One big happy fur-family

Is your furry family growing? Did you get your best friend a best friend?

Dogs are pack animals and for the most part enjoy canine companionship. But as with humans, first impressions are crucial. If you’d like your old bestie and new bestie to get along, you need to put some consideration into the introduction.

In an ideal world, you’d plan daily excursions with your dog and the newcomer before bringing her home (and into your dog’s territory). If that’s not possible, choose a weekend, for example, when you have more time for this task.

When the time comes, be calm and friendly and the dogs are more likely to follow suit. Since tired dogs are generally more amicable, exhaust (but don’t overheat) them with abundant exercise beforehand. A little trick: yawning during the introduction can be a good way of showing your pup that it’s no big deal.

Two’s company but three’s a pack. If you have more than one dog, introduce them one at a time so they don’t gang up on the newcomer. Enlist Homo sapien help — one per canine.

Each dog should be on a securely held leash with some slack in it (easier said than done with wanna-be sled dogs). Although some dogs have less-than-stellar leash performances, at least you’ll have control if things get out of paw.

Go for a walk in the park and it will be a walk in the park. Utilize a nearby neutral territory such as a public space or neighbor’s yard before bringing the newcomer home. Remember, it’s harder to bite a moving target, so employ parallel leash walking. Another bit of Whiskers wisdom: butts don’t bite.  Allow your pups to engage in polite sniffing of one another’s bottoms. Although polite bottom-sniffing may sound like an oxymoron, in dog etiquette it’s akin to the human handshake.

Throughout this process, nip naughtiness in the bud. Stiff body language, staring contests and raised hackles can indicate aggression will follow. Dominant behavior such as one dog putting his or her head over the shoulders of the other dog is a no-no. Even rough-housing needs to be interrupted immediately by distracting the dogs and employing time-outs or longer separations. If you are introducing dogs that you already consider borderline aggressive, use muzzles.

Happy tails lead to happy tales. The downward dog (a yoga move or invitation to play depending on what species you are) is a great indicator that things are going swell. Start by letting your dog off-leash. If that goes smoothly, you can release both dogs (but leave the leashes on as draglines).

Next, y’all are homeward bound. Make sure everything your dog may covet — such as beds, bowls, toys and his favorite biscuit-toting auntie — are tucked away. Repeat the steps employed off-property (both dogs on leash, your dog off, then both with draglines).

Afterward, keep a close eye on both pups. Shoo them out of tight spaces (these can turn into fight spaces). During mealtimes (when food is out) and at night (when your reaction time may be slower) it may be best to crate or otherwise separate the new dog.

Play it fair. As puppalicious as your new dog may be, don’t let her steal all the attention away from Old Faithful nor, for that matter, use him as a chew toy. Play your cards right and before you know it you’ll be one big happy fur-family!

• Moksha McClure, a lifelong animal lover and vegetarian, is the founder of Whiskers Resort, a pet hotel in Lihu‘e.Visit or call 241-PETS.


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