Introducing Your Dog to New Dogs

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Introductions between your new dog and unfamiliar dogs can be easy, but other times it may be challenging. The best results come from being slow and careful. Some dogs have better social skills than others, and even friendly dogs could agitate another dog with rude behavior.

Do's

  • Follow instructions from the shelter/rescue that tell you how long to keep your new dog separated from other dogs.
  • Review canine body language before introducing dogs.
  • Start with familiar dogs. Pick friendly, healthy, easygoing dogs, and introduce one at a time.
  • Always ask the guardian of the other dog if it's OK to introduce the dogs.
  • Make sure your dog is wearing a collar, head halter, or harness and is on a leash held by an adult. Your dog is more likely to stay calm if you are calm.
  • Introduce dogs in an area with lots of space, away from their homes (e.g., a few streets away).
  • First walk the dogs at a safe distance apart (10-20 feet). As the dogs get used to one another's presence, slowly move closer until both are calmly walking near one another.
  • Aggression is a form of communication, and it can be normal for a dog to growl when they are establishing boundaries. If there's no growling, barking, lunging or showing teeth, let the dogs approach each other to sniff.
  • Keep leashes loose and move with the dogs as they greet each other. Don't let leashes tangle.
  • Watch body language. If you're seeing relaxed bodies, loose wagging tails, open mouths, and play bows, let the dogs interact for 5-10 seconds, praising and talking in a nice voice. Call to your dog in an upbeat tone of voice and gently pull them apart and then let them greet again. Short greetings help keep interactions calm.
  • If you want the dogs to become playmates, let them play in a fenced area. First, pick up 'valuable' items such as bones, food, balls, and toys. If there's no fear or aggression you can drop their leashes, but keep them attached and dragging for safety.
  • If the dogs get into a fight, distract them with a loud noise (clapping, whistling or a voice) and separate them. If they resist, spray them with a hose to interrupt the fight.
  • Some dogs are just not tolerant of other dogs. If your dog is aggressive to other dogs, ask for help. Contact your rescue/shelter organization, positive reinforcement trainer, veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist.

Don'ts

  • Don't let the dogs rush up to each other. By keeping things slow and controlled, everyone will feel more comfortable.
  • Don't yell at the dogs, as this can cause tension in some dogs. Remain calm and confident.
  • Don't grab collars or pull on leashes to separate dogs from a fight. Tensions are high, and you are putting yourself at high risk of getting bitten, even by accident.

Dog Park Tips

  • If you have a foster dog, avoid the dog park.
  • Observe a dog park before bringing your dog there. If you feel uneasy about any behavior you see, don't go in. Go back at a different time. Dog parks can be stressful to some dogs (and pet guardians!)
  • Make sure your dog is calm before going in. If your dog is lunging, barking and pulling you into the park, they could set other dogs on edge.
  • If there is a group of dogs crowding the gate, wait until it's cleared before entering.
  • For more information on dog park etiquette, download Dog Park Pal App or visit ispeakdog.org.

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