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Thread: Adopting a mature dog into an established pack

  1. #1

    Default Adopting a mature dog into an established pack

    Hello All,

    I am new to the forum, and would love some advice from wise and experienced "doggers".

    I already have four dogs (more on them below) and am mulling over the idea of adding a fifth member to our doggie family (by way of adopting a rescue). My husband has a new job which requires him to be away for work for weeks at a time and we have recently moved to a large (120 acre) rural property with no close neighbours. I'd really like to add another large breed dog to our family, one just because I love dogs and now have the space to have as many critters as my little heart desires and two because another large breed dog would just have me feeling that little bit more secure when hubs is away at work and I am alone in the middle of nowhere.

    To give you some background info. on our family:

    Besides four cats, we have an 11 year old Chihuahua (female), a 10 year old Pomeranian (female), a seven year old German Shepherd (male) and a seven year old Cattle Dog Cross (male - medium size). All desexed, all inside dogs. So I have a wonderful guard boy in my shepherd (he would be telling an intruder to call an ambulance in advance), the cattle dog would -probably- have a go if it came down to brass tacks and the two little girls would be hiding under the bed!

    Our dogs all get on very well together as a "pack", but don't really appreciate other dogs. The two little girls aren't that worried about other dogs (can take 'em or leave 'em, will play with other little dogs), but unfortunately my two boys are not very friendly towards other dogs.

    So I am well aware that if I do adopt another dog I will have my work cut out for me with the adjustment period getting everyone settled into the new pack hierachy.

    After all this rambling I am seeking considered opinions and any stories of previous experiences; would it be better to get a female or male dog - bearing in mind the two most unsociable dogs are males. I would prefer to get an older juvenile dog (1-3 years) than a pup, but would a pup fit better into the pack? It was my assumption that a female would present less of a dominance threat to my male dogs, but after doing a bit of reading online, it may appear this isn't necessarily so. Or am I quite simply mad and should just keep our well-balanced pack as-is and forget about adding a fifth member? (A fifth doggie would be the final doggie until this lot pass over the rainbow bridge).

    Thanks in advance, looking forward to hearing your replies!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    SE QLD


    In my personal opinion a puppy would be best. Other members will probably inform you about how dog's are not like wolfs and don't have a pack, its more like a family unit. But I will leave that up to them

    When I introduced Bella into our family Harley didn't know what the heck she was (Harley really dislikes other dogs a lot, so much so I can't take him for a walk past houses where barking dogs live cause he goes a little bonkers - training will hopefully fix this though), he wouldn't let her touch him or go near him for a week or so. So the only time they were alone together was when me or my other half was there to supervise. After about a month of separation I trusted Harley enough to be alone with Bella and now they are inseparable.

    I think with Puppies, while more work are better able to fit in, the older dogs teach them things and would get use to them after a while.

    There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Southern NSW


    I have added dogs to existing pack quite a few times and most of the time using the fact that i am heavily into training it has been successful.

    I always ask to meet the "future" dog with my pack at a neutral place. If my dogs do not react to the dog or are friendly with the dog, I try them at home.

    My last Rescue was a choice of two. We introduced our girls to each dog individually and one of my very friendly dogs was worried about the first dog. It was quite the opposite with the second dog and we brought Lukey home, he is still here.

    Our Rescue before that was just a gentleman and we just brought him home and he fitted in really well. Sadly Tobias passed away last year due to Lymphoma

    But our rescue before that, Annabelle, was a disaster at week three and nearly killed one of the dogs we had at home, Tessa. This was a fight between two bitches and bitches when they fight go for the kill. Dogs usually just find a stand off ground.

    It took us at least a year to be able to feel confident to allow these girls together. And lots of training with lots of dogs and the help of another Dog Trainer, so we could train the dogs together and be safe. And it is only because I observe my dogs closely that we eventually managed to train past it. They are happy together now. And have lived together now for nearly three and half years. We have basically used Obedience Training, desensitisation and Calming Signs to get over it. And sometimes we still have to use our Calming signs.

    I believe that the dogs you have now need to be social, to be successful, which mine were. Unless you get a really submissive dog and then it might be bullied. We always have the dogs we have at home well trained and social before we get another new Rescue. That we we have at least control over most of them. Training at a Good Training School may help get your dogs more used to other dogs being around.And maybe after that get friends to visit with all dogs on lead and see how propriety they are over their property.

    But to me, if your present dogs are not that friendly to stranger dogs, it might be best to leave well enough alone. Keep the peace......Puppies are well accepted by most dogs.

    In our past having had 4-5 dog packs, I always found it easier to have four. the fifth also seemed a little like the fifth wheel. That might be because we always have large dogs. And hubby and I only have one arm each for when we are walking in town.
    Pets are forever

  4. #4


    Hi Jadielee and Newfsie,

    thank you very much for your responses.

    We have attended puppy school, a series of obedience training schools, you name it, unfortunately we have failed miserably to get our two boys to be sociable dogs. Fortunately all of our dogs are great with people, our cats, chooks, etc. They just don't like other dogs My shepherd will even bark at the TV if a dog comes on the screen - even a CARTOON dog!

