How to Introduce Dogs to Other Dogs: Establishing Furry Friendships

introducing dogs to each other
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Proud dog owners around the world know that there is no limit to the fun things they can do with their furry companions. So sometimes we might wish to increase that fun by getting another dog or setting play dates with dogs in the neighborhood. Which brings us to the main topic of this article: Are you still unsure about how to introduce dogs to other dogs?

Whether you’re a new dog owner or have had your dog for a while now, it is important to note that animals react differently to other animals as compared to how they might react to humans.

introducing dogs to each other

So if your dog is super friendly with strangers on the street but behaves differently around unfamiliar dogs, it is completely normal and shouldn’t be a cause of too much worry. Dogs can get pretty territorial. However, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to make your dog react better to other dogs. The great news is that it’s not as hard as it may sound!

Read on to learn how to introduce dogs to each other successfully. We’ve separated this article into three main sections: the prior preparations, the do’s, and the don’ts. Throughout the better part of the article, we will focus on how to introduce your dog to other dogs in a neutral territory, but if you have to do it in your home (your resident dog’s territory) because you’re bringing home a new pet, we’ve got a special section reserved for you at the end.

What to Keep in Mind before You Introduce Two Dogs

When you want to introduce two dogs, there are a few things to keep in mind.

#1: First Impressions Matter

dogs making friends

The first impression that each dog makes on the other will shape their relationship. So make sure that you control what kind of impression your dog makes on the one you’re introducing him to, and vice versa. We’ll teach you how to do that in a little while.

#2: The Breed Also Matters

All dog owners are aware of the fact that different breeds of dogs behave in different ways. If you see a Rottweiler on the street, you will probably hesitate before getting too close. If you see a Golden Retriever, however, perhaps you would run right up to pet him.

If one or both dogs you’re introducing are strong, independent breeds, you might want to practice extra caution to get that first impression right!

See Also: Most Dangerous Dogs

#3: Personalities Matter Too!

very energetic dog

The breed can dictate how dogs behave, but let’s not forget that traits may vary even among different dogs of the same breed. So be mindful of the personalities and temperaments of the two dogs that you want to introduce.

Before the official introduction, make sure you understand the personality of the second dog. Is he generally anxious around strangers and strange surroundings? Is he overly friendly, or excited to meet other dogs?

Many small dogs are noisier and more anxious than big dogs. Although big dogs can also be prone to anxiety depending on the environment in which they have been raised.

Anxious dogs might get aggressive when meeting a new dog. Likewise, overly excited dogs might make the other dog uncomfortable, upset, or even aggressive. Gaining such knowledge before the introduction will help you a great deal.

See Also: Fear Aggression in Dogs

#4: Gender Is Also a Significant Factor

male and female dog

If you have kept dogs before you probably know that dogs of the same gender are more likely to get tense around each other, especially if they haven’t been neutered or spayed. The tension only tends to increase if another dog of the opposite gender is also present nearby.

This is because a male dog will see another male dog as competition if a female dog is present, and vice versa!

So if the dogs you are trying to introduce are of the same gender and haven’t been neutered or spayed, we suggest that you ensure another dog of the opposite gender is nowhere nearby.

See Also: Neutering a Dog

Now that you know what to look out for before introducing two dogs let’s move on to how it’s actually done!

The Do’s of the Actual Introduction

Nervous about the official introduction? Don’t worry. As long you and your dog are prepared, things are more likely to work out how you want!

#1: Do Find a Neutral Space

neutral space for introducing dogs

Dogs love their territory and will want to protect it in case of any unwanted intrusion. Keeping this in mind, we suggest that you don’t make the dogs meet in either one’s territory, like their home.

Instead, pick a neutral location like a park, or a friend’s yard, maybe even an empty parking lot. As long as they’re both not in their territories, they won’t feel the need to show aggression to protect what is theirs.

While you are deciding on a location, also keep in mind that the space should not be too small or with too many corners or doors. Open spaces are better because they offer the room to move around in without making the dogs feel confined, cornered, or restricted.

#2: Do Bring Out the Leash

taking leash with you

You need to be totally in control of the situation, and to be able to pull your dog to your side whenever the need arises. This is exactly why you need to put that collar or harness on your dog and then attach the leash to it.

It doesn’t matter how much you trust your dog. He might react unexpectedly to a stranger, so we shouldn’t leave anything to chance.

Now let’s talk about the right way to hold it. Do you usually keep your dog on a tight leash when unsure about how he will react? Then you need to change the tactic!

Instead of keeping a tight hold, keep a loose hold so that your dog doesn’t think that you’re worried and feel the need to stay alert and tense. If you’re afraid, your hold on the leash and your body language will communicate it to your dog, who is likely to become afraid or protective in return.

Your dog is also more likely to feel relaxed if he has some freedom to move about without being pulled back to you.

See Also: Best Retractable Dog Leash

#3: Do Let Them Acquaint Themselves with Each Other

dogs sniffing each other

Don’t rush things! As soon as the dogs become aware of each other, you should give them some time to get acquainted as well.

