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The Safe Way to Introduce Your Dog to Other Dogs

December 23, 2020
two dogs playing at an open field

Dogs are social animals. They enjoy interactions with other dogs, but just like people, they don’t always become fast friends. Proper introductions can help your dog feel more comfortable when meeting a new dog whether that dog is a new friend or a new family member. At Playful Pack, we are here to help make the process go more smoothly and give you tips if you need them.

How to Introduce Dogs

Even when dogs are excited about new friends, they might be a little territorial when in their own comfort zones. To avoid unnecessary stress or squabbles, try to do introductions on neutral grounds. This can be a friend’s house where neither dog has visited previously or a new park.

Next, keep both dogs on a relaxed lead. You and the other handler should remain calm and relaxed as you walk the dogs side by side, maintaining a safe, comfortable distance. Periodically cross paths, allowing the dogs to smell one another’s scent. If the dogs react by barking, lunging, or snapping, it might be time to talk to a trainer or behaviorist before moving forward.

However, if your dogs seem relaxed and content, you can move forward to the next step. Dogs do not communicate as we do, so you need to watch body language for cues that your dog is stressed or anxious. This can include:

  • Stiff bodies
  • Unblinking stares
  • Ruffled hair
  • Bared teeth or “smiling”
  • Lip-licking
  • Pacing
  • Whale eye or “side-eye”
  • Pinned ears
  • Cowering or shifted weight
  • Yawning

If your dog is showing clear signs of stress, you can continue walking at a safe distance or leave further interactions to a pro.

On the other hand, positive body language includes loose wags, pawing, or play-bowing. Praise your dogs for positive interactions, and give them a little more time and space to get to know one another. However, discourage overly aggressive introductions, such as nose-to-nose greetings or rushing. Excessive pursuing can also be stressful, particularly if the pursuer is refusing to follow cues or corrections from the other dog.

When dogs are ready to head home, place them in separate crates or cars to travel to limit stress. Put away high-value treats and toys to reduce the risk of conflict in the early days of the transition.

How to Introduce Puppies to Adult Dogs

Puppies are not just smaller versions of dogs. They have unique needs that need to be addressed carefully when you introduce them. Puppies are also energetic and still learning dog manners, which can be tough for your adult dog.

When introducing a new puppy to your pack, follow the same tips as for how to introduce dogs. Mind your adult dog’s cues and take frequent breaks as needed. If your adult dog corrects the puppy with grumbles or growls, do not intervene. While growling can be alarming, it is a normal, natural way for an older dog to let puppies know they are crossing boundaries. As a matter of fact, your older dog is acting as a disciplinarian and helping your puppy learn the ropes. You do not need to intervene unless there is contact or injury. As always, reward both the older dog and the puppy for good behavior.

If your dog is becoming overwhelmed or the puppy is overstimulated, it might be a good idea to bring a trainer onboard.

Introductions can be difficult, especially if one of your dogs is dog-selective. At Playful Pack dog daycare, we can help you introduce dogs safely and effectively. Our experienced staff monitors all dog socialization in a relaxed, cage-free environment with lots of fun activities from bubble parties to agility courses. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a visit today!