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Introducing a New Dog to a Resident Dog

Introducing a new dog to a resident dog

A word before starting: when introducing dogs to one another, first impressions matter. How the dogs interact in their first few encounters can set the tone for their entire relationship, so care must be taken to set everyone up for success. Throwing them together in the back yard and letting them “work it out” can lead to heartbreak (if the integration fails) and occasionally serious injury. Follow these steps to help both dogs get to know each other slowly and carefully.

  1. Have the dogs meet on neutral territory first: this can be a neighbor’s yard, a training center, tennis court, etc. Have both dogs on-leash. Allow them to look at and sniff one another through a barrier, such as a fence, for up to 30 minutes. By then, the novelty of seeing a new dog has worn off, paving the way for a more positive introduction. Another option is to take the dogs for a walk together, keeping ten feet between them so that they cannot greet one another or stare. The idea is simply to acclimate them to each other’s presence without causing tension.
  2. Next, have the dogs meet off-leash on neutral territory. Avoid problem areas like gates, doorways or closely confined space: the more room they have to move, the less tension there will be. Wait 2 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 play for a few minutes and then end the session. We want each initial interaction to end on a good note!
  3. Finally, have the dogs meet at home: first in the yard, then inside the house. Before the in-house introduction, take the resident dog out to the yard, then bring the new dog inside (bringing the new dog inside to meet the resident dog can create a negative reaction). Keep each interaction short and pleasant: if signs of tension arise, separate the dogs immediately and try again later. Remember that the introduction will set the tone for their relationship, so it’s important to set everyone up for success!
  4. Keep the dogs separate while you are away, either in separate rooms or crates. This is both to prevent injurious fights and the development of inappropriate behavior in your new dog (such as chewing and housesoiling).
  5. While the dogs can settle minor disputes with each other (such as growling the other off of a toy or their own food bowl), they aren’t allowed to limit each other’s access to you, your family and common areas of the home. In many multi-dog households, contrary to popular belief, there is neither a “dominant” nor a “submissive” dog, but individuals whose roles change depending on the context involved (ex: a dog that claims access to a favorite toy may let another dog claim the couch). Instead of “supporting the dominance” of any one dog, establish yourself as a benevolent leader, rewarding polite behavior and managing the environment to prevent conflicts from developing.
  6. For more information, see the booklet “Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household” by Karen London, Ph.D. and Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., available for purchase at the AHS Training School.

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.

How Can I Become a Dog Trainer?

How can I become a dog trainer?

Many people express interest in the field of dog training, but are unsure of how to get started, or what qualifications are required.  This article aims to clarify the process.

Counter conditioning and desensitization

Counter conditioning and desensitization

These two techniques are often used to change unwanted behavior in dogs and cats. Just as the term implies, counter conditioning means conditioning (training) an animal to display a behavior that is counter to (mutually exclusive of) an unacceptable behavior in response to a particular stimulus. For example, a dog cannot be trying to bite the letter carrier and at the same time greeting them in a friendly, excited manner.  

Managing an Aggressive Pet

Managing aggression

First things first: aggression is not a “do-it-yourself” project.  If your dog or cat has shown aggression toward people or other animals, it is critical to seek help from a qualified professional who can evaluate your dog and provide assistance with long-term behavior modification.  If your pet has bitten a person or another animal, we recommend contacting the following professional to schedule a consultation:

Terri Derr, DVM (612-360-7227)

In the meantime, the following guidelines can help in preventing further bites:

1. No contact with visitors.  If you know visitors are coming, take your pet to another room where he will be unable to come in contact with them.  If children will be present, we recommend a crate behind a locked door.  Don’t assume everything will be fine because “he’s OK most of the time”.

2. Institute a “no petting” rule for now.  Do not allow others, especially children, to approach your pet at all.  If this cannot be guaranteed, keep him in his “safe room” as described above.  This same rule applies when walking your dog: do not let others approach or pet him, even if he appears relaxed.  If others disregard your request, simply walk away from them.  Acclimating your dog to a basket muzzle will keep everyone safe in the event your dog is suddenly frightened (by a loose dog, a small child, etc.).

3. No punishment.  If your pet reacts aggressively (barks, growls, hisses, lunges or swats), simply remove him from the situation.  Take him as far away as necessary for him to calm down.  Remember that any punishment – whether verbal or physical – might make the behavior worse, and attempting to “show him who’s boss” could result in serious injury to you or others.

For dogs:

4. The dog will be on-leash at all times while outside of the house or fenced yard.  Dog parks, playgroups and other off-leash activities are not appropriate for dogs with a bite history.  It is impossible to predict the dog’s response to other dogs and humans, and thereby puts them at risk.  Focus instead on providing plenty of exercise in the form of leash walks, ball/Frisbee-throwing and similar activities.   Mental exercises such as obedience training and tricks can also burn excess energy.

5. Do not leave the dog unattended outside.  Dogs who lunge and bark at passing people and dogs cannot be allowed to practice this behavior, or it will continue to escalate.  If a passer-by sticks his hand through your fence and is bitten by your dog, you will be held liable for the injury.

Please note that these measures are simply intended to prevent future incidents:  they will not “fix” the behavior.  Partnering with a qualified professional who specializes in non-violent methods is absolutely critical to living successfully with a dog who behaves aggressively. 

