How To Choose A New Pack Member

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You've decided it's time for your pup to have a playmate.  You might now have the time to raise that puppy you've always wanted.  Even better,  you've decided to become a foster family to a local rescue or shelter.  Whatever your reason, it's important to match the right energy dog to your resident dog.  Energy matters more than size.  Manners and the perfect introduction matter all-around no matter what.

Let's look at the equation from a human standpoint.  I'm 56 years old.  I'm not interested in having a baby nor am I interested in babysitting one!  I'm being truthful here and I encourage you to do the same.  It may be great to snuggle that infant for a few hours but when I get right down to it, that baby does not fit my lifestyle.  Chances are, your senior dog who no longer wants to hike with you feels much the same.  

While we can teach rules and boundaries to the new pup, that young babe who's full of life brings a lot of energy into your home.  It's really not fair for your senior dog to be forced to tolerate it.

Whether it's the senior dog who sleeps all day or a younger dog who you are choosing a mate for, you'll need to be mindful of who you bring in to your space to share your life with.  In general, size doesn't matter but energy sure does.  

I've successfully brought together my senior boy JoJo (age 11) and his younger mate, Petunia (age 4).  They are a match made in heaven!  When we first rise, JoJo is slower like we humans.  Grab a cuppa coffee, hit the toilet and soak in the morning sun while listening to some tunes.  For Petunia, she rises to face the day with gusto.  She's the dog who needs a rousing game of fetch or a solid workout on the treadmill.  We give her what she needs to burn off that morning jubilance while my husband, JoJo and I shake the cobwebs.  

It's key to know your existing dog before adding another dog to your family.  Understand their tolerance level, if they get grouchy at certain times of day and set a plan for what you're going to do about it ahead of time.  Expecting JoJo to play with Petunia in the morning would be unfair to my aging boy.  That's where we step in.

Looking back, at 18 months of age, Petunia was annoying to her older sister, Big Rosie the Saint.  Big Rosie was aging and in pain and could only do so much activity before petering out.  We quickly taught Petunia to exercise her mind along with her body so that she was good and tired before I asked her to hang out quietly with Rosie.  Back in those days, it was treadmill three times a day as well as walks and ball play.  It was almost too much for us but we foster failed and honored our commitment.  I never intended to adopt an adolescent female to mix with another female but....well, you know the rest!  Doggie day care was never an option because she was dog aggressive at the time.  We had to give her what she needed and also honor Big Rosie in order for it all to work.

The point is is that we figured out our dog and made harmony happen.  We currently have another senior boy named Brutus.  He arrived here hating dogs and has learned to live with our pack in harmony. However, when Petunia and JoJo have their 7 p.m. romp fest, Brutus is most uncomfortable.  Through training, he has been taught to bring himself to a human and remove himself from what's uncomfortable.  That's our cue to either move the play away or give him a more secluded spot from them.  When he goes to the kitchen gate, that's our cue that he wants to return to his kennel.  We always honor the dog and advocate for all of them.

The best single piece of advice I can offer you is to choose a dog with the same energy level or lower than the one you have.  Take your time and choose wisely.  Drain their energy before you begin the introduction.

Before the dogs ever enter your home, find a buddy to handle one dog and take them both for a walk.  DO NOT CHATTER TO EACH OTHER OR THE DOGS AND NO CELL PHONES!  Start with one team in front and the other behind (downwind).  Then switch positions.  This gives each dog an opportunity to smell the other by being downwind.  They're gathering a boatload of information.

Slowly come together with the humans in between each dog.  Here's a great photo to give you a visual:

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Give them a chance to walk and settle into a nice stride.  Offer them to potty and keep working and walking in circles until they form a yin/yang nose to nail sniff as you come closer together.  Do not allow either dog to urinate on top of the other dog or kick grass, stones, etc.  You are owning the space; not the dogs.  Here's a great example of the yin/yang sniff:

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When it's time to go home, keep the dogs on leash.  Resident human goes into your yard first first. Resident dog, second.  Your buddy enters next and the new dog last.  Keep it calm and relaxed.  Stay quiet and breathe.  When the energy is calm and the dogs are relaxed, drop your leashes.  Be sure to remove all resources ahead of time.

When it's time to go inside your home, pick up their leashes and follow the same protocol as above.  Direct your new pack as to what they should do, i.e., drink water, lie down and be quiet.  I avoid allowing play inside my home but with the Arizona heat, I have to let that rule slide in the summer.  In general though, I want my home viewed as a sanctuary.  It's no place fo running, ball play or nonsense.  All the fun nonsense happens outside!

Take your time choosing your new pack member and remember to be the the leader they need and deserve.  They don't arrive knowing what's expected of them.

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