How to Introduce Two Dogs

It seems that the adoption process for Annie is going well. She met her potential new pack mate and they got a long swimmingly. This led me to think about my thoughts on introducing dogs to one another and I have advice on how to do it and what not to do. So here it is…

Make sure that both dogs are not wound up so don’t take them out of the crate and put them nose to nose with another dog they’ve never met. Ideally, walk them both together first for as long as you can. If this is going to be a match for life, by all means walk them at least an hour. If it is just an introduction to a new neighborhood friend then a shorter walk will suffice. But you want the walk to be long enough so that the dogs get that they are on the same team, not rivals but working in the same pack. So walk them correctly, at your side or behind you, not out front like a kite.

Then, once everyone has walked, stop and see if they will sit for you. If they are willing to listen to you that’s a good indication that they are aware that the humans are in charge and so it will be a better time to introduce them. Release them from the sit and let them move toward each other.

Here is where we tend to mess up. People do one of two things with their anxiety about the meeting:

1) Talk incessantly and in a high pitched excited voice “OH good BOY say HI to the NICE DOGGY. GOOD JOB, isn’t this a NICE DOGGY?!!!!” and on and on like that. I usually just tell the person to please be quiet. There is no need to dump your anxiety on the dogs. It isn’t nice either. Their abilities to communicate to one another are way more sophisticated than ours. Let’s let them alone, ok?
2) People send their anxiety about the meeting right down their leashes to their dog’s neck by holding on for dear life and pulling up all the slack in the leash. I understand the reasoning behind this; but a dog’s got to have his head free to sniff all the right places and the most polite greeting in dog land is the nose to butt nose to butt, sort of yin/yang symbol thing.

Two dogs who face one another without going into that nose to butt stance are two dogs who are trying to decide how bad the fight is going to be. Dogs will usually go face to face for a bit and then move to nose to butt, go face to face again and then nose to butt from the other side. Then they will either ignore each other or one of them will ask the other to play with a play bow, or if one is very concerned about such things, one will make his dominate status known by putting a head or paw over the back of the other. There are lots of different permutations of this ritual but what we tend to do it get embarrassed by the butt sniffing and yank the head away which is just a bad idea. Imagine what it would be like if you were reaching out to someone important to you that you wanted to make a good impression on and someone standing near you grabbed your hand away as you reached out for a handshake…your first reaction would be alarm and wondering what was wrong with the other person that your friend was trying to protect you from…See? So let them alone. If there is going to be a battle you will know it – it will be loud and growly and not very serious (at least in the beginning) giving you ample time to pull the dogs apart then. But most dogs want to like each other and most dogs will if we just get out of their ways and let them introduce themselves properly.

And once dogs get over that initial meeting it doesn’t mean you can check out on your responsibilities as their leader. You need to keep a close watch on their behavior and make sure you aren’t seeing anything you don’t like. Don’t cut the new guy slack because you feel sorry for him or for that matter the original guy. Do not allow any hording behavior, any toy possessiveness, any bossiness or any pushing away. You are the one in charge of the pack so make sure you are clear about your rules and do not let emotions into the picture. If you are a strong leader, no one has to fight anyone else, they will all look to you for guidance. All dogs will be happier in a household that feels predictable and safe for them and that is your job. You set and keep them to the rules of behavior and they will fall into place. Then you can have peace in your home and two (or more) dogs who really enjoy one another.

December 27, 2008 • Tags: , , • Posted in: Annie, behavior

2 Responses to “How to Introduce Two Dogs”

  1. Alvin - July 3rd, 2011


    I recently got a Chow Chow (a week ago), they don’t seem to get on quite well. I believe I introduced them incorrectly as I read somewhere on the web saying we should let them affirm their ranking system and allow them to have small fights. After first two days, I noticed something seems amiss as the fight just got more aggressive. Which I decided to do more research and fought an alternative suggestion which is to stop such dominance fight should it occur.

    I have the chow chow restricted by a fencing in a small area (Toilet train)and allow my other dog, an 11 month old Japanese Spitz to roam the house as it is toilet trained. My Spitz tends to start a fight with the 4 month old chow chow whenever i let it out of the confined area. I remain calm and assertive throughout hoping to correct my spitz but it doesn’t seem to be effective. Out of this one week, there was only one occasion where the two of them were peacefully roaming around the apartment for 10 mins. However, everything was back to square one again.

