It is likely that at some point your new dog will have to interact with other dogs. This is not to say that your dog needs to be best friends with every single other dog, but again, if we set the dogs up for success there is a better chance of the dogs becoming friends.
When introducing two dogs to each other the best way to start is by walking both dogs, separately. This will help burn any excess energy that might be counter productive to the meeting. Once the dogs have been walked separately it is time to start the introduction process on NEUTRAL ground. Do not attempt to introduce dogs at the home of either dog. This will be viewed as an intrusion of territory and will be met with defense. This is best done with two people.
It is best to make the dogs safely comfortable with each other on leash before they are allowed offleash interaction. One dog will be calmer then the other dog. Whichever dog is calmest should be in the lead. Have that dog walk while the other dog stays back. It is important that the dogs do not meet before this. Once the first dog is ahead maybe 10-15 meters (30-45 feet) the second dog should start walking behind it. We put the dog that isn’t as calm behind to help it feel in control of the situation. For a scared or nervous dog, it is much easier to approach a strange dog from behind, as they can safely watch all the movements of the new dog. If the dog is not comfortable seeing the other dog from 10-15 meters, then allow the first dog to keep walking until the second dog becomes comfortable with the distance. The idea is to slowly narrow the distance between the two dogs while keeping both dogs comfortable. Sometimes this is quick, other time’s it can take quite a bit of time. The key is to go at the dogs pace and allow them to move at a level that is comfortable to them.
Once the dogs are close enough we want to try and walk them next to each other. The dog that is walking behind should move out and give the dog ahead a wide berth as they catch up. If the dog starts to react then back off a little bit and continue for a little longer. Once the dogs are comfortable walking side by side at a distance the gap between them can begin to be narrowed. This should also be done at the dogs pace. Once the dogs are comfortable walking next to each other, the walk can actually begin.
While the process outlined above can take minutes or hours, it is important to remember that none of that time counts towards actually walking the dogs together. Once the dogs are walking side by side, that is when the walk begins. The group walk will help enforce a pack structure, walking together is bonding for both dogs and humans. The longer the walk the better the chances of success are but a safe guide for the bare minimum would be the weight of the largest dog, in pounds, per minute. For example, two ten pound chihuahuas would want a minimum ten minute walk together (which can be a lot for some chihuahuas), whereas an 80 pound hound dog meeting a 65 pound husky would require an 80 minute walk. This is a guideline only but it is helpful to remember that walking builds bonds, and tired dogs are less likely to cause trouble.
During the walk you can allow the dogs to interact briefly with each other using the three second rule. Don’t let it last more then three seconds. Even if the dogs are having a good time, it is best to allow multiple short interactions as opposed to lengthy leashed interactions. By keeping it short we can always end the interactions on a positive note while lessening the chances of setbacks. Any setbacks should increase the time of your walk.
It is also recommended that plenty of opportunities for sniffing things be given on these walks. The dogs will often smell things and then urinate, together, which while unappealing to humans is a great way for the dogs to learn about each other. Once a successful walk has been completed it is time to allow the dogs to interact “off leash”. How this will go depends on the environment you have available to you.
Ideally, the more space available, the better. If you have a small condo it might be best to ask if you can borrow a backyard or maybe find an empty dog park to go to. If you must do it inside a small condo or otherwise small enclosed space please prepare ahead of time and try to re arrange the furniture to allow maximum open space.
It starts upon entering the space. Humans enter first! Humans, leaders, walk in the door first, always. The resident dog then will enter with the new dog last. Once both dogs have entered the house drop the leashes, leaving them on the dogs in case the dogs need to be controlled.
In a tight space it is important to supervise this interaction close enough that you can read the dogs body language (see section on body language), but not be close enough as to interfere with the dogs interaction. It is important to let them be dogs. They may paw at each other, or bark or whine. As long as the body language is staying positive, allow them to interact without restrictions. These interactions should be kept brief and short for a little while, until the dogs can be in the same space and ignore each other. Example, if there are two dogs and two humans after five minutes of interaction, separate the dogs and have each human interact solely with a single dog, giving that dog individual attention then drop the leashes again and allow the dogs to interact. Keep this up until the dogs no longer go back to each other but seem unphased by each other’s presence.
If you are lucky enough to have a large fenced in backyard this process will be easier. The entry into the backyard will be the same. Humans first. Resident dog then the new dog. Once they are in the backyard and the gate is secured drop the leashes and let them play. With space they will most likely start to move around. Dogs that are moving and loose are showing positive body language. If the body language is positive allow the dogs to continue interacting. There is no need to keep this interaction brief if there is ample room for the dogs to run, the length of time can be determined by what is available as well as the energy level and body language of the dogs.
Once it is decided that the dogs are ready to go inside the home, follow the steps above about introducing dogs in tight spaces.
While this sounds like it could be a lengthy process it is well worth it. First impressions can only be made once and the canine world is no different then the human world in how important they are. A bad first meeting can result in stressed dogs and stressed owners, unfortunate situations, and returned dogs. You would not want to work at a company where you got beat up during the job interview. Your dog is no different.
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