Adopting dogs is like eating potato chips: You can't stop at one. But when you bring a new one into your nest, you need to make sure everybody gets along. If a Rottweiler is your next addition, be aware that this breed sometimes has a belligerent attitude toward other dogs.
Inquire about the Rottweiler's personality. If you are getting your Rottie from a rescue or a shelter, the people working there should have a basic knowledge of how she gets along with other dogs. While you cannot totally rely on such a behavior assessment, it should help you set realistic expectations and goals.
Some Rotties are friendly with everyone, others may get only along with dogs of the opposite sex, while some others may not do well with any dogs. Being a bit of a party pooper is not atypical in this breed; indeed, "an aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted" says the American Kennel Club Rottweiler standard.
Get your dogs' collars and leashes, employ some helpers and introduce your new Rottie to your other dogs on neutral ground -- that is, away from your home and places your dogs consider their turf. This precaution reduces territorial tendencies and minimizes the risks associated with having unfamiliar dogs mingling together in the home. Ideally, you should take your dogs on a parallel walk: Basically, walk your Rottie in the same direction as the other dogs, about 20 or 30 feet apart, with the dog walkers walking between your Rottie and the other dogs. A parallel walk helps the dogs learn about each other at a distance and get accustomed to each other’s body language and smells, explains dog trainer Jolanta Benal. As you do this, assess your dogs' behaviors. Watch for stares, growls and stiff body language.
Keep your Rottweiler in a separated area for the first days. This will allow her some time to get adjusted to the new place, new smells, new sounds and new family. Install a baby gate or other type of barrier that allows your Rottweiler to see the other dogs but without directly interacting with them as of yet. This will allow her to have a feel of being a part of the social group while giving you the opportunity to observe her carefully and practicing safety. Try your best to keep all dogs calm; rowdy behaviors may make a Rottweiler stressed or nervous; it may trigger the "hall monitor syndrome" whereby your Rottie may act to correct rowdy behaviors so her sense of peace and calm may prevail.
Introduce your Rottweiler to one of your calmer dogs in a large fenced area. Make sure that great things happen when they're in each other's presence. Engage in happy talk using a friendly tone of voice while they briefly sniff at each other. Afterward, ask a command, such as "sit," and reward with a food treat, suggests the Humane Society of the United States. Make sure you end the interaction on a positive note by praising both dogs. As the days go by, you may introduce the rest of the social group one by one.
Train all dogs an emergency command that tells your dogs to stop engaging with one another no matter what. This command will come handy should you ever notice a dog interacting in a way that you are not comfortable with. A command to lie down or come to you should help diffuse the tension and redirect the attention on you rather than among the troublemakers. Start by training each dog one dog at a time, then adding multiple dogs into the training together. Nipping any bad behaviors in the bud is important, since behaviors not reined from the get-go can become habitual and hard to eradicate, according to Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals International.
- When walking your dogs together, keep the leashes slack; tension brings tension.
- Training all dogs basic obedience commands is essential for control purposes.
- To minimize trouble, rotate your dogs rather than keeping a large group together.
- Go very gradually and slowly in introducing your dog to your other dogs.
- If your dogs seem uncomfortable at any time, take a step or two back in the process.
- Keep a spray bottle, water hose or a loud noise-making item such as a can with pennies nearby should a fight occur.
- Keep in mind that barriers such as leashes, gates and fences can make some dogs’ behaviors worse.
- Never leave your dogs unsupervised.
- To prevent resource guarding, keep toys and other resources out of reach.
- To prevent fights, feed all dogs in separate areas and out of reach of one another.
- Should the introductions not go smoothly, contact a professional dog behaviorist.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.