Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs

If you already have one dog in your home but are considering bringing in another dog, you are not alone. According to Best Friends Animal Society, almost 1/3 of American households are multi-pet households (for good reason!). Giving your dog a friend has many benefits, it helps cure their boredom as their new sibling is basically a full time playmate as well as offering them companionship when you are not home.

However, figuring out how to introduce your dogs to each other without problems require a well thought out plan as well as management techniques around the household. The Pet Embassy are here to walk you through introducing a new pet into your home with our “Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs”.

How To Introduce Dogs to Each Other

Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs
Dogs playing in the park. Photo by Aysun Kahraman Öktem from Pexels

First of all, it is imperative that you understand how to introduce dogs to one another. It is important to follow some key steps that we have set out for you below.

Find a Co-Handler

The first step in learning how to introduce two dogs is finding a competent co-handler who understands canine body language. As dog interactions have the potential to be subtle at first and escalate quickly, it is important that you and your co-handler understand canine body language and can gauge the situation quickly, thus, ensuring you take the necessary steps needed if the dogs mood turns aggressive or agitated.

Let Dogs Meet on Neutral Ground

The next step ensures you find a neutral, outdoor space that allows your dogs to meet without their territorial in strict coming into play. If you introduce them within your home, you give your current dog the advantage and this can lead to behavioural problems.

Make Sure Both Dogs Are Leashed

If both of your dogs are leashed, you are in control of the situation. Please use a firm leash as this limits the accidental tangle or potential fur-burn that one dog may get which can lead to tensions between the two dogs.

Keep the Distance—At First

Both of the dogs should be aware of each other at first but far enough away to still be able to focus and investigate the surrounding area. We would recommend a distance of around 15-25 feet if possible, as this is the optimal distance for your dog to scan the surrounding area.

At first, we would recommend walking parallel to each other, then switching sides to where the other dog walked earlier. This type of scenting is very useful and will allow your dogs to pick up more information about each other before they meet each other.

Pay Close Attention to Signals

Look for the dogs to be interested in one another and displaying loose, waggy body language. You can tell when your dog is calm by their body language. If they have a loose body and their tail is waggling then they are calm, however, if they have their body is firm and their tail is high and stiff then they are stressed. This could be a warning sign that your dog is not yet ready to meet another dog.

Close the Gap Between Dogs and Drop the Leashes

If both of your dogs are displaying good social behaviours and you feel as if the outcome will be positive then you should think about closing the gap between both dogs. Please be careful to avoid face-to-face encounters as you get closer, since a head-on approach can escalate tensions, particularly with dogs on leash. Once you get close enough you should consider dropping the lease and letting the dogs get to know each other better. Please make sure you are in a safe place to do so.

Hopefully, once you drop the leashes you should see your dogs sniffing each other and mutually circling one another. Positive reinforcement is encouraged here as the dogs get to know each other.

Keep the First Play Session Short

Even though dog play can be energetic and loud, make sure that both dogs are respecting the other’s signals. That means you should see give and take during play as well as short breaks in the action.

Although it’s tempting to let the new friends play until they’re exhausted, it’s better to allow for a brief session then end with a short walk together. Meeting other dogs can be fun and stressful, so rather than letting the interaction tip over into potentially inappropriate behavior, it’s best to end on a positive note. 

Introducing a Puppy to Your Resident Dog

Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs
Two dogs lie on the bed. Photo by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

A puppy is usually eager to greet everyone and everything that passes them by with a happy demeanour and a waggling tail. Because of this, it is usually easier to introduce a puppy to your resident dog than if you were introducing two adult dogs.

However, it is important to note that your resident dog may not take an immediate liking to your new puppy, especially if this new puppy is larger than your resident dog. Your resident dog may be worried about potential pain caused by your new puppies playfulness and fun loving nature.

In reality, puppies haven’t really learnt how to become a proper “dog” as it were, just yet. They still lack the understanding of proper greeting protocols and mannerisms, however, with that being said a well-socialized adult dog will understand that your puppy may not know the proper protocols and will most likely put up with the puppies mischief and behaviour. However, we must also understand that an adult dog is very much within their right to reply to a puppies mannerisms with a bark or snarl. This is completely normal if your puppy oversteps the mark. Your adult dog should back off fairly quickly after the correction and your puppy may be taken back for a moment but should continue in their playful manner within a few seconds. If this is the case, then you can let the interaction continue. However, if your puppy continues to be pushing your adult dogs temperament then it may be time to take a break and reintroduce your puppy again a bit later.

