Here’s an excerpt from a reader’s letter about springer spaniel training and introducing rescue dogs to others:
I just need a bit of advice on introducing Cassie to another dog. My mum has just got a rescue dog herself and although Cassie has been going to my mum’s for quite a while and has settled nicely when we are there, we are not sure on what’s the best way of introducing the dogs to each other and how soon. Rusty the newcomer has basic commands but when we went round the other day he wanted to say hello to her, I kept Cassie down the other end of the room with me. Rusty started to come up to her but she drove him off, snapping. Mind you it didn’t stop him wanting to go back – he’s only 7 months old and has been kept with other dogs in a ‘foster’ environment. He was barking a lot because he was then contained at the other end of the room.
Cassie has been ok with 2 of my friends’ dogs in their homes off her lead, she seems to ignore them and play with their toys. She came from a dogs home where she stayed for 4 months.
My reply was broadly as follows:
You don’t say whether Cassie was on heat when they first met – that could be important. Also, of course, you mentioned that the other dog is a rescue dog too, but from your note there is no unusual behaviour there.
Where do the problems lie then?
Well, if you read up on springer spaniel temperament, you’ll find that they can sometimes be aggressive with others of the same sex, though it’s not an issue here.
Also of course, there may be issues of territory – on whose ground they meet, so to speak.
Jealousy can be another factor – if she has been spoilt with affection, then she could be very defensive about letting another dog into her relationship with you.
What can you do?
Well, firstly, make sure they meet on neutral territory, and introduce them gradually. I suggest walking them together, on leashes, but kept apart. Make it a regular occurrence, and build the length of the walk from a few minutes to maybe the full regular morning or evening walk. That way they can get used to one another without territorial issues, or physical bothering. Do this when neither is in season.
Whilst you are doing it, you, as Cassie’s owner, need to avoid showing any interest in the other dog at all. Keep them apart, but if you have retractable dog leashes then you can slowly lengthen and let them interact.
Then, when they are used to one another, start giving Cassie some freedom during the walks. Gradually let her off the leash, so that she can choose whether to say hello to the other dog. That’s another week gone, maybe more – you’ll have to watch her behaviour. If she’s avoiding the issue completely and showing no interest in the other dog, then test the water gently by you showing some interest in the other dog; you’ll need to watch her reaction carefully, to see if she is sensitive about this aspect.
When things are looking good and settled between them in this way, then start to let the other dog off the leash during walks, so that they are both off. Take it gently and slowly, building up the time again. Obviously, you need to be confident that the other dog will recall to leash without problems.
You may need to go back a step at times, and take a couple of months over the process, so that nothing is rushed, and keep them apart when she is in season (and vice versa).
Then, you’ll have to deal with territory. Take Cassie to the other home, and take it slowly, with short visits. Give her time on her own in the other’s garden or yard (if there is one), and then let them have time together in this outside space, with lengthening times together. Then, when things are ok, move them indoors – again, short time periods, getting longer.
It will take patience, but if Cassie is relatively young, then she should learn well and adjust. Keep your own interest in the other dog to a minimum. Springer spaniels are smart dogs, and she may adjust quickly, as soon as she understands that there is no threat to her home or her relationship with you. There is, obviously, a very small chance that things may never work out between them, but I think that this is unlikely.
It’s mainly a matter of common sense and patience, and a focus on springer spaniel training.