Pet parents should be mindful about how they introduce dogs to each other, be they neighbors or housemates. Although most dogs are happy to meet others, some will quickly become nervous or aggressive and rapid introductions can exacerbate the problem. Read on to learn how to introduce your dog safely and easily to the new pooch on the block.
5 Tips for Safe Introductions
Regardless of what type of dog you have or how he has interacted with other dogs in the past, these tips are meant to keep both dogs safe and happy during new introductions.
- Introduce the Dogs in a Neutral Zone: When dogs feel like another animal is infringing on their territory (such as their yard or home), they can quickly become defensive or aggressive. To stop this before it starts, introduce the dogs to one another in a neutral area, like a park or on a walk. Ensure both dogs are leashed but allow them ample room to sniff and explore one another. Provide plenty of verbal praise and positive reinforcement as the dogs get used to one another.
- Watch Body Language Carefully: The best way to ensure that the first meeting is happy and safe is to watch each dog’s body language carefully. The dogs should move loosely, have eager and happy expressions on their face and initiate play movements within the first several minutes. If the dog is stiff, tense, raising the hair on their back, avoiding eye contact with the other dog or baring teeth, separate the two immediately. Doing this will break the tension and allow each dog to focus on their handler. After a few moments, the dogs can be led back together for another brief interaction.
- Keep Interactions Short: Unless the dogs are immediate best friends, keep your first several introductory sessions short. Allow the dogs to sniff and explore one another, lead them away from one another, give them treats and plenty of positive reinforcement and then bring them back together. This slow introduction tactic allows each dog ample time to get comfortable in the other dog’s presence and can mitigate tensions.
- Remove Toys, Food, etc.: Allowing a new dog to grab your existing dog’s toys, food and bed is just asking for a dogfight. To prevent conflict, pick up all food, feed dogs separately and hide all toys in the house before you allow the two dogs to be loose in the space together. Once the dogs have built a comfortable relationship, you can reintroduce the toys slowly.
- Keep Dogs Separate When Supervision isn’t Possible: For the first few weeks, it’s important to keep the cohabitating dogs separate when nobody is around to supervise their interactions. Even though they may get along well when you are home, there is no telling what may happen when you’re away. To keep each dog safe and happy, confine them to separate rooms or areas of the house until the two are very comfortable with one another.
Bringing a new dog home is an exciting process and these five tips can ensure that each pooch stays happy, safe and comfortable throughout the entire introductory phase. These techniques can also be used with new neighbor dogs, or the dogs of new people in your life.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.