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How to Introduce Dogs

Introducing dogs should be done in a methodical manner.

Whether you are considering adding another dog to your family or you will be having a canine visitor, you need to ensure that the dogs' first meeting is a positive one. Every dog is different and, while some will welcome a strange dog into their home with little objection, others can become defensive or possessive. Introducing dogs should be done in a methodical manner, at each dog's rate of acceptance. This guarantees that their initial greetings go well and they will become friends.

Often, more dogs means more fun, but only if they get along. Let's make sure the introduction of yours goes smoothly.

How to Introduce New Canine Visitors

Whether you are welcoming a new dog permanently into your home or only as a guest, The number one step during a first meeting is to be sure to have the dogs on neutral territory. Let them freely greet each other without a tight leash. They may run up and sniff one other eagerly but this does not always mean they are about to be aggressive. It may merely be that they are eager to greet a new friend, so remain calm and enthusiastic. Dogs react to your emotions and, if you are tense, then they will believe the situation is stressful, too.

Here's are the steps for introducing dogs:

  1. Have someone help you with one of the dogs. Be sure that this second handler knows the procedure too. If you are picking up a new dog, then leave your other dog at home. You don't want them to meet for the first time in your vehicle. The initial meeting should occur in a neutral area near your home.
  2. Each dog should be walked on a harness or head halter, not a neck collar, as pressure on the dog's neck can make him more assertive if he's pulling.
  3. With a loose leash, walk the dogs in the same vicinity for a while, gradually getting them closer and closer. If one or both of the dogs wants to pull toward the other dog in greeting, do a turn in the opposite direction. Allow the dogs to greet each other only when they are both relaxed as sometimes dogs can get uncomfortable with a strange canine charging toward them and their human companions. Indications of a relaxed dog include: loose body movements, open mouths, light panting, ears to the side, and blinking eyes.
  4. When the dogs get within 10 feet of each other, allow them to go to the other dog at their own pace. Do not pull back on the leash. Keep the leashes loose and remain calm. Use a happy, enthusiastic tone of voice as they greet each other.
  5. Once the dogs have identified each other (they will first touch noses, then investigate each other's anal areas) they will likely want to play. Allow this, keeping your leashes loose.
  6. As the dogs settle down, give them both treats and speak in a happy tone of voice.
  7. Walk the dogs together around the neighborhood, then around your home prior to bringing them inside.
  8. Keep both dogs' leashes on while indoors and observe them closely. You may want to continue this throughout the first day. If one or both of the dogs tends to become highly active or feisty, be ready to redirect him into another area or activity, gently and calmly.
  9. When it is time for them to relieve themselves, take them outside together.

Some dogs can be possessive of their beds and toys. Prior to bringing a new dog into your home, put your dog's toys and bed in a room where the new dog will not be able to access them. This will reduce the incidence of stress due to possessiveness. If the new dog is to become a permanent member of your family, you can bring out your first dog's bed and toys once the two dogs are relaxed around each other. At the same time, place another bed and toys for the new dog so that each dog feels at home.

It would also be helpful to place DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffusers throughout the house (or use the DAP spray) and even put Adaptil™ collars on both dogs. As the dogs will be receiving the pheromone of relaxation, they will be inclined to be more accepting of each other. (To learn more about dog appeasing pheromones, read this article.)

Rocky Introductions

Not all dogs have the best social manners, but this doesn't mean they won't eventually learn and do well with a new canine friend. You will just need to take extra time during the introduction and the first few weeks of becoming a multi-dog family.

  • Rushing to Greet - Some dogs take offense to being charged, instantly raising the alarm and becoming protective. If one of the dogs tries to rush the introduction, quickly turn and walk in the opposite direction. When the dog is calm, begin walking toward the other dog again. If close enough, allow some sniffing. Repeat this until the dogs are both relaxed and eager to greet each other with appropriate social manners.
  • Getting Feisty - Observe the dog's body language. If one of the dogs attempts to place a paw over the other dog's shoulders, he is being assertive. If the other dog does not appreciate this and backs away or becomes stiff (tail straight, eyes wide and staring, legs stiff), call both dogs back to the handlers. Be sure to not drag them off or you will be establishing bad associations with the introductions. Pull gently, walking in separate directions, offering lots of praise along the way.

Knowing canine body language cues which will help you read your dogs feelings, ensuring a smooth introduction:

  • Tense - stiff and slow body movement; bared teeth; growling; tail straight out or up, ears perked forward stiffly; staring eyes
  • Relaxed - loose body movements; relaxed open mouths, light panting, ears to the side, blinking eyes
  • Indifferent - ignoring the other dog; loose body movements; ears swiveling; soft eyes
  • Excited - jumping around, play bowing (rear end up, front end down), barking in a high pitch with head turning to the side and ears forward but not stiff

Often, when dogs meet, they will display calming signals. This is body language that aids in diffusing a tense situation. Many dogs avoid aggressive interactions by using these signals to relate a desire to interact peacefully.

Here's a list of calming signals that you are likely to see during dog introductions:

  • Licking
  • Turning eyes away
  • Sneezing
  • Ears slightly back, with the ear opening turned to the side
  • Blinking

All calming signals are signs of acceptance by the dog who displays them.

Dogs generally love the company of other dogs. Take the time to introduce the dogs correctly and they will be lifelong friends.

Be sure to read the next article: Tips for the First Few Weeks with Multiple Dogs


Related Articles:

Tips for the First Few Weeks with Multiple Dogs

Benefits of Multiple Dogs

How to Cope with Canine Anxiety and Fear by Using Adaptil™ (Formerly called D.A.P)

Submissive Urination in Dogs


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