Introducing Two Dogs For the First Time
It’s an old topic but one that comes up a lot. How do you introduce two dogs for the first time? There are many things that should be taken into consideration when introducing two dogs for the first time such as the dog’s past behavior when meeting new dogs as well as each dog’s reproductive status. But for the sake of this entry let’s pretend we don’t have any past information about either dog when it comes to meeting other dogs for the first time and you need it to go right. Let’s also assume both have been reproductively altered. This post doesn’t have enough room to go into all that could go wrong when you throw that wrench into the works. Below are my tips for doing all you can to make sure the two of them get off on the right foot.
- Just the two of them. If it’s important to you that two specific dogs get on well DON’T bring their pack mates into it. They can become defensive for their pack mates or their pack mates might become defensive for them. That will certainly start things off on the right foot. Or…..DO bring their pack mates into it. If you know the pack mates well and are certain they won’t contribute in a negative way it’s sometimes good to have others there to take the heat off of the two of them. Ya know, like a group date.
2. Get off territory. Meet on neutral ground. If I can’t take any chances of two dogs not getting along I’ll arrange for the dogs to meet at a nearby park. But make sure one or both of the dogs don’t think of said park as “their” territory. It can sometimes be helpful for them to be somewhere they’ve never been before so some of their mental energy is used to process the stimulation provided by a novel environment. It doesn’t matter how long you spend at the off-site location. Five minutes may tell you all you need to know. If that goes well the dogs can be taken to one or the other’s territory to socialize but start outdoors before you move indoors.
3. Consider leashes. Before you introduce them at the park consider whether or not you need a short leash or a long line. The information you might use to decide this would be your beliefs regarding your dog’s behavior toward strange dogs when you are near. Do you make things worse, better or are you neutral. If your presence make things worse you might consider using a long line. When you are using leashes be sure to keep the leashes loose. They don’t need all of the slack they just need it to not be tight. If the leash is made tight by you it will no doubt cause tension creating the possibility of the ole fight-or-flight to kick in. Both of those options are no bueno. And just in case your dog chooses flight anyway hold on tight to the handle. If you are able to move forward after the visit to the park by introducing the dog’s on one or the other’s territory consider whether or not you can remove the leashes. If all went well and you have adequate fencing this would be a good time to remove the leashes and find out if you’ll be able to graduate to the third step of moving the party indoors.
4. Back at the house. DO NOT leave anything around to fight over. Have all food, treats, bones and toys picked up. Don’t micro manage but do supervise. Hovering over them saying “it’s ok, it’s ok” will certainly let them know that it’s not okay. Be cool. The cooler you are the cooler the dog’s are likely to be. If it’s an extended stay DO NOT feed them without isolating them. This is one of the reasons I’m always lecturing my clients to teach their dogs to crate and to eat in their crates. They don’t have to eat in their crates forever and ever on the off chance you pay a visit to someone with a dog someday but it’s a good skill to teach and refresh once in a while. You can’t be free-feeding when you’re visiting friends. Nothing good will come of it.
5. What if they fight? If the fight results in injury to either dog do not reintroduce them. Call it off and get professional help. If they posture, if they bicker, if they have words……my general advice is to let them work it out. There’s nothing wrong with one dog telling another of their boundaries or feelings. It always makes me feel sad when I witness people correcting their dogs for not being the human’s version of polite to another dog. Emotionally healthy dogs are not doormats and emotionally healthy dogs should be able to take criticism without it becoming a thing.
My final thoughts. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it innumerable times and I’ll say it until I’m gone. Trained dogs exhibit better outcomes during moments like these. They have better control over themselves and are practiced at making thoughtful decisions. Just wanted to throw that in there. Have a plan to move forward or abort in response to the outcome of your meeting. Exercise the dogs first for gosh sake before meeting up. Consider giving them a calming supplement such as CBD prior to the meet up. And calm yourself. You’re no good to a dog during a challenging moment if you’re a nervous wreck. Breathe and generate positive, optimistic thoughts. I’ll be sending good vibes your way.
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