Miles looked so pathetic in his cage at the shelter that Sandy just had to take him home. The 11-year-old dachshund’s coat was a powdery gray instead of shiny black. His belly was bloated. His little tail looked as if it had been broken a number of times, but he was anxiously wagging his entire hind end, hungry for love and attention.
Sandy and Miles arrived home to be greeted by the rest of her pack: a 12-year old spaniel mix, a ten-year old greyhound, and a dog friendly cat. As scared as Miles had looked in the shelter, he now seemed doubly stressed and ready to fly out of Sandy’s arms. What was wrong?
Bringing home a new dog is exciting, but it can also be stressful and challenging for all concerned. Sandy had to deal with many unknowns regarding Miles; the existing pack was confronted with meeting the new addition and reestablishing pack hierarchy; and Miles’ own life had been completely disrupted. That’s a lot to cope with all at once.
When adopting a new dog, you need to find ways to ease him into the new environment and pack. The goal is to minimize stress and avoid serious injury to both the newcomer and original pack members. Pack management techniques suggested by canine behaviorists include slowly introducing the new dog to current household animals, or selecting one dog to meet the new one so they can bond before you introduce the entire pack. You can also have the dogs meet for the first time in neutral territory like a park, or create a safe barrier between the new dog and the original pack so they become acquainted before meeting nose-to-nose.
Combining acupressure with behavioral techniques can help the new dog and the existing pack adapt to and bond with one another. It can also help resident dogs accept the newcomer. It leads to a much shorter period of upheaval and a quicker return to peace in the home.
The new dog is forced to deal with a number of difficult factors – loss of his original pack, loss of any known routine, a new physical environment, new food and water, new people and a new pack. Certain acupressure points or “acupoints” can help him adjust and feel secure. But offering the new dog acupressure only solves half the problem. You need to work with the existing pack too. Offer an acupressure session to the most dominant dog in the pack first, since he will likely be the most threatened and resistant to any change in pack status. Other members of the pack will benefit from the same acupressure session as well. The intention is to reduce the length and severity of readjustment. Working with both sides of the “formula” is essential to regaining pack balance.
For the new dog
Upon arrival in his new home, the new dog is anxious and fearful. His life has been completely disrupted. This degree of change is difficult, but you can use specific acupoints to help reduce fear and anxiety while building trust to support the creation of new relationships. Begin with the acupoints that calm and dispel fear.
1. Heart 7 (HT 7), Spirit Gate and Pericardium 7 (Pe 7), Big Mound – When used in combination, these points calm a dog’s spirit while strengthening and clearing his mind. The points can be held simultaneously with one hand while the other is placed gently on the dog’s body. Place the soft part of the tip of your thumb on Ht 7 (see diagram), which is located in the indent on the outside of the dog’s forelimb just above the carpus (wrist). Place your middle finger on top of your pointer finger and gently press Pe 7 on the exact opposite side above the dog’s wrist on the inside of the leg. Count to 30 very slowly before releasing the acupoints. Repeat this procedure on the other foreleg. These two acupoints together are powerful.
2. Pericardium 6 (Pe 6), Inner Gate and Triple Heater 5 (TH 5), Outer Gate – Just above Ht 7 and Pe 7, toward the trunk of the dog’s body, are two other acupoints that can be stimulated simultaneously and have an equally powerful effect on the dog’s energy. Together, they regulate the energy of the heart and calm the mind while also building trust and helping the dog adjust to a new environment. He needs to trust his new human and animal companions while being open to accepting his new environment. Pe 6 and TH 5 help him build new relationships and feel more comfortable in his new home.
3. Stomach 36 (St 36), Leg 3 Miles – This is an important point that relates to the earth and helps the animal feel more grounded. St 36 is also considered a good acupoint for the gastrointestinal tract and can help the new dog with any digestive issues, which are common during times of change. St 36 is located on the outside of the hind limb, below the stifle (knee), just to the side of the head of the tibia (the larger bone connected to the stifle).
For the original pack
The existing dogs are experiencing a sense of threat to their pack and are having to jockey for their positions within that pack. Each will have his own reaction to the new dog. Offering them acupressure can help diffuse some of the upset and potentially violent behavior.
1. Heart 7 (HT 7), Spirit Gate and Pericardium 7 (Pe 7), Big Mound – Begin with these points as you did for the new dog. You want to calm their spirits and clear their minds of other family members so they will not feel anxious and threatened. Follow the directions given on the previous page.
2. Liver 2 (Liv 2), Moving Between – This point helps harmonize the emotions and dispels the heat related to anger and aggression. Liv 2 is located on the hind limb on the top of the webbing between the first and second digit (toe). This acupoint can be stimulated using gentle thumb pressure while your other hand is relaxed and placed on another part of the dog’s leg. Hold this acupoint on both hind limbs legs in succession while counting very slowly to 30.
3. Gall Bladder 21 (GB 21), Shoulder Well – Helps bring energy down and is used to disperse excessive worry, resentment and anger. Lowering the energy of original pack members can help them accept the newcomer more easily. GB 21 is located in the soft tissue just in front of the scapula at about its midpoint.
Dogs have a social order we need to respect. But we are also responsible for minimizing stress and avoiding violent behavior when introducing a new dog to the pack. Together, behavior management and acupressure provide the best possible means of helping dogs sort out their hierarchy more safely and peacefully. It worked for Miles and his new companions – they are now all living happily together in their forever family!