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.

Recommended Reading List

Training School recommended reading list

Basic training for dogs and puppies

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller. Pat Miller is a prolific writer for many dog magazines, including Dog Fancy and Whole Dog Journal, and this book is a must for every pet owner’s library.

Culture Clash (2nd Edition) by Jean Donaldson. A wildly popular and provocative book that challenges our assumptions about how dogs think and how we think about them.

Therapy animals

Therapy animals

Therapy animals provide affection and comfort to members of the public, typically in facility settings such as hospitals, elder care, assisted-living, hospice, shelters, schools, libraries, and more. Animals of almost any kind can become therapy animals. Animal Humane Society offers therapy animal classes for dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs.

Note: Therapy animals are different from service dogs or emotional support animals. Learn more about these designations in the FAQ section below.

Therapy animal classes offered

Introduction to Therapy Animals

Join us for Introduction to Therapy Animals and find out what it takes to be an animal therapy team with your pet. You will learn what animal-assisted therapy is, how to know if your pet would be a good therapy animal, what training you and your pet need to be an animal therapy team, and how you can get involved with Canine Inspired Change, North Star Therapy Animals, or other therapy visiting program.

This introduction is free, but registration is required. For more information or to register, call (763) 489-2217 or email us. Upcoming sessions are listed below. (Humans only. No pets please.)

  • Wednesday, June 10, 7 p.m., Golden Valley Animal Humane Society (directions)
  • Wednesday, July 29, 7 p.m., St. Paul Animal Humane Society (directions)
  • Wednesday, August 19, 7 p.m., Golden Valley Animal Humane Society (directions)
  • Wednesday, September 23, 7 p.m., St. Paul Animal Humane Society (directions)

Therapy Dog Class

Our Therapy Dog Class is open to dogs that have passed the Canine Good Citizen test, and will give your dog practice visiting facilities of your choice (hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, physical therapy centers, and schools) as a therapy animal in simulated situations. Upon completion, your dog will have the skills to join therapy groups such as Canine Inspired Change and North Star Therapy Animals.

A free preview of this class is offered once a month. To register for a preview or for the full class, call (763) 489-2217 or email us.

Therapy animal classes for cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs

Animal Humane Society offers one-on-one therapy animal classes for cats, rabbit, and guinea pigs. As part of this class, you and your pet will go through mock scenarios that are similar to what you would experience in a hospital or school setting. There are 20 visiting exercises that your pet must demonstrate to become a therapy animal. The class will help teach your pet behavior that is reliable, controllable and predictable.

For more information call (763) 489-2217 or email us. Classes are held at the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society site (directions).


Therapy animals are sometimes confused with service dogs (dogs trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities), and emotional support animals (animals that provide their disabled owners with emotional comfort). We put together some FAQ to help answer your questions about these differences.

Pet behavior resources

Pet behavior resources

Sometimes pet behavior problems seem overwhelming, but many can be managed with the application of a little knowledge and a little effort. Keeping pets in their homes in a manner that's comfortable for both pet and owner is one of our many goals at Animal Humane Society.

Pet Behavior Library

This online library contains tried-and-true methods for managing many common pet behavior problems as well as tools for evaluating situations that may require additional resources.

Pet Behavior Helpline: (763) 489-2202

Need help right away? Call our Behavior Helpline. We’re here to answer your behavior questions about your pet, and we might just be able to help you resolve an issue that will keep your pet at home, with you. All messages returned within 24 hours.

Local animal behavior specialists

Canine and feline aggression is best handled by a professional veterinarian who specializes in behavior due to the potential for serious injury. Because phone counseling is inadequate for addressing a serious problem like animal aggression, we ask that you contact the following professionals for help:

Terri A. Derr, D.V.M.
Veterinary Behavior Options

Lorna Reichl, DVM
Midwest Veterinary Behavior Services

Dog training class schedules

Training School class schedules

Introduction to Dog Training sessions

Attend the intro sessions in person or online.

Complete list of May 2015 classes.

Complete list of June 2015 classes.

Training School classes

Coon Rapids
Map and directions


Golden Valley
Map and directions
Now Boarding (South Minneapolis)
Map and directions
Map and directions


Review our Training School FAQ, call us at 763-489-2217, or send an email.

Training School FAQ

Training School FAQ

Training school application and fees

Training School application and fees

Training School fees

Levels Program 2-month training pass $165
Levels Program 4-month training pass $285
Therapy Dog 10-week class $190
Reactive Rovers 8-week class $250

$20 discount for Animal Humane Society adoptees if registered within 3 months of adoption.

Training School application

There are two ways to submit your application:

  • Complete it online and pay the full amount for your class with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express on our Secure Site.


  • Download and print a blank application (PDF), complete it, and mail it to us with your personal check or credit card information for payment. You can also bring the completed application to the Introduction to Dog Training session with you. 

Class registration will not be considered complete until both the application and payment are received and approved by our training staff. You will receive a confimation call to let you know that we have you enrolled in class. $20 fee for returned checks.

All students must attend the Introduction to Dog Training class at one of our locations or you may complete the Introduction to Dog Training class online.

Renewal pass application

This application is for current or past students wishing to extend their Training School pass. Complete it online.


Review our Training School FAQ, call us at 763-489-2217, or send an email.

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