Dogs are very territorial and an adult dog may take some time to warm up to their new younger sibling. However, making sure your resident dog has some alone time with either you or a family member whilst in the transition faze is crucial.

Red Flags During an Introduction

Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs
Say hello! Photo by PrathSnap from Pexels

Although, as humans, we plan everything to the smallest detail when it concerns our dogs, we simply cannot predict our dogs reaction to certain events and introducing our dogs to other dogs is one of these things. Unfortunately, red flags are not always easy to spot, but some of the more obvious signs are listed below:

  • Complete disinterest with one another
  • Direct start at one another without looking away
  • Yawning, frequent shaking off and lip licking
  • Hard barking
  • Growling at one another

If you see either of these signs in either of the dogs then you should consider calling off the introduction and moving it to a later date/time to see if that impacts things.

Introducing a New Dog Into Your Home: The Basics

Once you have introduced your dogs to each other in a neural area, it is now time to bring your new canine companion to their forever home. One of the most important things to do is a safety sweep of your new home before your new dog arrives home, even if they are a fully grown dog. Even a fully house-trained adult dog can have accidents or become a tad disruptive in a new environment, so it is imperative you set your new dog up for success.

Firstly, you should pick up anything that you think might be a temptation for chewing, like socks or laundry for instance. Once you have done that, consider if you need to close off some of the rooms that are more challenging to dog proof at first, this will help you in preparing your dogs environment by preventing them from sneaking off into other rooms.

Ensure that each dog has their own food and water bowls that aren’t directly next to each other in order for the dogs to properly assign whose bowl belongs to who. In addition, be careful around dog toys and chews as your resident dog will be protective over their own toys and their chews, therefore, we think it will be best to pick up all the toys throughout this period.

Creating a Safe Space

Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs
Little puppy in it’s new cage. Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

The next step is creating a safe space for your new dog. Despite the fact that moving into a new home will be a happy and great experience for your new dog, it will take some time for your new dog to acclimate to their environment, especially if they are coming out of the shelter system. Creating a safe space helps to speed up this process. 

A safe space will help to provide a go-to spot where your new dog can relax and curl up when things are stressing them too much. The safe space should ideally be out of the way but not soo much that they feel they are too far away from everyone and everything. A crate is a good option for dogs already comfortable using one, or a cozy bolster-style bed that’s tucked away in a corner. 

All family members, whether they are canine and human, need to respect the fact that new dogs need a break as it may be a very stressful period for them.

Keep the household low key and guests to a minimum during the early few weeks of a new dog’s acclimation period. The full adjustment period can last as long as a few months, so be aware that highs and lows can be expected as your new dog settles in.

Preserving Peace In The Home

Moving from a one-dog home to a two dog home can be a daunting experience not only for you but for your resident dog too. Their once cherished schedule may be changed or moved to accommodate their new sibling and this could cause some stress to your resident dog. It’s important to try to stick with a familiar schedule for activities like feeding, plaus and walks. Also, if it is possible, we would recommend spending time alone with each of the dogs during their first few weeks.

Even if your resident dog and your new dog are getting along well, we believe it is important to separate them when you leave the house or when you are in the house but otherwise engaged. This will alleviate any chance of simmering tensions when you cannot keep an eye on each of the dogs.

It’s always best to prevent simmering tensions from escalating rather than trying to redirect them after they’ve begun, so watch out for any subtle signs of discomfort between your dogs. These signals may include body blocks in doorways or around you (meaning, one dog positions itself so that something or someone is inaccessible to the other), low growling, and freezing or staring, particularly around resources like resting spots or food bowls. 

Lastly, don’t forget to give your dogs occasional timeouts apart from one another. Even if they’re having a wonderful time playing together, sometimes dogs aren’t incapable of taking a break from the action without assistance. Giving them each something to do in separate areas, like a bone of treat-stuffed busy toy, will prevent accidental escalations and help them settle down.

Overall, we believe that having a two-dog home is better than having a one-dog home. Your dog and it’s new sibling will suffer from separation anxiety less than before (if they ever did) as they have each other to keep themselves company until you return home. In addition, both your dogs will have a full time play companion to keep them occupied for hours.

If you found our “Helpful Tips to Follow When Introducing Dogs” useful please let us know in the comment section below.

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