Paw in Hand Dog Training
Humane Training for the Family Companion Dog
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  Introducing New Dogs
Copyright 2004, Barbara Long.

Ishare my life with two dogs and I know the pleasures that living in a multi animal household can bring. As a dog trainer I am often called into situations where two dogs in the home are not getting along. It can range from staring and growling to outright fighting. It is very upsetting for the family to deal with and potentially dangerous for the dogs and people involved.

Introducing the dogs so that they get off on the right foot is very important. I’ll describe some ways to set up the introduction for success. However it is more important to make the best match possible from the beginning. Some dogs were never meant to be roommates and nothing we do will make them tolerate one another.

The first step in making a great match is to ask yourself some questions about the dog that is already part of your family. If Rusty is a male he may do better with a new female friend. Dogs of the opposite sex don’t compete as much with each other for valuable resources and may overlook more from the other dog.

How old is Rusty? Some dogs over 8 or 10 don’t care for puppies anymore. Think about adopting a mature dog that will cause less uproar than a pup.

What has Rusty’s experience been around other dogs? What are his dog social skills? Is he eager to meet them or does he hide behind your legs? Is he shy or confident, laid-back or assertive? When selecting a new dog, think about complementing Rusty’s personality rather than finding an exact match or an exact opposite. Two pushy dogs may be constantly angling for social dominance. A very shy dog could be overwhelmed by Rusty’s assertiveness. A laid-back type female may be a better choice.

What is his play style? Dogs with similar play styles have the best chance of getting along. Does Rusty like to chase or be chased? Is he a jaw fighter or does he like to play "bump and run" with other fast dogs? Find out how your prospective new dog likes to play before you have them meet.

How obedient is your dog? If he doesn’t mind you now, adding a new dog may present you with two out of control dogs. Does Rusty have any behavior problems such as separation anxiety or resource guarding? Address these issues before you even think of adding a new canine family member.

After considering your Rusty’s needs look at the dogs available for adoption. When you think that you’ve found the right one take some time to plan the introduction. You hope that your dogs will live together happily for many years, so whatever time you take now to make sure it goes well will be worth it.

Ask a friend to help with the introductions. Ideally the two dogs should meet in a large neutral territory with a fence. Make sure the area is cleared of food bowls, beds, toys, or anything that the dogs may feel is valuable enough to guard. Have Daisy, the new dog, in the fenced area on leash away from the gate. Bring Rusty in on leash and walk around the area. Watch the dogs’ body language. Let them meet keeping the leashes loose. The worst way for two dogs to meet is at the end of tight leashes. If the dogs seem interested in one another but not aggressive, you may let them off leash. Normal behavior would be alert but not overly aroused, with sniffing and circling, play bows or raised paw solicitations for play.

While all this is going on try to keep moving. Avoid standing in a huddle around the dogs. Don’t make too much of a fuss over either dog. If they solicit petting from either of you, ignore them. You don’t want to set yourself up to be something that either dog guards.

Keep this first meeting brief. Arrange for another longer meeting in a day or two. Always stop before the dogs get too excited. If you can, repeat this several times before you bring Daisy home. The more opportunities for them to meet the more you can observe their behavior. If it all goes well, you are ready for the introduction to the home.

Again, have a friend help you. Pick up food bowls, toys etc. Leave the house with Rusty. Have your friend bring Daisy in walk her around on leash. Let her sniff but make sure she does not mark territory. (This is more likely with males but females can mark too.) After she has settled down bring Rusty back home.

Even though they’ve gotten along in a neutral territory, don’t be surprised if Rusty is more concerned about Daisy’s behavior in his own place or if the dogs seem more aroused in the more confined area of your living room. Keep the leashes slack. Try to keep them in open areas rather than hallways or doorways. Eventually you can let go of the leashes but let them drag so that you can snatch them up if things start to get tense. If either dog gets overly aroused you may want to separate them for a little cooling off period.

Manage the situation to prevent any problems. Feed them separately at first. Dogs like routine. Try not to change Rusty’s routine too much — have Daisy fit in to his. Get on a schedule of exercise times and quiet times. Do some obedience training each day. Sign up for a training class with Daisy. A good reward based training program can increase your bond with your new dog as well a help you manage her behavior. Spend time alone with each dog as well.

Be prepared for some setbacks and that the dogs’ relationship will evolve over time. Our tendency is to want everything to be equal and fair but that’s not the way it is in canine social systems. Let them be dogs. Be on their agenda not yours. However, if the situation seems to be getting worse, the dogs seem more irritable or there is more guarding behavior get help immediately. Don’t hope that it will just get better by itself. Some timely intervention can get everything back on track. Soon everyone will be getting along just fine and having fun together.

Recommended reading:

Feeling Outnumbered? How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household
Karen B. London, Ph.D. & Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. (2001)

On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals
Turid Rugaas (1997)

Both books are available at