Introducing unfamiliar dogs can be a stressful event for all involved. Fortunately, with a solid plan in place, you can help things go smoothly and facilitate a lifelong friendship.
The more you know about each dog’s personality, the better equipped you will be to anticipate their reactions to each other and prevent unfortunate occurrences.
1. Start introductions in the neutral zone.
Owners often make the mistake of bringing a new dog home and walking it right through the front door onto the puppy’s meadow. Allowing every dog to have a “home court advantage” is unfair and can lead to territorial fights.
Instead, select a neutral location such as a neighbour’s yard or park the car for a first meeting. If you are adopting a dog from a shelter, the staff may encourage you to meet and greet with your existing dogs to make sure they are a good fit. Although a noisy, frenetic rescue centre is not the ideal place for an introduction, the staff may be able to help you achieve the best results. If any dog has a history of trauma or aggression, you may want to hire a professional trainer to help you.
2. Walk together.
Take the dogs for a walk together, keeping a safe distance between them to prevent the leashes from yelling and the dogs from greeting each other yet. This will help them relax and adjust to each other’s presence. The goal of this step is to release some nervous energy and make the dogs feel calm and happy around each other.
Both dogs should be on sturdy, non-retractable leashes handled by quiet, comfortable adults. Try to keep the slack slack as you walk. The tension or distress may translate as stress on your part and cause dogs to worry about responding.
3. Start a short gaming session and observe.
If the dogs have crossed this limit without getting fussy, bruised, or showing signs of distress toward each other, you can move on to the actual introduction stage. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s best to drop the handlebars and allow some freedom here. Take them to a large enclosed area such as a fenced yard or quiet garden – the more space, the less stress.
Drop the leashes, resist the urge to micromanage, and let them investigate among themselves. As she approaches, watch her body language closely. They may puff themselves or get a little louder, but no dog should sound frightened or overly aggressive.
Give them about two or three minutes to get to know each other without interfering. Even if they play and get along well, it’s best to end these initial sessions on a positive note!
4. Move the confrontation inside the house.
If you started the introduction at a neutral park or pet store, be sure to take dogs home in separate cars or separate crates to prevent unnecessary tension in the confined space of your car.
Once in the house, allow the new dog to enter the house first so that he can explore the space without interfering with the resident dog. Make sure all baby treats, toys, food bowls and bones are out of reach and out of the way to prevent armed conflict. Make sure to feed them and give them separate treatment so that a safe relationship is developed.
Set up your new dog in a safe space that is screened from other pets and family members so that he has a place to decompress when he’s feeling overwhelmed. Keep every interaction between the two dogs short and interesting and separate them immediately if tensions arise.
5. Keep it separated while you are away.
It is a good idea to force or restrain your new dog in a safe area regardless of other pets in the house. Dogs are more likely to experience separation anxiety during the first days and weeks in a new home which can lead to chewing, soiling the house, or excessive barking.
With your new pup already under stress, keeping dogs in separate rooms or crates is the safest option to prevent fights and injuries when you are not home to spot them.
6. Addressing good and bad behaviours.
Dogs usually settle their disputes with minimal growling and situations possible, and it is best to let them do it. However, if you notice more serious issues such as guarding resources or implicit behaviour, be sure to correct the offending puppy immediately to prevent the disagreement from escalating into a full-fledged fight.
At the same time, be sure to reward your dogs for courteous behaviour to encourage them to further build their friendship!