Tips for introducing a second dog to your furry family

by | Dog Care Pet Planning |

First impressions matter! Introducing two unfamiliar dogs can be a stressful event for you and the animals. However, with a plan in place, you can ensure things go smoothly and facilitate a lifelong relationship. 

Important tips: 
  • Leave your current dog at home when you go to pick up your new dog. Managing the interaction of two new dogs while you are driving a car will not be possible and could cause tension in the confined space of your vehicle. 
  • Recruit a helper(s) for the introduction. You will need a minimum of two people, one to handle each dog. 
  • Have treats available to reward and encourage good behaviour! 
  • Plan for the introduction to take place in a neutral setting once both dogs have settled in (park, open field, parking lot). . 
Step 1: Introductions/Getting Started: 

Take a walk together in the neutral setting you’ve chosen. The goal of this step is to  help the dogs to feel comfortable around each other. 

  • While taking your dogs for a walk, keep a safe distance between them. This is to prevent the leashes from tangling and the dogs from greeting each other inappropriately. It will also help them relax and adjust to each other’s presence/scent. 
  • Both dogs should be kept on leash with people comfortable handling them. 
  • Try to keep the leashes slack as you walk. Tension or tightness can cause frustration and changes your dogs body language which can create miscommunications between the dogs. 
  • Provide treats or praise to both dogs to reward good behaviour while walking, if they engage with each other (look at or sniff towards etc.) praise and reward. 
Step 2: Initiate a short, monitored play session

If the dogs have made it this far without lunging, growling or showing signs of overt stress, you can proceed to letting them interact  with each other. Keep your treats in your pocket for this part; a dropped treat could cause conflict between the dogs. 

  •  It is best to drop the leashes and allow a bit of freedom here. Take them to a large, enclosed area like a fenced yard  – the more space, the less tension there will be. 
  • Drop their leashes, and allow them to investigate each other. As they approach, watch their body language and manage the interaction closely. They may puff themselves up or even vocalize a bit, but neither dog should appear frightened or overly stiff. 
  • Try not to hover over the dogs and keep yourself moving – both people should walk around, keep things light, and continue to offer verbal praise, giving breaks regularly 
  • If they seem to be interacting well, separate them for a few short seconds by picking up their leashes recalling and moving away. Now, if they choose to go back and interact with one another, it means they’re enjoying the interaction, if one of both tries to remove themselves or avoids the interactions take a break walk around and try again in time, separating as you go to ensure they freely choose to go back to interacting. 
  • If play is initiated between them (i.e. the dogs try to play by pawing or play-bowing with their legs stretched out in front of them), allow them to continue, and give verbal praise for each nice interaction. 
Additional tips
  • It is also important for dogs to implement role reversals, like taking turns being the chaser and the one being chased, and to take breaks when they get too amped up. If they are not able to do that for themselves, pick up their leashes and walk them around until they shake off and loosen up, then try again. 
  • Even if they are playing and getting along well, keep it short. It is best to end these initial sessions on a positive note. 

We hope you find these tips helpful for taking this first step introducing your second dog to your furry family!