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Introducing A New Dog To Your Current Dog

By Kayla Fratt

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Bringing home a second dog is an exciting time. While many dogs easily integrate into multi-dog homes, sometimes introducing two dogs doesn’t go smoothly. In these cases, it comes down to a personality mismatch between the two dogs. In other cases, one (or both dogs) is socially inept. Either way, a proper introduction can set you and your dogs up for success.

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to specifically focus on introductions when one dog is a bit on the rowdy side. Excitable dogs can be a real challenge to introduce to other dogs. Even though they may not have a mean bone in their body, their over-the-top ways can easily overwhelm, scare or irritate other dogs. 

If your dogs are exhibiting aggression towards each other, it is also important to get one-on-one help from a dog behavior consultant. The plan outlined below is only a starting point.

Note that over-excitement, while not aggression, is still rude. A dog that barrels into another dog, tackles them and refuses to take “no thank you” as an answer when they ask to play, is being rude and may get themself into trouble with other dogs. Just because they mean no harm doesn’t mean that this behavior is acceptable!

All of that said, this plan will help reduce conflict and start your dogs off on the right paw in the vast majority of cases. Without further ado, let’s get into the actual plan.

1. Ensure that both dogs are feeling happy, safe, relaxed and well-exercised.

If one dog is just leaving the shelter or has been cooped up for days, their greetings are likely to be rude, over-the-top or extra testy. Take the dogs for separate walks or exercise, ensure they get a good nap, and set them up to feel as happy and relaxed during this greeting as possible.

2. Clean up any high-value objects like toys, food bowls and favorite beds.

In preparation for bringing the dogs home, ensure that there are no potential conflict points lying around. Dogs, like all animals, are apt to display aggression when they feel that their valuables are threatened. Help the dogs get along by removing these valuables.

3. Meet in a large, open-air space that’s not either dog’s “home turf.”

Larger spaces let the dogs communicate more freely, and meeting in a neutral area will reduce the likelihood of territorial behavior. Many city parks fit this description well!

4. Take the dogs for a “parallel walk” on opposite sides of the street.

Let the dogs see each other from a distance — this could be 20 feet or 200 feet, depending on the comfort of the dogs. Talking to your friend or family member on Bluetooth headphones can help facilitate this meeting. Once the dogs have seen each other, you can both turn and head off in a “parallel walk” where the dogs walk in the same direction on opposite sides of the street. This allows the dogs to see each other and read body language without direct head-on introductions. Keep the dogs moving and watch carefully for signs of over-excitement or stress.

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Once the dogs have seen each other, you can both turn and head off in a “parallel walk” where the dogs walk in the same direction on opposite sides of the street. This allows the dogs to see each other and read body language without direct head-on introductions.

5. Reward the dogs for engaging with their handlers.

As the dogs continue to walk on parallel paths, reward the dogs with treats for looking back at their people. If they continually pull, lunge, bark or otherwise display over-the-top behavior, increase the distance between the two dogs. Allowing the dogs to continue at this level of excitement can build frustration and worsen things later on!

6. Gradually close distance between the dogs.

As the dogs look more and more relaxed, you can close the distance between the dogs. This is best done on quiet suburban streets where you can easily walk in the street as needed to modulate distance; highly trafficked areas make this difficult.

7. Allow the dogs to sniff and then disengage a few times.

Reward them with food for good choices or use food to lure them apart if needed. Try to keep the leashes loose and avoid pulling on the dogs or letting them strain on the leashes. The pressure on their collars or harnesses can increase tension. Instead of pulling them apart, call them apart or use food to lure them apart. Let them sniff rumps — this is normal, polite dog behavior. 

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Instead of pulling them apart, call them apart or use food to lure them apart. Let them sniff rumps — this is normal, polite dog behavior.

8. Return home once the dogs are comfortable walking side-by-side without fixating on each other.

For many dogs, this introduction will have helped immensely and you can go home now! Ensure that all valuables are collected before going inside. If your resident dog has a history of territorial aggression, speak to a dog behavior consultant about a more specific training plan for introducing the new dog.

9. In some cases, this level of relaxation may take several meetings.

For some dogs, this initial introduction isn’t enough. You may have to repeat a few times. I once worked with a family that had to repeat the first six steps of this protocol four times before their dogs could sniff each other politely. The dogs now coexist peacefully after multiple failed introduction attempts where they displayed ongoing and dramatic displays of aggression.

10. Continue managing their behavior indoors.

Introductions aren’t the only important facet of dog-dog relationships. Many dogs get along fine while they’re both sleepy or relaxed, but get on each other’s nerves when they’re excitable. It’s best practice to have separate “bedroom areas” for each dog so that you can separate them when they’re at an energy mismatch or are both excited and irritable. Crates, baby gates, closed doors or exercise pens can achieve this goal. Many of my clients spend the first 2-6 months of being a multi-dog household with their dogs separated 50 percent or more of the day. Only letting the dogs interact when they’re likely to enjoy each other will help them learn to get along more often! This may mean only letting them interact when the rowdy dog is tired, only interact outdoors, or only interact while training and playing at first. It is your job as the human to help protect the less-rowdy dog by interrupting the excitable one and separating the two. Expecting the less-rowdy dog to tolerate nap interruptions or interrupt the other dog’s rude play attempts is a recipe for disaster.

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It’s best practice to have separate ‘bedroom areas’ for each dog so that you can separate them when they’re at an energy mismatch or are both excited and irritable. Crates, baby gates, closed doors or exercise pens can achieve this goal.

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While we are outlining a solid general plan here, it’s important to note that, just like kids, not all dog pairs are destined to be best friends. In some cases, the energy, size and/or personality mismatch is severe enough that it would be wise to return the new dog. 

While this decision should not be taken lightly, I have worked with enough intra-household dog aggression cases (where two dogs within a home are fighting) to know that not all dogs will learn to tolerate each other, even when given lots of training. In some cases, the kindest and safest thing to do is accept that one dog will be happier in another home.


Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and the owner of Journey Dog Training. She’s passionate about helping owners prevent and treat behavior problems in their pets. She also works as a conservation detection dog trainer with her border collies in Missoula, Montana. She’s an avid runner, cross-country skier and a budding agility competitor.

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