Summer holidays is a great time for getting out of the house, spending time on the road and just getting a chance to unwind. However, in most families at least, you are also required to host other family members, guest and friends that may be traveling to your area. Preparing your dog for other animals, including other dogs, to come onto their turf will require a bit of advanced training and work to ensure the visit goes smoothly.
Socialization Is The Key
Dog owners often forget how vitally important socialization is to your pet. This means that they need to constantly be provided with opportunities to interact with other dogs, pets and people so they remain calm, relaxed and confident in all types of situations. Without routine socialization your dog may become aggressive, territorial and highly possessive.
The biggest issue with socialization of your dog to be well behaved when other animals arrive is to do some socialization training right in your own home. Socialization in the dog park, obedience class or while on a walk is not the same as socialization in the dog's own territory, although it is an important component of training. The dog park, off-leash area or the obedience class is not, after all, part of what your dog sees as his or her property. It is therefore also important to have other dogs come to the area that your dog sees as his or her own.
Arranging "visits" from other dogs can be a bit of a challenge, however typically if you explain to your friends, family and co-workers that you are trying to get your dog prepared for visitors they are more than happy to provide assistance. Ideally the visiting dogs should already be very socialized and should definitely not be aggressive dogs. Start with just one dog coming over, perhaps a dog that your pet already knows. Remove all potential issues such as toys or food, and just allow your dog to experience another dog in their yard, house and space. Keep both dogs on a leash until you are certain that there is no aggression or dominance issues.
Praise your dog and provide reinforcement when they allow the other dog to be in their space. When both dogs are comfortable you may want to introduce a toy, but don't choose your dog's favorite, rather pick something less desirable. At the first sign of possessiveness remove the item and have your dog sit until he or she is calm. Reintroduce the toy, repeating the procedure as necessary. Your dog will soon learn that by responding in non-possessive ways over the item they get to actually play and interact with the other dog.
This socialization process can be very short or very lengthy, depending on your dog's temperament and personality, plus their comfort level with other dogs in the house and yard.
Know Your Dog
Some breeds of dogs are just naturally more possessive and less tolerant of other dogs in their space and playing with their things. If you have this type of dog it may be easier to simply remove all the items and keep the dogs in different rooms or areas when people aren't available to directly supervise the two. If your dog is crate trained this can be your dog's safe zone, don't allow the visiting dog to enter or be around the crate. Often dogs that are more territorial can adjust to having a particular space and will tolerate the other dog in other parts of the house.
Feeding and watering is often the biggest problem with strange dogs in your pet's space. Always feed the dogs separately if your dog or the other dog appears aggressive regarding food. Never expect your dog to share a food or water dish, provide separate dishes for both dogs. Free choice feeding is not recommended, especially if the visiting dog is on a routine feeding schedule. Not only will the presence of food likely trigger aggression but it may result in one dog "guarding" the food and refusing to allow the other dog access.
No matter how much you prepare your dog for a strange pet in the house, if the other dog is not socialized, housetrained or obedience trained you will have a problem. Unfortunately not all owners prepare their dogs for these situations, and the results are often serious injuries from fights and emergency trips to the vets.
Always check to make sure that the dog is fully up to date on their vaccinations and has not health concerns that could pose a risk to your dog. It is reasonable to ask that the dog is on a flea treatment, especially if fleas are a problem in your location. Confirming that the dog has been spayed or neutered is very important, particularly if you have a female in heat or an intact male.
It is important to ask your guests ahead of time how aggressive or friendly their dog is, as well as if there have been problems with the dog visiting others in the past. Set ground rules for the dog to be at the house, and have a backup plan on how to handle the situation if the dog is not able to behave. Some owners, especially if they have a good relationship with a local kennel, can arrange to have boarding space if the two dogs don't get along.
If you know that having another dog in the house is going to stress your dog or that your dog is territorial and possessive, you may want to offer other options of accommodations for your guests. Research some dog friendly hotels or motels in the area and perhaps consider covering the cost of the rooms for your guests. With this arrangement you can both be comfortable and relaxed and not worried about keeping dogs separated. Being realistic about what your dog and the other dog can really handle is important for safety as well as sanity.
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