    They were recently in boarding kennels for a couple of weeks (we've had a very traumatic house move!) and the two little girls were fine with the other little dogs (they even adopted themselves a room mate), and amazingly, the two boys were okay with one other dog which was (foolishly) put in with them for a day. However apparently they were agressive to their two "fence mates". The dog that was put in with them was apparently a very submissive fellow, but gosh, I would not have risked it with my shepherd. He has never bitten a dog, but has dropped a dog to the ground when it approached us at training school.

    So I guess if -and that's a big if at this stage - we adopt another doggie it will have to be a pup. I am confident that they would be okay with a pup, but couldn't bear to adopt an older dog and then find that it just doesn't work - as you can see by the age of our dogs, they are a life-time commitment for us not something to be returned 'cos it's too hard.

    I'm going to give this a LOT more thought over Christmas, then perhaps in the New year when the shelters are bursting at the seams have a look at the pups.

    So sad, because of course I have been trawling the rescue websites and fallen madly in love with a gorgeous boofy looking fellow who in other circumstances I would have bought home already!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Southern NSW


    It is tough........But it also sounds a little like you might have a "lead aggression" issue happening. And that often comes more from the way the owner always has a tight lead and "grabs" the lead when another dog comes near. that is something a good trainer could help you with over time.

    But a puppy or just your lovely foursome sounds best so far.....Good luck anyway. They do sound like a happy household of dogs anyway
    Pets are forever

  6. #6


    The Shepherd definately has lead agression, although we have done sooo many lessons on loose lead walking - we know and understand about this, the shepherd always has to be a head in front even when walking on loose lead. We were both sitting down resting in the shade when the other dog approached us and the shepherd dropped it. I can only think that he was "protecting" me from the other dog approaching. Such a shame because when he was a pup we did all the right things with puppy school, sooooo much training. The cattledog is great on the lead, always walks on a nice loose lead, but still lunges at a dog if it passes by too closely.

    We are a happy household, so I will leave best alone for now and reconsider a pup in the New Year when the holiday madness is over.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011


    Dogs being aggressive thru fencing, particularly during boarding is not outside the norm.

    And it sounds like your dogs, particularly the two males would need the introductions to be precise, meaning firstly meeting off territory, a good long walk, careful introductions on nice loose leads on home ground and most importantly an other confident person to assist you with all this and a safe area to separate the dogs into if it all goes wrong.

    I'd also be doing further socialisation with them prior to getting another dog so you have some idea of what to expect.

    I have 8 dogs in total (previously 9 but one of the 3 month old pups went to her new home a week ago). I have an entire male Whippet who has had matings and he is selective with what dogs he likes, if it's a bitch and a Whippet he welcomes them with open paws, if it's one of his pups, bitch or dog he welcomes them with open paws, but when I introduced a 12 week old Borzoi to the pack last year he didn't want that thing on his home turf yet he is unreactive to them off territory. It took him two weeks to accept him as one of the pack. He knew it was going to grow into a big dog, it's male and he was prepared to really put Zoro in his place and it was two weeks before I left them together unsupervised now they are great mates.

    I know the criteria for Mickey to accept another dog, it must either be a female Whippet or it must be much younger than him, I also know that once he realises that they are part of the family that they are accepted in. However I also know that he's perfectly fine with anything off territory, if he wasn't happy with dogs off territory I doubt I'd bother forcing another dog on the family and upsetting the harmony. I also know from experience that one you get up past about 6 dogs that things get a little bit more difficult to manage as you get a lot more dynamics and areas of high value within the pack and it becomes harder work.

  8. #8


    Thanks Mac,

    I'll look up a local training school after the hols (we just moved to a new area) and have another go to see if I can't get my boys to be a bit friendlier towards other dogs. Unfortunately where we've moved too (rural, large acreage), they have absolutely NO contact with other dogs, so things aren't going to improve any if left to the status quo.

    Five dogs will be my absolute limit, wow 8-9 dogs is HUGE and our little cottage will already be bursting at the seams with five!

  9. #9


    I know it's an old thread, and sometimes it's best not to mess up a happy family, but just for reference, when I was bringing home a new rescue, I'd take the dog/bitch I was most worried about, with me. I'd go to neutral ground and spend time massaging and patting and making friends with the new dog. Then I'd go back to my dog and let them smell me all over, talking in my happy, higher, 'wagging tail' voice and give them a cuddle, too. I never had a really experienced dog person with me. I always had a mesh fence between us, for their safety. I always approached talking in a totally relaxed, very happy to see my close personal friend voice. The lead must be held loose and relaxed and you must feel that, or your dog will pick it up. I DID feel it - I knew the worst would be noise and teeth, as they couldn't get at each other. My dog would approach, knowing this dog was MY friend. I smelt overwhemingly of it, I clearly knew it and it liked me. They would meet through the fence. Any sign of dislike, the earliest blink, and I would be horrified, SHOCKED at such uncivilised behaviour. That was 1st step. Sometimes it ended there, 1st day, and I returned again, the next day. I have to stop here. I have a problem at Houston I must deal with... and no, it isn't to do with the dogs...

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