How to Introduce Dogs to Each Other, Part I

First impressions make a big difference! You can up the odds that dogs will get along by introducing them the right way.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #34

Maybe you’d like to add a second dog to your household, or find your dog a playmate or hiking partner. Many or most dogs do manage their dog-dog meetings just fine on their own, but a little orchestration by us humans can help establish a friendly relationship from the get-go.

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First, the ritual disclaimer. Today’s topic is dog-dog introductions for dogs who get along with most dogs they meet, apart from an occasional scuffle. A scuffle is a canine trash-talk argument. The dogs make a lot of noise but don’t get hurt beyond a couple of nicks to the neck, face, or ears. Scuffles are brief. Once they’re done, the dogs make up and relax. If your dog, or the one you want to introduce her to, routinely fights with other dogs, think twice. If either dog tries to keep fights going or has caused significant injury, think three times. If you must introduce the dogs, get help from a knowledgeable trainer before you proceed. Most dogs, even argumentative ones, are able to make some dog friends.

How to Introduce New Puppies to Adult Dogs

If you’re adopting a puppy and your present dog has no big health or behavioral problems, the question is whether she enjoys puppies. Yes? Then you’re cooking with gas. Do provide a middle-aged or older dog with time and space to rest undisturbed by the puppy’s antics. Reward appropriate behavior by both dogs, and of course devote yourself to a close study of housetraining. If your dog avoids puppies or snaps at them, the recommendation of professional help applies. Or what about adopting a grown dog instead? To consider your own dog’s preferences is kind to her and can make your life easier as well.

Learn About Your Potential Adoptee’s Behavior

In general, it’s best to limit your pool of candidates for doggy housematehood or friendship to those whose dog-dog behavior presents no known concerns. But there are exceptions. For example, some dogs pick fights with intact males but never with spayed females. Or they respond in predatory ways to small dogs but have normal social relationships with canines their own size. If you’re looking to adopt, know that good shelters and rescue groups will honestly disclose what they know about the behavior of the dogs they place.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).