Adding a new member to the pack is an exciting experience. It should also be handled with care. 

Similar to people, dogs take differently to individual dogs. They may instantly take to some and be more distant towards others. If you are adding a new dog to the family, there are steps to be taken to ensure a healthy sibling-like relationship between your animals. It is important to remember that the process is gradual and pets should be introduced slowly. As with many situations involved in responsible pet-ownership, patience is key. 

Before the Meeting

Before the grand introduction, make sure that both dogs are exercised and fed. Allow each dog to go the the bathroom before meeting. 

Plan to meet on neutral territory. Dogs may feel territorial when it comes to their hometurf. To avoid any protective behaviors, plan to meet in a place that isn’t sentimental to either dog such as a tennis court or a neighbor’s yard. 

Two adults are needed for the introduction, one to handle each dog. 

Dogs should be walked using non-retractable, six-foot leashes. It is helpful to also have 15-foot leashes in order to allow the dogs more room to move about but still give you control.

Make sure you know what to look for. Accurately reading the dogs’ body language in crucial to avoiding conflict. To learn more about translating canine body language, please see our Canine Body Language article. 

During The Meeting

Keep both dogs leashed at all times during the initial introduction. Start by walking the dogs, maintaining six to ten feet between the dogs as they are parallel. This helps them to slowly get acclimated to each other. If they appear to be comfortable after about five minutes you can close the distance by about one foot. It’s okay to move a bit closer again if they are still relaxed after another ten minutes. Walk them for about 30 minutes.

If at any point either dog is uncomfortable then increase distance between them or walk them in a single file instead of abreast. 

Next, meander around with loose leashes (this is when the 15-foot leashes are useful), allowing the dogs to approach and sniff if they wish. Continue to move about in order to prevent prolonged interactions that could become tense. Short and sweet is the aim right now.

If the dogs are comfortable after several interactions or about five minutes of wandering, drop the leashes. Do not detach them - you need to be able to grab the leashes to control the dogs. Be sure to drop the leashes at the same time. 

It is not necessary to complete all of these steps in one session. It might take a few meetings to get to the point of everyone being comfortable enough to drop the leashes. And some matches just don’t click and you will never get to that stage. 

At Home

If all goes well, allow the dogs to meet at home. Make sure all toys are picked up inside and outside the house. It may take a few weeks before you begin to introduce toys. 

Plan for another meeting to take place in the yard or building lobby before going inside the home. 

Provide separate resources. Dogs should be fed separately. There should be multiple water bowls with enough space in between that each dog feels comfortable. 

While you are away, keep the new dog in a room separate from the resident dog. Allow the resident dog to roam the house.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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