Introducing a New Dog to a Playgroup

The following information has been adapted from material on the Center for Shelter Dogs website.

Prior to playgroup, take the new dog for a walk alongside another dog before attempting to introduce the dog to playgroup. If the dog shows friendly behaviour toward other dogs while on walks, this is a sign that introducing the dog to playgroup may be successful. If the dog consistently behaves aggressively when it encounters other dogs outdoors, the dog is likely a poor candidate for playgroup.

Some dogs can quickly integrate into a playgroup environment, while others may take a longer period of time. Use the following steps when introducing a new dog into a playgroup:

  • Introduce the dog at the beginning of a playgroup session to a known stable and friendly playgroup dog (Dog 1) who has a play style that is unlikely to provoke aggressive behaviour (for example, does not frequently mount or jump on top of other dogs when playing).
  • Take the new dog to the yard first, and let him/her explore for several minutes while dragging a leash.
  • One person picks up the new dog’s leash while remaining in the yard, and a second person brings Dog 1 into the gated introduction area. Allow the dogs to interact through the gate.
  • If aggression (from the new dog) occurs at any time, discontinue the introduction. Either choose a different friendly dog for initial introduction, choose a different method of introduction, or designate the new dog as a dog not allowed in playgroup.
  • Pick up Dog 1’s leash, and bring Dog 1 into the main play yard, where the new dog is waiting on a leash with the handler.
  • Stop for at least five seconds with the dogs ten feet away from each other, both on their leashes, and observe their body language. If signs of aggression are observed, discontinue the introduction.
  • If no aggression is observed, allow the dogs to greet each other, still holding both leashes. Keep the leashes loose (slack in line) and do NOT allow the leashes to tangle. The handlers should stay 180 degrees away from each other.
  • If both dogs appear comfortable and friendly (no signs of fear, anxiety, or aggression), drop Dog 1’s leash.
  • If both dogs remain comfortable after Dog 1’s leash is dropped, remove Dog 1’s leash and then drop the new dog’s leash.
  • Additional dogs can be introduced, as long as the new dog remains comfortable and friendly. If not, remove the new dog and repeat the introduction in a subsequent session and/or with different dogs.
  • Once the new dog has demonstrated a lack of aggression toward several dogs, the leash may be removed.

stop sign iconDogs who have been observed to behave aggressively around other dogs should not be introduced to a playgroup. These dogs should only be allowed in the play yard alone with a handler.

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