    I bring them for walk daily, side by side (Chow on my left, Spitz on my right). My spitz gets along quite well when out of the house, however, there were occasion where my Chow started biting, unsure if it was play biting my Spitz during walks.

    I’m hoping to get some advices on how to introduce two properly and get them to live harmony in my apartment.

    Thank you, and your advise is greatly appreciated.

  2. Kristin - July 17th, 2011

    Your dogs are both young so there is that going for you. It seems that you have done a fair bit of research on your own, good for you! It will help you to be educated on how to read dog’s body language so you can be more confident in knowing what you are seeing – aggression or dominance display, play or fighting, how to know when things are getting tense and you need to intervene.
    First thing I would do is this:
    1. Pick up ALL toys, bones, chewies, and food. Keep only water in a bowl on the floor and keep at least two bowls of it available at all times. This will eliminate one reason for fighting – resource guarding. Of course, you and anyone else in your home can also become a resource so be mindful of that and don’t let any dog be annoying, pushy or bossy around you.
    2. Continue walking them daily, making sure to keep them at your side. It sounds like you walk them correctly – good for you. Just keep this up. The walks should be about 30 minutes long minimum and you should work up to a full hour as your new little one matures. I’d say a full hour by the time the Chow is 6 months old. Do stop any biting on the walk, playful or otherwise. I consider walking to be “work” and expect focus and concentration from my dogs. They aren’t held to a firm heel or anything but no messing around – stay in your place and keep your eyes forward. I don’t talk to them much either, we just do our work side by side. I like to say to myself “We are a creature with (in your case) 10 legs, 6 eyes, 6 ears, 3 mouths, 2 arms and one mind.”
    3. Enroll them in a structured training class together if possible or separately if necessary. But either way work them together. One dog may need to be confined in the pen you have or on leash but work them at the same time and reinforce both dogs for good behavior. Decide what “good behavior” means for you for the non working dog. For example, if you are working one on a sit and they perform well, treat them and the other if he/she did not interrupt, remained quiet etc. As their skills develop you can have one in a down/stay and work the other on a new skill. Both get treated if the one held the down/stay and the one you were working did what you wanted. Get the idea? This reinforces the idea that you are the one in charge of resources and that good behavior (compliant, respectful, quiet, patient) gets rewarded.
    Before going on to number 4 you will need to determine a vital piece of information – who is the trouble maker here? I would suspect given your description of the 4 months old’s behavior (biting on the walk), that he is the instigator. Watch how the Chow looks at the Spitz – who starts the glare and who breaks it off first. That sort of thing will give you information about who is challenging who. Also, think back to who starts the actual fighting. And then leash one of the dogs. Your information gleaned from the above will tell you who to leash up. I would leash the instigator but do not let the unleashed dog to hassle the one on leash. Teaching both dogs a command that means “ignore that thing” would be helpful. Again, a good training class will help with that – the command is often called “Leave it”. If you have a situation where one is the problem and the other just wants to be left alone this leashing up the problem one will “fix” the fighting. If you have a situation where both are instigating them it becomes more complicated. But leashing one gives you more control over the situation. So, on to number 4…
    4. After your longest walk of the day, walk into the house and only unleash one of the dogs (the non-instigator). Keep the other one close at hand and simply ignore them both. Go about your business while the one dog is leashed (tie it to your pants, around your wrist). Keep half an eye on what is happening around you but don’t get overly intense. If they go to interact use your body (legs) and nudge the unleashed one out of the way saying firmly “GET” or something to communicate disapproval. Continue to block any approach of the other dog. IF you are unable to do this step without a fight you have a more complicated situation on your hands and you’ll need an expert to come in and assess what is going on. If however, this works, keep it up daily starting small – say 10 minutes, and work up from there.
    5. As their obedience skills develop you can do this off leash but put both dogs into a down/stay and keep them there. You may be allowing more rough play in your home that is advisable. I do not let my dogs wrestle or play rough in the house. The house is for lounging and working and sleeping and eating. Play happens outside. Limiting this rough play in the house may help.
    Hopefully this will be helpful. I have to say that you will be able to get a much better sense of things if you hire a dog trainer to come into your home for an hour session. Just that should help you get a handle on what is actually going on and what to do about it. In general though, think like this, “what you practice you get really good at” so if your dogs practice being calm and self-controlled, they will become good at that. If they practice fighting, they will get good at that too.
    Good luck to you and let me know how this all works out!

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