Sunday, June 8, 2014

There are a number of things to consider when bringing home a new dog. Following some of these suggestions can make life easier, although there are some issues that may not arise until the new dog has actually joined your personal animal kingdom. Making the best possible match is what you should aim for, while avoiding areas that are known to cause conflict.
  Avoid Choosing Dogs with Equally Strong Temperaments.
Two strong characters are sure to wind up locking horns with each other. If both dogs have dominant personalities, you may find yourself running a canine United Nations, constantly trying to resolve issues between them. The dogfights you try to avert by intervening will probably happen anyway when your back is turned. By avoiding dogs of similar temperaments, you may also avoid a constant knot of worry in your own stomach, as well as all those pricey vet visits to patch up the warriors.
  Try Matching Your Current Dog’s Size and Activity Level.
It can make sense to look for another dog of your dog’s same or a related breed—not only will they be of a similar build, but a breed sometimes has its own inborn style of play. Some breeds stand on their hind feet and “dance/box” with each other. Other breeds use a lot of open-mouthed teeth play (you can actually hear their teeth clack together like castanets). There are dogs who prefer to wrestle on the ground and “chew” each other’s faces. Obviously, individual dogs have their own style of play, which has often come from experimentation. Most dogs will eventually alter their play style to suit another dog’s way of having fun.
Be careful if your older dog is much larger than a new puppy. The bigger dog can accidentally hurt the puppy if they start to play. Don’t scold the older dog—you don’t want any negative association with this new relationship. Just separate the dogs so they can settle down, remain calm yourself and then give them another chance to have fun.
Assuming that both dogs are healthy and relatively matched in age—young or middle-aged—you want them to be able to play safely and happily with each other. Compatibility is difficult if two dogs have great differences in height, weight, fitness or even their sense of humor when playing games like “keep-away” and “tag.”
  Should the New Dog Be Male or Female?
Generally speaking, grown dogs are more likely to tolerate an interloper of the opposite sex. However, given individual personalities, there are exceptions to this rule. It used to be taken as an absolute rule that you should never get two dogs of the same sex: it was believed that a fight would inevitably break out between any two females or two males. There was also the opposite assumption: that dogs of the opposite sex will automatically fit right in with each other. There are many exceptions there, too.
A dog’s gender can certainly play some part in the introductory process. There’s no doubt about the possibility of flying fur if your adult male or female is a strong alpha personality and you bring them a dog of their same sex who is also a dominant personality. However, compatibility between dogs can often have more to do with the personality and maturity level of the individuals than their gender.
A young puppy of either sex is rarely seen as any kind of challenge by most dogs. Even an older puppy or adolescent dog of either gender will tend not to threaten most mature dogs.
  Don’t Assume All Females, or All Males, Are Alike.
Beware of sexist stereotyping—dogs probably don’t like it any better than their human counterparts! Preconceived notions about how males or females “always act” can interfere with distinguishing your dog’s individual personality. And make no mistake: dogs really do have distinct personalities and preferences, if you take the time to understand them.
Female dogs are generally characterized as being submissive and gentle, but there are females who can be tough, feisty and dominating. Just as there are human girls who don’t play with dolls and won’t wear frilly dresses—because they get in the way of climbing trees—so are there female dogs who don’t have what are considered “feminine traits.”
Not all male dogs are put-your-dukes-up, macho guys, either. The flip side of rough-and-tumble females is those male dogs who are not aggressive (a dog like that is sometimes referred to as “soft” by trainers, meaning that it takes less intensity from the owner or trainer to get a point across to the dog). This atypical kind of male generally follows rather than leads, waits and watches instead of instantly reacting, and basically doesn’t fit the standard idea of how a tough male dog behaves.
Knowing your own dog is probably the most useful tool to have when introducing your dog to another. Stay tuned to your dog, and pay attention to the subtle clues you can pick up from him about how he’s feeling in an introductory situation. By knowing his idiosyncrasies in dealing with new dogs, you can facilitate a good introduction with the newly arrived pooch.

Even so, you may have an older dog who views a little puppy as an alien and freaks out over the baby dog’s roly-poly antics and sharp, nipping teeth.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

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