Guest article by Penny Anderson
This story is not about blood-related brothers. However, they became brothers by household and bond.
My husband and I have had Barkley since he was a puppy. Barkley is well-socialized, house-trained, and pretty calm and obedient. He loves being around other dogs of any size. Although Barkley is a bit over 9 years old, he can still play as if he is fresh out of the puppy gates.
Early this fall, my husband and I committed (not just decided), but truly committed, to adopting a rescue dog as an addition to our family, and a companion for Barkley.
With the help of FKD (Free Korean Dogs), we adopted Hudson (formerly Dodo), and we could not be happier. Our adoption process from application, to interview, to approval went rather swiftly, and we only had a short window to prepare our home and devise a plan to ensure Hudson’s transition into the home, and Barkley’s adjustment to having another dog, goes smoothly. It was only days shortly after our approval that Hudson is homebound from Korea. Despite the speedy developments of his adoption process, FKD had armed us with information throughout the adoption process; what we can expect (and not expect), safety protocols, and best practices.
Preparing Barkley (Resident Dog)
Barkley gets excited whenever he meets a new dog he can play with. However, as much as we wanted to keep Barkley happy, we also did not wish for Hudson to be overwhelmed by an excitable ‘other-dog’, in a strange place, following a 16-hour flight from Korea. We had to make sure Barkley is in a relaxed state for his first meeting with Hudson.
We also needed Barkley to be prepared for a new routine. Over the next couple of days, we took Barkley for longer walks than normal. He was not used to it but he was up for it. This is to make certain that he can keep up with the routine we are going to put in place for his rescue brother.
We then booked Barkley for daycare and boarding for the first couple of days of Hudson moving in. This means that by the time we bring Barkley home and have him meet Hudson, Barkley would be already tired from playing with his friends at daycare. He would be happy but calm and would probably just want to take his nap.
Preparing the Home
Not only does Barkley need to be prepared but it is essential for our home to be ready as well. I’m going to be honest and say that neither my husband nor I had any idea about our new rescue’s temperament. To be ready, we placed some of our furniture in storage to ensure that our furniture is safe from possible destruction from chewing/scratching, and/or reduce anxiety stimulated by tables and chairs from a possibly nervous dog. We were not sure which category he would fall into but putting our furniture away would prepare our home enough for our rescue dog’s homecoming. Once he’s settled and confident, we will slowly introduce him to the furniture.
The Soft Introduction
When we picked up Hudson from the airport, we sprayed a de-stressing and calming spray in our vehicle to make the ride home a little less nerve-wracking for him. When he got home, there is no Barkley to greet him or sniff him out. However, Barkley’s scent is everywhere and on nearly everything. In the next two days, it was just us, and Hudson. Hudson would sleep on Barkley’s bed and play with Barkley’s toys. In this sense, Hudson is already familiar with Barkley, even though he has not met him. The fun squeaky toys, the cozy blanket, and the plush bed are simple pleasures that Hudson can begin to associate with Barkley.
The Real Introduction
Hudson and Barkley will ever only have ONE first-time meeting. It is that one moment that we needed to ensure goes right. It’s the culminating factor in how well they will get along. My husband and I had planned the logistics of how we will pull this off. This process would require two people. After the third day of Hudson being familiar with Barkley’s sent, and being able to go outside to do his business, it was time to pick up Barkley from daycare and boarding to introduce for the formal introduction:
It’s Go Time
- As my husband left to pick up Barkley, I took Hudson out for a walk (a short distance). This also gave Hudson the opportunity to do his business if he got excited about meeting Barkley.
Resident Dog’s Soft Introduction – It’s His Turn!
- My husband picked up Barkley from daycare and brought him home. Inside, Barkley got to sniff around, and he smelled Hudson’s scent everywhere. Hudson’s scent is on his bed, on his blanket, and on his toys. However, he’s tuckered out from daycare. He’s had three days playing with other dogs.
- My husband leaves Barkley inside and headed outside to meet Hudson and me around the block. He switched places with me so I will have to get Barkley. After he has Hudson securely with him, I walked the short distance towards home to greet Barkley (I missed him too). This way, Barkley’s excitement over seeing me will not happen over his first meeting with Hudson.
The First Meeting
- Barkley and I walked toward my husband and Hudson. This is crucial. Meeting each other for the first time, outside in a neutral, environment. The environment influences their behavior. The minimum amount of distractions also helped too. We let them sniff each other and observed them closely but also ready to act if things did not pan out. Thankfully they did, and they recognized each other from the soft introductions from the last couple of days.
- We walked home together from there. Walks also helped them bond.
Forming the Bond
Bonds take time to forge. We do not expect Hudson and Barkley (HuBa) to suddenly snuggle with each other overnight. We also know that it is not something we can force either. However, living together harmoniously, with no scuffles, is a good start. It is also possible that our boys will never snuggle with each other. But as long as they like each other, and are able to live well, and happy together, we think that is enough. We also think that our dogs’ bond with us is very important.
- Walking Hudson and Barkley together is essential to building their bond (and their bond with us). Hudson loves being outside, and Barkley loves sniffing new smells (must be his hound genes). Walking is a great experience for them. It makes them feel good! As long as they have this shared experience together, it will help them form their bond. Hudson will then associate this good feeling, this good experience with Barkley, and vice-versa.
- In our household, WE, the humans, are the Alpha. Both dogs need to understand that first in order for them to realize their boundaries. Whatever boundaries we set for one dog also apply to the other. We made sure there were no special treatments. If one dog cannot go on the couch, then neither dog can go on the couch. If one dog gets a treat, the other one does too. No dog should be more dominant than the other in our house. One of the boundaries we set is that neither dog can be the boss of the other. Regular training is best to ensure boundaries are kept.
Adopting Hudson was one of the best commitments we made. It was not easy for us the first couple of weeks, and I’m sure it was not easy for either Hudson or Barkley during the transition. I had the luxury of being able to be home for the first two weeks to ensure that the boundaries are established. Combining dedication and commitment are keys to setting up the entire household for success.
As I sit here typing this, Hudson and Barkley are now eating dinner, side-by-side. They are polar opposites of each other; one is long and lean, and the other, wide and chunky, one likes squeaky toys, and the other prefer puzzle toys. One slobbers water when he drinks, and the other spills kibble while he eats. However, they are the best of buddies. Where one goes, the other goes too. Shared experiences are what will form their bond, as long as those shared experiences are good and happy.
Subscribe for Updates
Get our dogs in your inbox once a month, along with our latest news and events. We never send spam, and you can opt out at any time.