Tuesday, June 10, 2014


If the new dog is still a little puppy, you can imagine how the homecoming might feel to the dog you already have. Compare it to the arrival of a new baby into a family that already has a toddler. His parents bring home a newborn and present her with a triumphant flourish. The little one who was there first may share his parents’ beaming delight—or he might burst into tears for the number-one position he has just lost. It’s quite normal for children to respond negatively when a new baby comes home—they are jealous of all the attention the infant gets, especially from what used to be exclusively their parents. If you can empathize with that kind of hurt/displaced human scenario, you know it can be a transition that’s fraught with emotion, and you can be compassionate toward your existing pets. If the new puppy gets lots of attention—and what puppy doesn’t?—the resident dog may feel jealous on top of feeling invaded or displaced.
If you’re bringing home an older puppy or more mature dog, both the resident dog and newcomer are likely to have “issues.” In order to understand what the canines are going through, compare it to what it can feel like to both children when a foster child joins a preexisting family. There are often rough patches in which everyone involved feels awkward and unsure of where they fit in the new picture. Insecure about their place in the family hierarchy, they can have a bumpy ride until things get sorted out. Since the animals will be looking to you for leadership, it will make the transition smoother if you are clear about how to handle the issues that arise between the dogs.
To make the transition smoother, it helps to maintain a realistic expectation of how your existing pets will react to the newcomer. If you know what to expect, you won’t be alarmed or discouraged. Don’t worry that you’ve made a terrible mistake in bringing home a dog, or that the mistake is the one you chose to bring. Avoid feeling annoyed or disappointed in either animal.
Reactions to the New Dog

• Jealous
• Threatened
• Offensive/aggressive
• Frightened/intimidated
• Withdrawn/depressed
• Possessive of you
• Territorial about bed/toys
• Suspicious/ anxious• Urinating/defecating in house
• General disobedience/ ignoring commands

If you anticipate some of these normal adjustment reactions, and understand that they are generally short-lived, then the transition will be less stressful for you. It can be frustrating to feel so happy and excited about bringing home the new bundle of joy, only to be met by growls and hisses from the resident pet(s). But what can you do? You can accept your resident dog’s behavior without judgment, because the crabby attitude will pass. As a friend likes to say in defense of her dogs: “Hey, they’re only human.”
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

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