Have you ever noticed if you travel to almost any other country, especially in South America, there are hundreds of loose dogs roaming about? When I was in Chile, I was shocked at how many stray dogs there were. I took pictures of each one and when I got home I realized that they all looked healthy, and I never saw them fighting with one another. That’s because they established their own civilization, if you will, a way of living that serves them all well.
You have all head of “pack mentality” or “the alpha”. Well, they have established the “alpha” or multiple “alphas” for different neighborhoods. They don’t need people to intervene in any way except to give them food. It’s really because of the overprotectiveness of dog’s owners that cause dogs to divert from their pack behavior and become confused as to what to do. This is even more true inside the same household.
The word “socialization” comes up at this point. It involves introducing your dog not only other dogs but to other people and other animals. Of course, this must be done very carefully. First you must meet away from the house on neutral ground – that takes away any defensiveness the dog may have. At that point it is very important that you introduce the dogs on leash but never head on. You should always walk your dog close to the other dog on an angle parallel to the to the other dog’s position until you are about 10 feet apart. Then you can turn but never approach the other dog directly head on – still use an angle. The other dog may approach at that point or stand still. If the other dog is wagging his tail along with his whole body, you are good to go for contact, but any other posture you should proceed with baby steps, unless you hear barking or growling from the other dog, in which case you pause for a moment and check in with the other dog’s owner.
If the other dog’s owner says her dog is friendly, you can allow first contact, noses only. If that goes well, you can loosen the leash to allow them to fully sniff each other. Keep an eye out for dog body language, growls and barks being the most obvious but also a tail tucked away is a sign the other dog is not comfortable at the moment so you should back your dog off. As long as that’s all that happens, consider it a victory for first impressions and move on to the next step of walking the dogs in parallel together for a while.
If you have a yard, let the dogs run off leash (but with their leashes still connected so you can grab in a hurry). Let them play and get to know each other in a semi neutral environment. After a short while of this, take them inside for some water. Give them water and food at the same time, but definitely in separate rooms, at least to start. Later on, you can move the bowls to the same room.
Regarding sleeping arrangements, both dogs should be crated in crates no larger than they being able to walk in and turn around. Put blankets over the crates except the front so that they get the sense of a den. The dogs should go in their crates after their last potty break and just before you head to bed. Don’t face the crates toward each other.
It is important that you allow the dogs to decide for themselves who will be in charge. It’s not necessarily the first dog you get. It is equally important that you provide the overall same conditions to your dogs and treat each equally, but don’t interfere in their individual “conversations”. You should respect their hierarchy by giving the leader a treat first, but when it comes to giving love, it should be equally. Do not punish your dogs, it will only increase their anxiety – positive rewards only. If they fight, and you feel it is getting out of control, spray water on them, blow a loud whistle, or use the Pet Corrector (found on Amazon) to get them to temporarily stop, then separate them for a while.
Speaking of equally, it is also important to train them in same identical fashion. Train them separately, but go through the same training drills with each. If you are too busy to adequately train each dog, send them to a board and train facility or hire an in-home dog trainer. Either is fine, but keep in mind that you will have to continue the training for the rest of their lives, at least 20 minutes a week.
When all is said and done, you will be the alpha in charge of the pack. By doing all of the above, your dogs will be aware of who is in charge. It does take effort, but the end result is very rewarding.