Tips for Introducing Two Individual Dogs

As with humans, first meetings between two dogs don't always go perfectly. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make your dog's introduction to a new potential friend go as smoothly as possible!

What are the potential issues?

Even if your dog doesn't usually think they are on guard duty, they might still perceive a canine visitor to their home as a threat. The visiting dog might also behave in unexpected ways, due to what they see as a power imbalance.

They will also be taking cues about the situation from their respective humans, even though they will be expressing their own comfort levels in the way dogs communicate with each other. If you aren't sending and reading signals effectively, there is the potential for something to go wrong.

Lastly, humans who are taking this on while alone, or who aren't attuned to the cues the dogs are providing, might find themselves in a situation that escalates faster than they can handle.

So how can I set them up for a successful first meeting?

Here are some easy pointers for avoiding potential trouble:

  1. Choose a neutral location that is unfamiliar to both dogs. This eliminates any territoriality.
  2. Have a different person handle each dog, making sure they are each on a loosely held, six-foot leash.
  3. Keep all humans calm, relaxed and positive. Provide the dogs with the time they need to get comfortable with the situation.
  4. If the dogs do not take to each other right away, resist the urge to force an interaction between them. Instead, simply walk them near each other for a few minutes. They may ignore each other, which is fine.
  5. Once the dogs feel comfortable around each other, allow them to sniff each other briefly. If this is a positive interaction, praise them using a high-pitched, happy voice. Then lead the dogs away from each other again.
  6. Repeat this brief introduction several times. As you walk away from the new dog, refocus your own dog with short walks or obedience commands. This will allow them to meet each other and learn to tolerate each other without exhibiting unwanted behaviours. This also ensures that the meetings are friendly, so the dogs associate positive, relaxed experiences with being together.
  7. Make sure to watch both dogs’ body language. If things are going well enough that you can move on to the next step, you’ll see loose muscles and body movements, relaxed open mouths, and playful postures.
  8. In the event that you see unfriendly reactions, quickly lead the dogs away from each other. Then, get them to refocus their attention on their handlers. You can then try a short introduction again, but this time at a greater distance.

Take caution if you notice any of the following:

  • Slow, stiff body movements
  • Hair standing up on their back
  • Teeth-baring or a tensed mouth
  • Growling
  • Prolonged staring

Only move on to the next step when you see that both dogs are tolerating each other. It is important to be adaptable and patient during this process.

As always, if you need some one-on-one guidance, your local Bark Busters trainer would be more than happy to help.

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