If you’ve recently adopted a shelter dog and are wondering how to introduce dogs to each other, this guide will help!
When introducing new dogs to each other for the first time, there’s a great deal at stake. Since initial encounters between dogs can set the tone for their entire relationship, it’s important to set everyone up for success.
Ready to get started with introductions? We’ve prepared a few steps to help.
As you read through the pointers below, remember that all-important virtue: patience. Take as much time as your dogs need – whether it’s two days, two weeks or two months.
Before You Get Started
A little preparation will help ease the process. When preparing to introduce dogs to each other,. keep excitement, affection and chaos to a minimum during the initial period.
Doorbells, delivery people, squirrels, etc. can trigger stress, excitement, competition, and sometimes, fights.
Keep in mind, during the introduction stage, do not leave dogs alone together. If they are new to each other, use crates to ensure that they’re safe when unsupervised.
When it’s time to make the introductions, start off with a walk around the block with your new dog. Bonding with your new pet is important for both of you.
Don’t forget the other dog, too!
Walk the dogs on-leash side by side on neutral territory. Keep 10 feet between them so they cannot greet one another or stare.
Good locations might be a dog park (since dogs are often used to meeting other dogs there), a nearby tennis court or a park. The idea is to acclimate them to each other’s presence without causing tension.
Next, let the dogs meet on leash. Walk the two dogs close together, allowing them to sniff one another. If they show no signs of aggression, have the dogs meet with leashes dragging, again on neutral territory and in a secure/enclosed area.
Avoid closely confined spaces. The more room the dogs have to move, the less tension there will be.
Wait two minutes while they sniff each other, then call them away and move around. If they start to play and it seems to be going well, let them continue a few minutes and then end the session.
Each initial interaction needs to end on a good note!
Finally, have the dogs meet at home. Keep each interaction short and pleasant. If signs of tension arise, separate the dogs immediately and try again later.
Remember that these introductions will set the tone for future interactions.
Tips for Ongoing Success
Once the initial introductions have taken place, maintaining successful interactions is key. These tips will help support an ongoing, positive dog-to-dog introduction.
Teach all dogs behavior basics. This should include: walking politely on a leash, knowing basic sit/stay commands, being polite at thresholds, waiting calmly for food and being polite around humans and their space.
Know your dogs. Be aware if you have a nervous, insecure or challenging dog. Dogs with these issues need more time than the average dog to relax and trust. You may also have a “resource guarder,” who guards food, toys, space or even you. Research how to manage these behaviors successfully.
You can also use crates. Crates are great training tools to help dogs get comfortable around each other. You can crate dogs near each other to help remove novelty, uncertainty, and concern but make sure that all crated dogs are behaving. If one or more of the dogs is agitated, barking, whining or trying to escape, crate the dog in a separate room.
Don’t feed new dogs close to each other. Food, like affection, creates competition and stress.
Be careful with play and toys. As you get more comfortable, remember that dogs who are friendly with each other in one context and environment can lose their cool when excitement and competition are introduced. Watch for tension and serious intent. Address and diffuse it immediately.