Adding a New Husky to the Pack
Huskies Enjoy Being in a Pack
One thing we have never known is what it is like to have one Husky as we started with two (and were told by many that we were mad to do so!). However we do know what it is like to grow our pack and add new Huskies.
I will never regret getting two Huskies right away because they always had each other as playmates and were never alone. Huskies are pack dogs, and also very social. Many of them do not do well being alone, and can suffer with Separation Anxiety when they are.
I do understand that there are many who only have a single Husky, so I am not saying it is not possible, however they thrive on having more dogs around. Also many who get one Husky, soon want to add to their pack with at least one more.
Our Pack Grows
We went from two to three in nine months; then to five less than 3 months later. Then about eight months past until we added a sixth. All together, in under 2 years our pack went from two to six dogs.
Each time we have added a new husky, the pack dynamics have changed. Not only did we have to make adjustments, but our dogs have also needed to adapt.
We have learned a number of useful tips which I hope will help you as you add new Huskies to your pack
Socialise your dogs regularly with other dogs
We made a point right from the start of getting our dogs used to mixing with other dogs.
This was not just done while out on walks, but also by inviting friends around who also had Huskies, to bring theirs for a visit. This helped our dogs get used to new comers entering the home. To be honest we did not do this with the specific plan in mind to later add more to the pack, but it certainly helped.
Our Huskies were used to visitors and playmates coming over for the afternoon.
This did not completely prevent 'breaking in' issues when we got a new pack member, as there is a big difference between a visitor for a few hours, and another dog who is around permanently, but I believe it helped.
Dogs that are never socialised with other dogs are more likely to develop dog on dog aggression.
If they spend a lot of time without any interaction with other dogs, they will not be used to it, and likely react more to another dog. If possible start to socialise your dog as a puppy, so that they grow up accustomed to other dogs. Many Husky owners get together for group walks, so it is worth checking if there are any of these in your local area.
While our on walks, we would take our dogs over to say hello to other dogs (although you need to make sure the other dog owner is open to this). They ran and played, and have always enjoyed meeting new dogs.
However, going for a walk is one thing, but the home is their territory, so if they are not used to a new dog entering the house, you may get trouble when one does.
Dogs can become territorial, and if another enters their area you might get dog fights, or even lesser evils such as territorial marking (weeing) around the house. They want the newcomer to know that this is 'their space'.
How Many Dogs Do You Have?
Adding our Third Dog
When we decided to get our third dog, who is a Husky / Malamute cross, we initially took our two twins to meet him at the Dog Rescue Centre. They all loved each other and we thought there would be no problems. However as I said before, meeting while out, and meeting at home are two different situations.
When we first brought our third dog into the home, there was lots of excitement, endless playing and plenty of smiles. It all seemed to be going perfectly.
However as time went by, we noticed a few issues creeping in.
Our first two were twins, and incredibly bonded. To some degree, as a pair they had what I call, 'only child' syndrome. In other words, they were used to getting all the love and cuddles. They did not mind both cuddling up to us together, as they were so close to each other anyhow.
This all changed when the new comer joined the pack, suddenly love which they had gotten before was being given out to another as well. This is when I began to realise just how emotional one of our dogs was. We already knew he was quite emotional, as he always wanted closeness and cuddles with us.
He began to withdraw, stopped eating and spent most of his time hidden away in his crate (we have never locked our dogs in their crates, however leave them open as their beds).
When we tried to give him love, he would walk away, and not even want to look at us. He lost a lot of weight, until we could see his ribs! We wondered if he was ill, so spent time watching him over a few days.
I began to do some research and read up on dog depression. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that accurately described what he was going through.
It is possible he thought he was not loved anymore. I'm not sure, but somehow he reached the stage where he completely withdrew from us.
I decided that something had to be done, to help pull him out of his depression, so I made a point of giving him extra love. I would spend time with him, go cuddle him in his crate, and shower him in love.
After a day or two, I noticed a difference, he began to interact more, started eating again, and returned to being himself, the cuddly, happy Husky we knew him to be.
Understanding Dog Emotions
This experience opened my eyes up to dog emotions. I have known some people to say that dogs do not have emotions, however I find it strange that people think only humans are capable of this.
