When you're introducing two dogs to each other, first impressions matter. How the dogs interact in their first few encounters can set the tone for their entire relationship, so follow these steps to set their relationship up for success.
Here's what you'll need to get started:
- One person per dog
- 4-6 foot nylon or leather leashes will give you the most control (avoid retractable leashes)
- A spacious, neutral area (preferably outdoors) for the introduction to take place to avoid territorial behaviors and allow plenty of distance between the dogs
- High-value treats like cheese or hot dogs cut into small pieces
- Use a happy, calm voice
- Keep the leash as loose as possible while still maintaining control
- Punish the dog for getting too excited, barking, or whining at the new dog. The goal is to encourage your dog and build a positive relationship with the new dog
Start with walking outdoors
- Start on neutral territory where you have plenty of space, like a park, open field, or quiet street. Start on opposite sides of your space walking the same direction. When one dog looks at the other one, they get a treat. Keep walking until they are no longer focused on each other.
- Repeat your walk and reward method moving about 3-5 feet closer. As long as the dogs continue to pay more attention to you and less attention to the other dog, continue walking. If the dogs become too focused on each other, add more distance until they can successfully walk, take treats, and ignore each other.
- Slowly decrease the distance (this might take a few walks) until the two humans can walk next to each other with the dogs to the far right and left of them, and can move forward without obsessing over the other dog.
- Once you’re consistently walking well, allow the dogs to circle and sniff each other for a few seconds then lead them away. Repeat this several times. Any time the dogs’ bodies go still, lead them away and take a break.
- Once you have several meetings where the dogs’ bodies appear relaxed (loose, wiggly bodies) the next step is to try the two dogs loose in a fenced area so they can move around as they wish.
Tips for home introductions
The steps outlined above provide an optimal opportunity for dogs to meet one another. If that's not possible, however, use these tips for an introduction at home:
- Do outdoor introductions before bringing the dogs into the house together
- Leave the leashes on so you can control both dogs if needed
- Be sure to remove any bones, toys, and food bowls that your resident dog might feel the need to protect from the new dog
- Keep the dogs separated while you are gone until they are comfortable with each other under a variety of circumstances
- When you are home, supervise their interactions and give them breaks from each other by crating one at a time or taking them for separate walks
- If an altercation occurs, separate the dogs for a few days to give them a break from each other. Stress hormones can take this long to return to normal, and if you try to continue the introduction too soon, the altercations could get worse. After a few days, you can return to the previous step to continue building a positive relationship.
Keep in mind: Some posturing and mild aggression can be normal as dogs become more comfortable, even after a successful first few days or weeks. Don’t panic!
If you're concerned it’s escalating or there is an injury, separate them as soon as safely possible and call our free Pet Helpline at 952-435-7738 for support. Our friendly staff can help you assess the situation and advise on next steps.