How to Introduce Your Dog to Visiting Dogs

Photo by Patrick Danforth|

Photo by Patrick Danforth|

This season is a great time for family and friends to get together. Often, this includes friends and families bringing their own dogs into your home as well. Here are a few pointers for how to introduce dogs to each other that can set up for successful interactions and avoid conflicts.

If possible, introduce the dogs outside on neutral territory. This could be done with a 15 or 20 minute walk in a neighborhood street.

  • Have leashes on the dogs for safety but keep the leashes loose and relaxed.
  • If the dogs are pulling toward each other, create enough distance between the dogs so that they are interested in each other, but still showing self-control and able to pay attention to you if necessary.
  • Usually a starting distance of about 15 to 20 feet is good, but it is most important to make decisions based on you dog’s body language. If that distance is too close for them then start at a greater distance.
  • If you are noticing that you need a huge amount of distance between the dogs, this should tell you that perhaps just taking them inside and “hoping for the best” might not be a very good idea.

Once the dogs are comfortably walking in the same direction without a lot of pulling toward each other, whining, barking or lunging, continue the walk for about 10 to 20 minutes until both dogs have calmed to the point that they are mutually sniffing the ground and exploring together. I like to wait until dogs are calmly co existing together without signs of fear, stress or overexcitement. If their body language is telling you that both dogs are relaxed in the presence of one another, then let them actually greet.

I like to keep this initial greeting brief. I call it “sniff and move on”. Often dogs will sniff, then pause, then stiffen and then a growl, snarf or snap quickly follows. Better to set up for success with sniff and move on.

If all is going well, then let them come to the house.

  • If you have a fenced yard area for them to be in, this would be the next step. I would still keep the leashes on but just dragging at this point.
  • This is just a safety measure so that if, for some reason there is a fight, you can separate the dogs by leashes and not be tempted to stick your hand into the middle of a dog fight.
  • After another few minutes and all is still calm, if their play shows healthy signs such as mirrored movements and self initiated pauses, then let them come into the house.

Still be aware of things that could be regarded as a “resource” and something to guard by the resident dog. Put all food away and out of temptation, perhaps put toys away if those could cause a conflict and be aware of any territory issues. Management to reduce the chances of dogs fighting over perceived resources can go a long way in preserving the peace.

Remember: Set your dogs up for success, be patient, give dogs the time and space they need and have a great summer.

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Positively Expert: Louisa Morrissey

Louisa is a member of Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Dog Training Team, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), a member of the Pet Professional Guild of Non-Force Trainers and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. She is the founder of High Country Dogs in Colorado.


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