More dogs suffer from depressions then people realise, especially ones that are left at home alone for long periods of time.
Since then I have kept myself more aware of their emotions and keep an eye out for changes in behaviour. Not everything is caused by physical illness, sometimes it is emotional.
Another factor which I think added to the depression was that, initially when we got the third, all three played together. However it seemed that our girl, and the new boy started getting close, so played a lot at the exclusion of the other boy. Maybe he felt left out?
And then we added more
We never planned it, however we found out about two Huskies which were in desperate need for a foster home, so we stepped in to take on two more. This brought the count to five. They were initially intended to be fosters, however we eventually adopted them as permanent pack members.
This is where we began to experience fights between the pack members. Individually they were all loving and peaceful dogs, however together fights became a factor.
Dog Aggression is a large topic in itself, so I will cover this in another hub, however will make some points here which are related to our subject
Settling in Period
It is important to understand with pack dogs that they operate according to a hierarchy. There is the pack leader, then what I call middle management, then those on the bottom of the ladder. When you bring in a new dog, or dogs, the dynamics change and often a new pack hierarchy has to develop.
Depending on how submissive or dominant the new dogs are will determine whether they want to challenge for the top spot, or settle into a lower position. However each dog has to let the other dog know it's own boundaries of what it is willing to tolerate.
Settling in to a new Hierarchy takes time
For example, food.
When we only had two, they were so bonded that they quite happily swopped food bowls, or stuck their heads into each other's bowls while the other was eating. They were used to doing this, but suddenly with new pack members, when they tried it, they got teeth shown at them, or growled at.
We worked hard at getting our five used to eating together, and put up with some tension to do it. However those five are now able to all eat in close proximity to each other without any problems.
The settling in period comes in two phases: short term settling and long term settling.
In the short term, there is a rush for the dogs to develop their new hierarchy. However even when this is done, there is still long term settling in to do. It takes time for the dogs to bond and realise they are now a team, one pack.
During this longer term settling in, there may still be fights which break out unexpectedly over issues you thought had been settled in the short term phase.
I have noticed that some things take a few months to properly settle in, but the important thing is to not get discouraged or to give up.
You need to be adaptable, and find ways to work through issues which may arise. If necessary do some research online as individual problems arise.
Have you ever rescued an abused dog?
Adding an Abused, Unsocialised Dog
Our sixth husky brought in a whole new set of challenges. You would have thought we were now experts at adding to the pack, however the new girl came from an abused environment where she had been hit, thrown and choked. We took her on to help save her from that life.
However she was not used to other dogs and was accustomed to being the only dog in the home home. He abused background meant she had a lot of fear, as well as having her guard up all the time.
This brought fights and other problems into our pack. She did not want any of the other pack members getting close to us, was not used to sharing food, and barked at almost every other dog we saw when out on walks.
We realised we had our work cut out for us, and I have to admit, got close to giving up a few times. It was hard work on us emotionally, and we realised as well it was affecting the emotions and happiness of the rest of our pack.
Some people may have given up and gotten rid of her, and I could understand if they did. However we made up our minds we were going to work through this.
We had to isolate the causes of aggression toward the other dogs and start to work on them individually. One of these was she was not accustomed to eating close to other dogs. We tried and tried, but found she was not learning.
Points to Remember When Adding New Pack Members
Be aware of the effect on the current pack
Look out for dogs withdrawing or not eating
There will be a settling in period
Some settling in can take months
Could be fights, including over food or toys
Be aware of new factors which arise
Abused dogs may be harder to add to the pack
Previously unsocialised dogs may be harder to add
Don't give up to quickly and be willing to put in time
So for us the solution was to feed her separately. At dinner time, we fed the five together and her in a room by herself. This has solved the problem.
We have found that she has been very slow at getting used to being in a pack. I mentioned above about the settling in periods, and with her this has been much longer than any previous dog we have added to the pack.
However we have seen progress, and I believe bonds behave started to develop between them.
I am proud of our little pack. They have learned to adapt, and even take in abused members.
Let me end by saying, if you are planning on adding members to your Husky pack, be ready for adjustments, and unexpected issues to arise. Be observant, and take the time to work through individual issues which arise