Whether you’re introducing a dog to a puppy, to a visiting friend or moving to a new area with your pet, first impressions matter. Like humans, dogs get a lot of information from their first meeting, and how it goes can set the tone for their lifelong relationship. Therefore, dog introductions must be calm, controlled, and as positive as possible.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to safely introduce dogs both inside and out of the home. Proper introductions assist your animals in more readily accepting and loving their new friend! We’ll cover:
- The basics of doggie first interactions
- Introducing a new dog into your home
- Introducing your dog to the dog park
- Dog body language to watch for during introductions
How to Introduce Two Dogs
When introducing dogs to each other, the safety of the humans and the dogs are always a top priority. That being said, the goal of any dog introduction is to create lifelong friends, whether the animals will live together or only see each other on occasion. Research the steps below for a successful beginning and remember to consult a professional first if necessary.
#1: Choose a Neutral Meeting Ground
When introducing a new dog to your dog, you’ll want to find a neutral location for the meeting. Bringing a new dog into your home immediately can trigger territorial instincts in your pup, adding tension and increasing the chances of misbehaving or fighting. A neutral ground can be the animal shelter if you are adopting a new dog, a neutral dog park (not your dog’s favorite one), or a pet-friendly store.
#2: Loose Leash Meeting
When first introducing two dogs, each dog should be held by a leash for their safety, and yours. Allow the dogs to sniff one another and explore the space. Even if they ignore each other at first, that’s fine! DO NOT force the dogs together; this creates unnecessary tension.
Try to keep your leash loose, and use soothing, positive tones with both dogs to show them that this is a good meeting. Keep the meeting short, and when you’re done, praise each dog separately and give them a favorite treat!
#3: Meeting with Dragging Leashes
Now that your dogs have mastered the first meeting, it’s time for them to meet again with more freedom. For this second interaction, you’ll be introducing the dogs to each other with their leashes dragging on the ground. This way, they can easily sniff each other, run and play without the tension of the leash. At the same time, you can quickly grab the leashes and pull the dogs apart in case they begin humping, fighting, or otherwise misbehaving.
#4: Bring the Dogs Home
If you’re introducing a new dog to the family, the next step is to bring both dogs home for an in-home meeting. Keep in mind that your resident dog feels this is their territory, and you’ll want to watch out for any aggressive behavior such as resource or area guarding. Choose a common area for the animals to explore, and make sure to give lots of praise to both dogs.
Keep in-home interactions short, and then give the animals a break in separate areas. Also, make sure to give your new dog time alone to explore each area of your home, so they can gain confidence in the space.
#5: Supervise the Dogs
Until you are confident in the dogs’ relationship, you should always supervise interactions between two new doggie friends. When you aren’t home, the animals should be either crated or separated by doors or baby gates, to prevent any unsupervised meetings. Once you feel the animals are interacting well, you can leave them alone for short amounts of time, while you are in another room. Gradually increase their interactions until the dogs are comfortable with one another.
Dog Body Language to Look For
When introducing dogs, you’ll want to keep a close eye on their body language. Introducing dogs to each other can be tense, and you want to make sure each animal feels relaxed and safe, especially if they have anxiety or another doggie mental disorder. Positive body language markers include:
- Soft body– not tense or rigid
- Tail up and wagging
- Ears forward
If you see any tension in your dog, or if they are growling or have their ears back, it’s time to end the interaction. Don’t be discouraged if your dog is somewhat tense during the first meeting. For some dogs, the introduction process takes time.
Tips for Introducing a New Puppy to Your Resident Dog
Puppies are incredibly high energy, which can be overwhelming for older dogs. When introducing your dog to a puppy, make sure to keep the interactions short and sweet, so your existing pets can get a break. You’ll also want to supervise these meetings closely, especially if you have large dogs, who could accidentally injure the puppy when playing. The same can be said for introducing small dogs to large dogs in general and introducing any younger dog to an older resident canine.
Introducing Dogs to Each Other at the Park
If your dog hasn’t been socialized before, start by taking them to other dog-friendly places, such as pet stores, so they can get used to the many smells of other animals. Try to take your dog to the park during non-busy hours at first, so they can get to know the space without getting overwhelmed by dog attention.
Do not leash your dog at the park; interactions between leashed and unleashed dogs can quickly become tense, as the leashed canine feels trapped or unable to move freely. Start with short, less-than-15-minute visits to the park, and gradually increase the amount of time you’re at the park for the best results. If your dog starts getting anxious or tense, leave the park and come back at another time!
On another note, it’s important to make sure your dog is up to date on all of their vaccines and boosters before heading to the neighborhood dog park. Learn how dog insurance can cover routine exams, immunizations, as well as injury if a dog introduction doesn’t go as planned.
Successful Dog Introductions
Introducing new pets can be a challenge, but the outcome is worth it when you have two dogs that love each other like no other! Remember, the goal of each interaction is to have a positive reaction in both dogs: wagging tails, plenty of sniffing and soft tension-free bodies. When it comes to first meetings between dogs, the more positive interactions, the better
Now that you’re an expert in introducing dogs to each other, why not check out some of our other helpful guides, so you can be the ultimate dog owner? At Prudent Pet, we offer insight into some of the most common questions about dogs, from why you need to brush your dog’s teeth to how to find the perfect dog breed for you!
DISCLAIMER: Prudent Pet is not responsible for your use of the information contained in this article. Always consult a professional before introducing dogs to one another. All information herein is true to the best of our knowledge; however, Prudent Pet is not a licensed animal behaviorist or other professional in dog training and interactions. Readers accept full responsibility for their actions; Prudent Pet is not liable for the consequences of any actions taken (or not taken) on the basis of our information or advice.