Creating Good Relationships Among Family Dogs

The Importance of Carefully Managed Introductions

coral-dan-feetIf you follow Suzanne on Facebook, you likely saw this picture we posted this week of our Coral coming to live with us 12 years ago this month.

We acquired Coral as a tiny, 7 week old puppy. Coral was the smallest of her litter, and weighed about 5 pounds when she came to us.

Because of her red color, small size, and erratic movements, she somewhat resembled a small squirrel. It seemed as though Ashley, our at that time, 7 year old Dalmatian, certainly thought so.


For their first encounter, we placed Coral safely in an exercise pen, and allowed Ashley to approach and sniff her. Scaring us all, Ashley jumped and pushed at the pen, growled and barked, trying to get to Coral.

Although our first, emotional reaction was to grab Ashley and start yelling, we restrained ourselves. Instead,we called Ashley a few feet away from the pen, sat down on the grass, and told Ashley to lie down next to her. Ashley complied, and as we stroked her and rubbed her ears, we all slowly relaxed! We then moved Ashley closer to the pen. We gave Ashley a few tidbits and continued to stroke her, while talking softly, keeping her relaxed as possible.

When we got close to the pen again, Ashley was still intensely interested in sniffing Coral but didn’t do any more lunging. Ashley spent the next 3 days lying outside the pen, both inside the house and out, watching and sniffing Coral. She was intent on Coral’s every movement, and her sniffing was so intense she’d drool. We continued to do the massage sessions near the pen as well.

coral-ash-penAfter 4 or 5 days, as Ashley became more relaxed and less focused while watching Coral, we allowed the two closely supervised contact with each other. Coral showed typical puppy play and greeting behaviors toward Ashley – pawing at her face and nipping her feet. It was then that Ashley seemed to finally figure out that Coral was a dog, not a prey animal.

Within a month, Coral and Ashley became great playmates. Ashley learned to be incredibly gentle with Coral most of the time – even rolling on her back and allowing Coral to crawl all over her. But we still watched them closely throughout Coral’s puppy hood, because it was just too easy for 55 pound Ashley to inadvertently hurt 7 pound Coral.

The take-home message from this example is that introducing new dogs or puppies to resident dogs requires constant supervision and baby steps. Some introductions may go smoother than Coral’s and Ashley’s, while others may be much more difficult. But the major goal is to help both dogs establish friendly patterns of interactions with one another.

The basis for any successful dog-dog introduction is to carefully manage all interactions between the dogs until they become familiar with each other and start to treat each other as friends. How this process unfolds will vary dramatically based on the characteristics of the dogs.

But there are certain essential pillars for creating healthy family dog relationships and avoid the most common mistakes that cause family dogs to not get along. You can discover what those are in our Multi-Media On Demand Webinar course “Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships Among Family Dogs” available at


Have a great rest of your day!  After posting this, we are off to dinner with friends in the beautiful Colorado foothills west of Denver.



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