Pleased to Meet You: Managing Successful Dog Introductions

Observe dog etiquitte when conducting dog on dog introductions

Dog to dog introductions needn’t be stressful for you or your dog. The key to reducing aggression is to understand social behavior in dogs. When bringing home a new dog, ensure that dog-meet-dog doesn’t become dog-eat-dog by following these simple rules of dog etiquette when conducting dog introductions.

Introducing a New Dog to a Resident Dog

By Rene Emery

Bringing home a new dog or puppy can be an exciting and fun time. There’s no doubt your current dog is already considered a member of your family, so you expect nothing less for your new arrival. It’s important to remember, however, that dogs are pack animals and have a very different mentality than humans do. We can easily welcome a new human family member or friend into our homes, but dogs can become territorial or even nervous about such a situation.

The Anatomy of a Pack

Because dogs are pack animals, ranks must be established. In the wild, dogs can roam in packs as large as 15. Each pack must have a leader. They are in charge of protecting the pack and controlling the resources. How do dog packs establish a leader? In the wild, dogs will typically fight for the position. The leader is the “alpha” male or female and second in line is the “beta” male or female. The most submissive members are called the omega. The alpha male or female gets to eat first, gets first pick of mates and claims the best resting areas. Each time a new member is introduced into the pack, ranks have to be re-established. This is why so many dog fights occur when a new dog or puppy is introduced to a resident dog and why it is so important to have a strong human pack leader.

Introducing Your New Dog to Your Current Pet

Introducing your new dog to your current dog can be a potentially dangerous situation if not handled properly. You cannot expect, or assume, things will just be hunky-dory between him or her and your current dog. Many people believe that you have to just let the dogs work things out amongst themselves. Sure this works sometimes, but when it goes bad – it can go really bad. Recruit a friend or family member to help you with the introduction and try the following technique to get the two pups acquainted.

Start in Unfamiliar Territory

The initial meeting should take place outside of the home and in an unfamiliar area. Parks are great for this because there are so many distractions and smells. The dogs can also roam around if they would rather not be near each other. The idea here is to avoid the resident dog becoming territorial. A puppy will usually take a submissive position, such as laying on their back or rolling over. This allows the adult dog to investigate the pup and see what he or she is all about. Two adult dogs may act a bit differently. Let the two sniff each other and pay close attention to their body language. Try not to let them stare at or sniff each other for too long, as this could escalate into a fight. After a short introduction, grab the attention of each dog and give them a simple command (“sit” or “stay”). Once the command is obeyed, give them a treat.

Walk Together

If the initial introduction goes well, try walking together. Be mindful of their behavior and only allow them to sniff each other in intervals. Make sure your tone of voice is positive and you continue to use the command/reward system.

Keep an Eye on Body Postures

We cannot directly speak with our dogs, so knowing what their body language is indicating is very important. In a lot of ways, it is the only way we can know what our dogs are thinking or what their mindset is. If your resident dog engages in a play bow, this is a great sign. He or she is inviting the new pooch to play. If the new dog carries out this behavior, keep an eye on how the resident pet reacts. Watch out for any warning signs of aggression. This includes hair standing on end, teeth showing, growling, or staring. If you notice any of these signs, separate the two, get the attention of each dog and steer their interest in another direction. Give them a simple command and reward them for following that command. Continue to introduce them to each other in brief intervals until those aggressive signs cease.

Bring the Dogs Home

If the introduction goes well, you may bring the dogs home. Always, always supervise their behavior. If you notice any signs of aggression, separate the two. You can place one in a crate and another in a separate room, if need be. Be sure to keep the same routine that you had before the new dog came home. This means keeping the same mealtimes, walk times, etc.

If you are having trouble getting your new dog acquainted with your resident dog, it may be best to seek the advice of a professional. They are experienced in this area and can help resolve any issues you are experiencing.

Whenever introducing a dog, it is important to have patience. Dogs are pack animals and need proper training to behave correctly. There are many dog training tips on my blog that discuss various hurdles owners have when they begin their training. There are even some dog tricks that you might want to teach your pooch.

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Medium Tether Tug Dog Toy
Featured Image by Paul Moody  via Flickr 

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