-04-21 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Too bad Emily Post never wrote a book about canine etiquette. There is a prim and proper way for two dogs to be introduced that will not irritate the sensibilities of canine high society, especially if the owner hopes these dogs will be able to live together.

When people are considering adding another dog to their household, the first “Meet n’ Greet” between the family dog and the newcomer should be carefully orchestrated. By following some initial steps that reinforce “pack” rules, the dogs may readily accept each other. If all goes well, building their buddy relationship will take a bit longer.

Surprising your dog with a new canine sibling is not a wise strategy. It is best that the dogs meet before the newbie enters your home. The following introduction tips will help foster safety and peaceful co-existence:

1) Take your time selecting your new dog. Even when rescuing a dog, you are allowed to be picky. Make sure the breed, age, temperament and play style complement your present pet pack. For example, if your Toy Poodle is 14 years old and arthritic, think twice before you bring home an exuberant Lab puppy that might make the rest of the Poodle’s life miserable. Sometimes seniors are rejuvenated by youngsters but please view the sudden change in dog dynamics from your resident dog’s perspective too.

2) If you are shelter shopping, see how the dog of your desire interacts with other shelter dogs (specifically one on one; not just a walk down the kennel aisle). The shelter staff may have an impounded dog known to be dog friendly that can test the social skills of your chosen dog. If this goes well, then bring your dog to meet him.

3) To minimize territorial disputes, have your dog and the prospective new one meet on neutral grounds. (My Toy Spaniel had a play date with my female Afghan at a Bayville park; my Afghans met at a kennel where the male boarded after being seized from the New Mexico hoarder.) Nowadays before approving an adoption, many shelters require that you bring your dog there for a “Meet n’ Greet.” They even have designated areas. A fenced in yard is best, but indoors can work as well. If the dogs must meet at your home for the first time, start step #4 outside your property line, even in the road. Then gradually work your way into your yard before entering the house.

4) Both dogs should be on a loose leash. Pulling too tightly can instigate altercations. You should handle your own dog while someone else, such as a shelter staff person, handles the other one. As they behave calmly, approach each other slowly. Allow the dogs to sniff briefly while observing body postures for signs of play bowing or aggression.

5) Circle around inching closer and closer without letting the leashes get tangled. (Easier said than done.) Reward positive interactions with praise and happy talk. Separate them immediately if there are any growls, teeth bared, prolonged stares or other warning signs of fighting; or if either of the dogs seems to be too frightened. It is important to interrupt before tensions escalate. You can try again later through a fence first. If you own more than one dog, introduce each one at a time.

6) Make sure you leave leashes on for intervention. If the session seems to be going well, drop the leash on one dog and let him roam while the other dog gets used to his scent and “yard” presence. Then give the other dog a chance to wander while the first dog is held. If attitudes are still cheery, try a supervised few moments with both dogs dragging their leashes.

7) Several Meet n’ Greets over a period of time may help dogs to get acquainted. Often there are more signs of recognition and tolerance on subsequent visits.

8) I am a firm believer in the power of a “parallel walk” to begin a canine friendship. Start with two handlers taking the dogs for a fun walk side by side around your neighborhood. Thisexercise helps to dissipate anxious energies and cement a bond. You can try another Meet n’ Greet after a short jaunt. Once you feel secure that they will tolerate each other, you alone may want to walk both dogs simultaneously. I do this before I invite the new dog into the house.

Once you have decided to adopt your new dog dependent, there are several suggestions to ease the settling-in period:

1) Prevention is the best way to eliminate dog fights. Avoid scenarios that may provoke sibling rivalry. Unless you have a crate in the car, leave your other dog home when you go to pick up the new pooch. You cannot drive and referee at the same time.

2) Have everything set up at home before picking up the pup. Crate is ready. Desirable toys and rawhides, anything that may spark a spat, are up off the floor for the time being. Spend time with each dog individually so no one gets jealous.

3) Feed the dogs in separate areas, or give the new guy meals in his crate. Pick up left overs. Only hand out treats that can be eaten quickly, not big bones or filet mignons that can be carried off and guarded.

4) In the beginning no matter how comfy the dogs seem together, supervise all interactions and do not leave them free together when you are not home. Yep, even if one of the dogs is Lassie incarnate.

5) If things get ugly, use two crates side by side but not touching. Then contact a behaviorist or reputable trainer for professional advice.

For Adoption at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677- 5784) Miller Pl. Syosset: “Ollie” #171 is an adorable but timid Brittany Spaniel mix puppy about 7 months old while “Slinky” #173 is an exotic, spayed Siamese cat who is 8 years old.

More Dogs: “Barney” #170- Beagle; “Simba” Pit mix with some basic training.

More Cats: “Juliet” #164 declawed calico tabby found with her kittens; “Emilia” #169 mostly white sweetie.

Free Seminar about Feral Cat Trap/ Neuter /Release: hosted by Babylon Town Shelter this Sat. April 24 from 9 am to 1 pm at Town Hall Annex, Phelps Lane N. Babylon. Email TNRSeminar@aol. com or call 516-448-5096 to register.

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