How to Introduce a Puppy to a Dog Reactive Dog

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 15, 2017

Junior is a three-year-old White Lab / St Bernard mix who lives in Omaha. His guardian set up this dog behavior training session to work on his dog aggression / dog reactivity and introduce him to his guardian’s daughter’s dog Snoop.

I had worked with Junior a few years ago to get him to stop jumping up, not always listening to commands or corrections and bumping into or knocking down the grandkids. I started things out by asking if the guardian was still enforcing the rules and structure we went over in our first session.

I knew Junior had a lingering dog aggression issue and his guardian had brought him to a few of our Counterconditioning classes. The guardian reported he had improved between his first and second class, but she missed some classes after that. I made sure to stress that the classes work best by repetition and she said she will be returning to them this week.

When Junior’s guardian struggled to name any rules he was expected to follow, I had a big clue as to why Junior was acting as he was. A lack of rules means the humans are not consistent in correcting the dog. While we want to use positive dog training to teach the dog, setting clear boundaries and limits and consistently enforcing them is a big way for humans to assume a leadership status in the dog’s eyes.

I did a quick refresher on some of the structural aspects from the first session; petting with a purpose, passive training (rewarding Junior when he did desired things on his own like sitting, coming or laying down) and using the Escalating Consequences to disagree or correct the dog.

Once we finished that conversation, I demonstrated how to use the Escalating Consequences to claim the area around the door. Junior responded really well so we reset the exercise so that his guardian could practice answering the door herself.

Junior’s excitement level made it almost impossible for him to listen to his guardian and because she was a little slow and tentative with her movements, he stopped listening and instead tried to go around or over her. This is a big indicator that he does not see her as an authority figure.

Before Snoop arrived, I spent a few minutes going over how important all the little things will be for Junior’s guardian. Until he respects her, its going to be an uphill battle to get him to stop being dog aggressive, jumping up when excited and not listening to her.

Now we were ready to introduce the dogs for the first time. I took Junior out for a short walk as I wanted to meet outside and not have Junior staring as the dog got out of the car in his driveway. Once I saw Snoop’s family pass me, I headed back to Junior’s house and had someone film this first meeting

Because Junior was so worked up we did not let the dogs actually meet in the front yard. Because one important communication method is to increase distance by moving away, I wanted to head into Junior’s back yard so we could let Snoop off the leash.

We gave Snoop some time to sniff around before trying a few different techniques to get this pair of dogs together without any dog aggression or triggering a dog fight.

Although Junior was able to settle down considerably, he made it clear he wasn’t ready to meet snoop in a positive way. This is an important step for some dogs. Meeting at a distance and calling it a day without anything bad happening can set you up for future success. You never want to rush something into a bad outcome.

As a dog behavior expert, one thing I like to do is help dogs practice being in the same room together, but at a distance and under a controlled setting. In addition to giving the dogs more time together in a controlled safe setting, I wanted Snoop to wander about leaving his scent around. This can help Junior get used to his presence, or at least the scent of it.

While we were hanging out, Junior did something to tell me he was feeling more relaxed. Watch the video below to see what it was.

While we never got the dogs completely together, I was pleased with the progress that was made. By the time we shot the last video, Junior was able to sit or lay on the ground a few feet away from Snoop and watch him chew on Junior’s giant bone without any protest.

Laying down is a big sign as its the opposite of a commanding posture. Additionally not reacting to Snoop engaging with a high value item is also significant.

It will be important for Junior’s guardian to start consistently enforcing the rules and structure in order for Junior to relax around Snoop and other dogs. Weekly progress at our Counterconditioning Class and enforcement of the rules along with added structure (petting with a purpose) will combine to help Junior relax enough to learn to meet other dogs without incident.

We finished the session up by filming a Roadmap to success video which you can watch by clicking the player below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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