Dog, meet dog.

There’s an art to introducing two (or more) dogs to each other.  In order to set dogs up for success, it’s important to make their initial meetings and experiences together positive. We’ve introduced a lot of dogs to each other over the years, and in the process we’ve learned some principles and rules that offer the best chances for a beautiful long-term relationship.

The most important rule is GO SLOW!  And by “slow,” we mean you may have to take days or weeks before the dogs can meet off leash.

Don’t even try a face to face meeting until no one is growly, tense, fearful, or anxious.  (By the way, never punish or scold a dog for growling — that’s the way dogs tell us they are uncomfortable, and when you punish them, they may stop growling but they won’t stop feeling uncomfortable.  You’ll just have lost your best early warning sign.)

Let the dogs see, sniff, and hear each other a lot before you have them meet unsupervised. You can do this in many ways, using crates, baby gates, french doors, and our favorite, side-by-side walks (see below).

Side-by-side walks!  This is a fabulous, sometimes magical way to let dogs get used to each other and check each other out in a low-stress environment.  (This takes two people — one per dog.  Don’t try to walk two unfamiliar dogs together by yourself!) If one or both dog is stressed, walk them on opposite sides of the street or far enough ahead or behind that they feel safe.  Gradually you can decrease the distance.

Avoid situations that can sabotage your efforts.  For example:

  • feed dogs in separate rooms or crates, even after they are hanging out together
  • same goes for giving out chew toys, antlers, kongs, etc.
  • be aware of canine body language and defuse potential conflicts before they escalate.  If a dog is looking tense, worried, or stiff, separate them.

Be patient, consistent, and optimistic.  With time, even dogs who seem to hate each other initially often learn to tolerate each other, at least — and maybe even to become friends.

There are many more good ideas in this short video from BAD RAP.