Successful Integration of a Third Dog

Integration of the new dog needs some forward planning.

This is just Chapter One of a story that I’m sure will have a very happy ending, even if there are one or two challenges along the way.

Integration of Chocolate Labrador


The gentleman is doing his best to foresee every possible eventuality.

A family member is no longer able to care for three-year-old Chocolate Labrador, Max, and in a week or so the young dog is moving in with his own two very elderly dogs, Oscar and Ellie.

The oldest, Oscar, is now fifteen years old, a Labrador Collie mix. He’s a gorgeous old boy but is now losing his sight and hearing and is on a high dose of pain meds for arthritis and other things. He walks slowly.

Ellie, thirteen, is more lively and still has a mind of her own – having overtaken Oscar in this respect.

Both dogs are understandably fixed in their ways. They have their favourite lying-down places and their established eating places. They have a routine for when they are left and a routine for night time – Oscar can no longer make it up the stairs.

There is something enchanting about an old dog.

Ellie historically has had a couple of fallings-out with other dogs so it’s not a foregone conclusion that she will take immediately to an energetic young interloper.

The integration will initially require Max to be safely separate when the dogs are left at home alone, at night time and when eating. This means the old dogs’ routines will necessarily be changing a bit.

Ellie and Oscar

It’s a lot better to do this in advance so that it reduces the upheavel when the time comes. It’s only fair to disrupt the old dogs’ to the minimum at this stage in their lives.

So, they will now have a week or so acclimatising to a few changes. They will now remain sitting room behind a gate when left alone and at night – they had freedom before. One dog will need to get used to eating in a different place so that Max can be fed by himself. Neither dog wears a collar indoors but Ellie may later need something to get hold of, so she can wear hers for a few days to get her used to that.


We discussed ‘Integration Day’ in detail.

In addition to preparing the ground beforehand, we have planned that first meeting and then what happens after with the three dogs actually living together in the same house.

I am very fortunate to have friends in the ISCP who have spent years involved in fostering older dogs and I have drawn on their experience to get the initial introductions right.



Because Oscar can’t walk far, it presented problems regarding my usual method of dogs meeting in an open and neutral space. However, it can be done near home, outside the house. The meeting will be carefully choreographed, the dogs not only introduced in a certain order and in a rehearsed way, but also returning back into the house in a particular order also.

What happens then? It depends.

If all is well the dogs will go straight out into the garden together, calmly supervised, to continue getting to know one another.

It’s probable Max may be little too boisterous and need gentle restraining – we mustn’t forget it’s a big unpheavel for him as well. I suspect Oscar will be exhausted. We will see.

If all doesn’t go so well for some reason, then they have two gated rooms and the dogs can pass behind gates and get used to one another more gradually.

I will be back with Chapter Two to tell you how the introduction did go and how the three dogs are fitting in together.

  Six days later – the introduction  



NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for these three dogs. I don’t go into detail. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, making sure that we are dealing with the real causes of barking. I also provide moral support and they will probably need it for a while. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page)

Moving in together with their dogs

Poor Springer Murphy isn't a happy dog just now



Poor Murphy is not a very happy dog at the moment. The Springer Spaniel and his male owner have recently moved in with the man’s girlfriend, who has two-year-old Akitas, brother and sister.

Murphy was his man’s companion for a couple of years and could do what he liked. It was no problem that he climbed on top of him, on the back of his sofa behind him and slept up on his pillow at night. Murphy’s tendencies to guard resources, food in particular, were not a problem.

Now they have moved in with Chikara and Kai, two beautiful young Akitas. In their past life they too slept on the bed and climbed on the sofas, burying their lady owner in their huge hairiness.

It’s no wonder that there is tension between the three dogs now. The female Akita, Chakira, has always been the bossy one, and now it is a contest between her and Murphy.  She has Kai to back her up.

There is trouble around all the predictable things. All three dogs now start the night on the bed with the couple, and there are nightly fights. If the lady tries to move Murphy or go and get him he growls at her, and immediately her two dogs come to her defence – Chakira with her teeth.

Poor Murphy isn’t used to sharing his owner and sits possessively in front of him. All three dogs are unsettled and restless. As well as fights over the lady, there are fights around food, there are fights around the bed and there are fights around the sofa – when one or both people are about. Sleeping on the bed all three together is no problem when people are not about. Sleeping on the sofa all three together is not a problem either, when they are alone.

Poor Murphy is becoming increasingly defensive and unhappy, growling when he is approached and wanting lots of attention from the man. The lady is a little wary of him and he will know this. She has on the whole had admirable control over her two large Akitas; without which the situation would be far worse.

The main kick off points have to be removed. No more going in the bedroom or on the bed, and feeding done in such a way that conflict is impossible. The dogs need to sit on the floor. Murphy high on the chair arm looking down on the others is not a good thing, particularly when he resists being removed, growls, and then a fight will start.  Murphy needs some special quality time and controlled activity instead, instigated by both the humans and not by himself.

As the man said, in the past it had been ‘my’ dog and ‘your’ dogs. Now they need to work on them being ‘their’ dogs. They are going to work on relationship building – man and Akitas, lady and Springer – mix and match! The humans need to gain the upper hand in a calm, quiet and controlled way – through the sort of leadership that the dogs already understand.

27th March: I visited these dogs today, the atmosphere was relaxed and the fighting has stopped. The couple are not longer living on tenterhoooks and there is no longer ‘your dog’ or ‘my dogs’. They have been very diligent in following our plan and the dogs are getting along very well now.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.