Trouble when adding a new dog to your pack

We recently received this note from a reader in response to our post How to Introduce Two Dogs and thought it deserved it’s own post:


I recently got a Chow Chow (a week ago), they don’t seem to get on quite well. I believe I introduced them incorrectly as I read somewhere on the web saying we should let them affirm their ranking system and allow them to have small fights. After first two days, I noticed something seems amiss as the fight just got more aggressive. Which I decided to do more research and fought an alternative suggestion which is to stop such dominance fight should it occur.

I have the chow chow restricted by a fencing in a small area (Toilet train)and allow my other dog, an 11 month old Japanese Spitz to roam the house as it is toilet trained. My Spitz tends to start a fight with the 4 month old chow chow whenever i let it out of the confined area. I remain calm and assertive throughout hoping to correct my spitz but it doesn’t seem to be effective. Out of this one week, there was only one occasion where the two of them were peacefully roaming around the apartment for 10 mins. However, everything was back to square one again.

I bring them for walk daily, side by side (Chow on my left, Spitz on my right). My spitz gets along quite well when out of the house, however, there were occasion where my Chow started biting, unsure if it was play biting my Spitz during walks.

I’m hoping to get some advices on how to introduce two properly and get them to live harmony in my apartment.

Thank you, and your advise is greatly appreciated.

My response:

Your dogs are both young so there is that going for you. It seems that you have done a fair bit of research on your own, good for you! It will help you to be educated on how to read dog’s body language so you can be more confident in knowing what you are seeing – aggression or dominance display, play or fighting, how to know when things are getting tense and you need to intervene.

First thing I would do is this:

1. Pick up ALL toys, bones, chewies, and food. Keep only water in a bowl on the floor and keep at least two bowls of it available at all times. This will eliminate one reason for fighting – resource guarding. Of course, you and anyone else in your home can also become a resource so be mindful of that and don’t let any dog be annoying, pushy or bossy around you.

2. Continue walking them daily, making sure to keep them at your side. It sounds like you walk them  correctly – good for you. Just keep this up. The walks should be about 30 minutes long minimum and you should work up to a full hour as your new little one matures. I’d say a full hour by the time the Chow is 6 months old. Do stop any biting on the walk, playful or otherwise. I consider walking to be  “work” and expect focus and concentration from my dogs. They aren’t held to a firm heel or anything but no messing around – stay in your place and keep your eyes forward. I don’t talk to them much either, we just do our work side by side. I like to say to myself “We are a creature with (in your case) 10 legs, 6 eyes, 6 ears, 3 mouths, 2 arms and one mind.”

3. Enroll them in a structured training class together if possible or separately if necessary. But  either way work them together. One dog may need to be confined in the pen you have or on leash but work them at the same time and reinforce both dogs for good behavior. Decide what “good behavior” means for you for the non-working dog. For example, if you are working one on a sit and they perform well, treat them and the other if he/she did not interrupt, remained quiet etc. As their skills develop you can have one in a down/stay and work the other on a new skill. Both get treated if the one held the down/stay and the one you were working did what you wanted. Get the idea? This reinforces the idea that you are the one in charge of resources and that good behavior (compliant, respectful, quiet, patient) gets rewarded.

Before going on to number 4 you will need to determine a vital piece of information – who is the trouble maker here? I would suspect given your description of the 4 months old’s behavior (biting on the walk), that he is the instigator. Watch how the Chow looks at the Spitz – who starts the glare and who breaks it off first. That sort of thing will give you information about who is challenging who. Also, think back to who starts the actual fighting. And then leash one of the dogs. Your information gleaned from the above will tell you who to leash up. I would leash the instigator but do not let the unleashed dog to hassle the one on leash. Teaching both dogs a command that means “ignore that thing” would be helpful. Again, a good training class will help with that – the command is often called “Leave it”. If you have a situation where one is the problem and the other just wants to be left alone this leashing up the problem one will “fix” the fighting. If you have a situation where both are instigating them it becomes more complicated. But leashing one gives you more control over the situation. So, on to number 4…

4. After your longest walk of the day, walk into the house and only unleash one of the dogs (the non-instigator). Keep the other one close at hand and simply ignore them both. Go about your business while the one dog is leashed (tie it to your pants, around your wrist). Keep half an eye on what is happening around you but don’t get overly intense. If they go to interact use your body (legs) and nudge the unleashed one out of the way saying firmly “GET” or something to communicate disapproval. Continue to block any approach of the other dog. IF you are unable to do this step without a fight you have a more complicated situation on your hands and you’ll need an expert to come in and assess what is going on. If however, this works, keep it up daily starting small – say 10 minutes, and work up from there.

5. As their obedience skills develop you can do this off leash but put both dogs into a down/stay and keep them there. You may be allowing more rough play in your home that is advisable. I do not let my dogs wrestle or play rough in the house. The house is for lounging and working and sleeping and eating. Play happens outside. Limiting this rough play in the house may help.

Hopefully this will be helpful. I have to say that you will be able to get a much better sense of things if you hire a dog trainer to come into your home for an hour session. Just that should help you get a handle on what is actually going on and what to do about it. In general though, think like this, “what you practice you get really good at” so if your dogs practice being calm and self-controlled, they will become good at that. If they practice fighting, they will get good at that too.

Good luck to you and let me know how this all works out!


July 18, 2011 • Tags: , , • Posted in: advice, behavior, dog ownership

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