Why is it so important to slowly introduce the dogs?
A newly adopted dog is under a tremendous amount of stress. The resident dog is wondering who the heck
this new dog is, and why she is in his territory. Mix these feelings together and you will get a dogfight. Not
because either dog is aggressive, but because it takes time to unwind and to help both dogs understand the
#1 – Allow the dogs to meet on neutral grounds (In front of your house or down the street, etc.). Two
people are necessary for this process. One walking the resident dog, the other the new/foster dog. If you
have the dogs meet in the house, the yard, etc., then you have the chance of your dog being protective
of his home and therefore aggressive. Make the introduction place somewhere semi-quiet (not a dog park)
so the humans and dogs can work without distraction. Make sure that during the introduction process you
are holding the leash in a comfortable manner. Keep the leash tension-free, meaning do not hang on the
leash making it tight. Tightening the leash should only be used for corrections. Like always, your dog should
be walking by your side, not 4 feet in front of you.
#2 – Make sure both dogs are on-leash and both are calm when the meeting takes place. A hyper dog who
is barking and jumping around will escalate any potential negative behavior your dog may have and will make
#3 – Walking the dogs in single-file will allow one dog (whoever is in front) to feel more in
control/superior. By walking the dogs side-by-side, you are allowing the dogs to be equal. When you are
walking the dogs, have both dogs to the same side of their handlers (either on each handler’s left side, or on
their right side– most trainers recommend generally walking dogs on the left)… so the pattern would be
“dog, human, dog, human” or the opposite “human, dog, human, dog”… the dogs should not be in the middle
of the two humans together, as they could then get into direct contact with each other and it would be
harder to control them from bad behavior.
#4 – If one of the dogs goes to the bathroom during the introduction process, once that dog is done going
to the bathroom and he/she walks away from that area, the other dog can be allowed to sniff the “waste”.
The dog is only allowed to sniff the waste, not the other dog (until you get to step #3 below in “The
#1 – Have one dog standing with his handler up further on the sidewalk, have the other handler with the
other dog walk up behind them (do not end up directly behind the other dog at this time, as the dog
approaching the stationary dog should not be allowed to sniff the other dog yet) and then once they are at
the point where they meet up, the stationary handler and dog should begin walking so that everybody is
walking together side by side. Do not let either dog sniff the other yet.
NOTE: When completing this step, it would be best to have the dog that is presenting no social/introduction
issues approach the other dog if one is presenting issues with being social and with meeting new dogs).
#2 – Continue walking both dogs for about 5-10 minutes. Remain relaxed, as the dogs can sense if their
handlers are tense. If either dog tries to be dominant/protective (tail standing straight up, hair on back
standing up, trying to put their head high over the other dog’s shoulders/neck/head, growling, mounting the
other dog, curling upper lip, staring at the other dog in a very intense and/or statue-like manner), do a quick
jerk/snap of the leash and an “AHH!” sound to snap them out of the bad behavior. Then, continue your walk.
Do NOT stop and make a big deal over bad behavior once the situation is corrected.
NOTE: When praising the dogs during the introduction process, use verbal recognition of good behavior. You
want the dogs to feel good about meeting each other, so when either of the dogs are acting in a calm,
friendly manner (not being dominant and/or aggressive, nor staring directly at the other dog… but walking
nicely and/or while paying attention to their handler’s directions) you can tell the dog “good boy/girl”. Do not
give verbal praise in an overly high-pitched or overly excited tone. While your tone of voice needs to be
happy and proud, it should not be to the extreme that causes the dog to become overly excited and
distracted from his current duty in walking nicely with the other dog.
#3 – Once the dogs have walked with each other and appear to be calm and comfortable with each other,
they can now begin to smell each other’s behinds in a controlled manner. Meaning, do not just let them both
smell each other freely, but stop walking and allow the dog who appears most relaxed to slowly (and not in
a dominant/aggressive manner) approach the other dog’s bottom to sniff for a few seconds. During this
time, the handler of the dog who is standing still to be sniffed needs to hold their leash with one hand and
put their other arm on their dog’s neck, to prevent that dog from turning around and biting the other dog as
he/she is smelling them. Do not tightly restrain the dog’s neck though (as he will feel trapped and will panic)
and do not kneel down and get your face in the way (you should be standing up still, just slightly bending
over to block the neck with one arm to prevent turning around). Once the first dog is done sniffing, it’s the
second dog’s turn, so do the exact same thing for him/her. Once the second dog is done sniffing, continue
walking again and do not let them sniff each other while walking. Again, correct any negative behavior, as
stated above. Remember, do not have the leashes tight and tense during this introduction, or the dogs will
feed off of that. Only tighten the leash briefly for corrections.
#4 – If/when the dogs are remaining calm and comfortable, you can walk for a few minutes again, then allow
for the dogs to sniff each other again the exact same way. After that, continue walking again.
#5 – Continue the walking/sniffing methods until both dogs appear to be OK with each other. Then you can
allow the dogs to stop and slowly mingle some more. Do not stand there and let the dogs mingle for
minutes… but let them mingle a little, then walk again… mingle a little longer, then walk again, and so on
until they both feel comfortable with each other.
The bottom line is that you do not want to rush into the introduction process, as first impressions are
everything. It is much better to spend 20 minutes on a walk/introduction, than rushing into it all in 5 minutes
and causing the dogs to have issues with each other for the rest of their lives.
If you are following these tips because your dog needs to work on being friendly and calm/comfortable when
meeting new dogs, do not forget to use these tips for introducing your dog to many other dogs (different
breeds, ages, genders, energy levels, etc.), and not just one or two different dogs. In doing this, you will
help broaden your dog’s ability to get along with many other different types of dogs.