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

How to Tell if Your Dogs Play Well Together

Good dog-dog play can involve chase, wrestling, or tug over a stick, but in all cases you’re looking for more of that loose, wiggly movement. In healthy play, you’ll see the dogs switch off--they’ll take turns chasing each other or being on top. Big dogs with good social skills may handicap themselves by lying down when they play with smaller dogs. If one dog’s tail is tucked or he avoids the other dog, he’s not having fun. Rising arousal is a yellow flag--if the dogs seem to lock into position or if play-growls suddenly go deep-toned, it’s time to separate.

That having been said, don’t give up if you see a couple of brief snarks just at first. If the dogs snark more as time passes, though, things are trending the wrong way. Call it quits, at least for now.

Walk Together Off-Leash

More mature or less playful dogs may not play but instead go about their individual business. You can unclip the leashes if you’re in a safe area. Whether the dogs play or just disengage after shaking hands, walk around and let them trot and explore things together. Static situations tend to increase tension between dogs.

Have Your Dogs Meet Through a Barrier

As an alternative to parallel walking, or as an extra stage before the meet-and-greet, let the dogs meet with a barrier between them, such as a chain-link fence. If the area is safe, the dogs can be off leash--an advantage if one dog tends to snark on leash but has good dog-dog manners off leash. Try a barrier meeting if you yourself are cautious or you don’t know the history of the dog you’re planning to adopt. Or maybe your own dog does best meeting other dogs if they can’t get in her space at first.

Like leashes, fences make some dogs’ behavior worse, so if the dogs squabble through the fence that doesn’t mean all is lost. Try another parallel walk. Other dogs, touchy about proximity, relax with a barrier present but blow up when it goes away. Those dogs may show signs of tension when distances shorten during the parallel walk. They may learn to relax as the other dog becomes old news to them, or they may just not be good candidates for your gig.

So the dogs have gotten along well. Great! Next week, how to handle that first at-home playdate or the newbie’s moving-in day.  For more tips, find me on Facebook. Call 206-600-5661 or e-mail me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com, and I promise to greet you with eager interest and happy wags. That’s all for now – goodbye!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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).