Dogs do this by sniffing each other out. Let them sniff, but call them away in a minute or so even if things are going okay. It’s just better to take things slow. If they’ve sniffed each other multiple times and seem to be doing fine, you can allow them to play together for a while as well, as long as they aren’t getting rowdy.

#4: Do Keep the Sessions Short Initially

A big yay to you if the dogs seem to be getting along just fine! We don’t want to make you worry for no reason, but we suggest that you keep the initial sessions short. Even if they’re playing nicely, separate them within a few minutes and call your dog to your side.

This is only to ensure that the introductory sessions always end on a positive, happy note without there being any aggression, anxiety, or fear. Remember that these sessions are the stepping stones towards a lasting friendship!

#5: Do Be Sure to Pet and Praise!

praising dog for good behavior

If your dog has behaved himself so far, don’t hold back the praises! Pet and praise to your heart’s content to tell him what a good dog he has been. A happy dog will be more inclined to keep on behaving and pleasing his human.

#6: Do Take Them for a Walk Together

walking with both dogs

Going for a walk together the very first time the dogs meet is a sure way to reduce any tension. Most dogs love their walks and should generally be happy to be going on one, even if there’s an unknown dog going with them.

Just make sure you keep them around 10 feet apart. This is just a way to make them get used to each other’s presence for longer periods of time without risking a fight.

The Don’ts of the Actual Introduction

Now you know what to do, but remember that there are some things you need to be mindful of and avoid at all costs.

#1: Don’t Let Them Figure Things Out On Their Own

dogs fighting with each other

Throwing two dogs together without gradually acquainting them first or monitoring them is always a bad idea. You never know when they might break into a fight. Dogs are strong animals and can very easily cause severe injuries to each other. So don’t let the dogs meet unsupervised and without their leashes.

#2: Don’t Ignore Any Warning Signs

Just as we rely on our body language to communicate some things to others, animals also make use of physical cues. Pay attention to these.

Stiffness in your dog’s demeanor indicates that he is on high alert, about to attack, or feeling threatened. This is a cause for concern and should not be ignored.

Even if the dogs are just constantly staring at each other or seem to be sizing up one another, if they seem tense, then it is time to take a break. Separate them and make them calm down before you give it another go. It might take you a few times before you see even minor progress, but don’t give up!

#3: Don’t Get in the Middle of a Fight

pulling dog away by leash

No matter how much you’ve prepared or how many precautions you’ve taken, there will always be a possibility of a fight breaking out between the dogs. This is not your cue to jump in and separate them.

Instead of getting in the thick of things, try to create a distraction with loud noises. If they get startled, pull your dog away by the leash. If this technique fails, and if your dog is too strong to pull away easily, try pulling him back by grabbing one of his hind legs.

Do not grab him by the collar under any circumstances. He might just end up biting you in all that confusion.

See Also: How to Stop Dogs from Fighting

What If You’re Bringing a New Pet Home?

bringing new dog home

The steps we’ve explained above mostly apply to situations where you’re introducing your dog to other people’s dogs, such as at a dog park. But if you’re bringing a new pet home, the first introduction needs to take place at home because they will need to learn to share territories sooner or later anyway.

So how do you get the resident dog to accept the new one? Read on below for more suitable tips.

#1: Walks are Suitable For This Situation Too!

Take your resident dog out on a leash while having someone else handle the new dog a little ways away from home. Take your dog up close to the other one and let them sniff each other before you start the walk. The same rules as above apply here as well.

You can even alternate between handling the two dogs to show your old one that you’re comfortable around the new one, and vice versa.

#2: Bring the New Dog In, Take the Old One Out

let your dog out

When you’re introducing a new dog to your home, make sure that you take your old one outside first. The house is your old dog’s territory, so keeping him around when the new dog enters might result in unwanted tension.

You can let him out into the yard, or have a family member or friend take him away for a little while.

After your new dog is done sniffing around and getting somewhat used to the place, put him in a confined area and bring your old dog back inside. Now it’s his turn to sniff the area and catch the other dog’s scent.

Keep alternating by putting one in a confined area while letting the other roam free until they get used to each other’s scent in the house.

Also be sure to keep a bowl of water in the confined area, in case the dog gets thirsty when you’re not around to tend to his needs.

#3: Pay Extra Attention to Your Old Dog

Some people might think that this is not very relevant when introducing two dogs, but trust us on this! Your old dog is surely very attached to you, and accepting a new dog into his and your life must be quite hard on him.

Don’t forget to give him extra attention and love so that he knows that he’s not being replaced. If he feels secure and loved, he will be more willing to accept the new dog into his home.

Wrap Up

dogs made friends

The key is to keep your cool. Dogs can sense your emotions and are likely to behave accordingly. If your dog senses that you’re tense, he will probably get tense as well. This is why we suggested above that you keep an easy hold on his leash.

Stay confident, and don’t react negatively even if things are not going as you expected. But be firm as well. The dogs need to know that you are still the boss so that they are more inclined to behave.

That’s it! We can certainly say that you are now fully prepared to introduce your dog to another dog.

If you’ve had any previous experiences with such introductions or any personal insights, please share them in the comments below! We would love to hear about them, as would everyone else. If you plan to bring home a cat instead of another dog, check out this article on how to help Tom and Spike get along!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.