Dog-Dog Introductions: A Custom Solution

April 7, 2020

Successful dog-dog introductions can set the stage for wonderful relationships between your resident dogs. There are standard, go to, protocols for initial introductions involving parallel walking and meetings in a neutral location. What happens when these options are unavailable or not ideal? We can customize the process!

Here are some common behavior problems that may complicate the use of standard introduction protocols:

  • Leash Reactivity and Leash Aggression
  • Frustrated Greeters
  • A Dog With Fears: new places, people, animals, sounds etc
  • Dog doesn’t walk well on leash and the continued pressure of pulling puts the dog in an over aroused emotional state.
  • A new puppy has come home during a developmental fear period and is overwhelmed and nervous.

Here are some possible issues in implementing the standard protocols:

  • Owner does not have a second person to help with parallel walking.
  • Owner does not have the means to separately transport 2 dogs to a neutral location.
  • Neutral locations to current dog involve high risk areas to a puppy without full vaccinations.
  • A more timely one, it’s a pandemic, and you have some kind of shelter in place order or other reason that makes you unable to leave home to a neutral location.

Don’t get me wrong, the standard works wonderfully, if you can do it successfully. I’m sure that more experienced trainers than myself have clever solutions for the behavioral and circumstantial issues that complicate its implementation. In fact I’d love to hear about it! Message or comment if you have resources.

What I’ve learned about dog training is that every circumstance is different so while we can have a method that works for most dogs, there are always going to be dogs who need a different approach. I decided to try and find one for introductions for my own dogs with the knowledge of what was attempted previously and how each individual reacted. Afterward I realized that this process could be incredibly helpful to others who are questioning how to handle their dog-dog introductions.

In my house I currently have 3 dogs but I have handled 3 sets of dog-dog introductions into this household. Some went less ideally than others and as I have learned more about dogs my procedures for introductions have changed dramatically. This last introduction with Fisher is one I am very happy with.

So why doesn’t parallel walking and a neutral location work for my household?

Zeke, my older dog is a frustrated greeter. Though we have worked on it over the years he’s still prone to being stressed and vocal when he cannot physically meet another dog for a prolonged period of time. So parallel walking with Zeke would not be a positive experience for him. That’s not how I want his first introduction to a new puppy to go.

Phoenix, as she aged, increasingly decided that she does not like strange dogs, part of the reason she retired. If I’m going for good feelings it is not going to be on a leash, staring at a strange dog from a distance, walking parallel in the same direction.

My options for neutral locations that didn’t involve leashes were not available and regardless not something I was entirely comfortable with as an initial meeting. Throwing them together and hoping it was fine had too many unknowns. In my opinion that’s not a gamble you want to take with a young puppy.

I wanted all parties set up for success, so my best options, to begin, were using my own home in a controlled and methodical approach.

Here were my top considerations as I designed my introductions:

  • The introductions had to consider the needs of all dogs and leave all dogs, but especially Fisher, feeling safe, secure, and positive.
  • They needed to happen one at a time so we could focus on each pairing before bringing everyone together.
  • Slow introduction was the best option for my household. It was more important to me that they had established, conditioned, positive feelings about one another than to get them integrated as quickly as possible.
  • With Fisher being a service dog candidate I had to pay even more attention that he was in his critical socialization period. A truly bad experience could have a lasting effect that might preclude him from service dog work. So caution, even over-caution, were the guiding force behind a lot of these setups.

This is where many of you could really use a dog training professional, to help evaluate the dogs you have and what the best approach for your dogs might be. Being there to help you adjust things as you see the results of your decisions. It’s a small price to pay to have a peaceful household with happily coexisting dogs for the many years you will all be together!

My Overall System Breaks down into the Following Topics:

  • Preparing Your Home For a New Dog
  • Evaluating Resident Dogs’ Personalities During Planning and Preparation
  • Establishing a New Routine
  • Key Dog Training Skills For Multi Dog Households.
  • Setting Ground Rules: Supporting your dogs, meeting needs, building trust.
  • First Day: Adjusting plans and expectations.
  • Introduction process: Slow and Steady.
  • Structured Coming Together: Using Patterns and Taking Turns for Calm Transitions
  • Supervised Mutually Enjoyable Activities: Building a positive relationship between dogs.
  • Circling back to Standard Introduction Protocols
  • Scheduled Time Together: Increasing Exposure and Interactions
  • Handling Irritation Between Older and Younger Dogs
  • Transitioning to Full Integration: Opening the barriers, unsupervised time, providing breaks.
  • Sleeping Arrangements: From Crated to Free.

Watch for these in upcoming blog posts, they will be hyperlinked here as they are written and posted as well. While I did this for my own dogs, these topics are widely applicable to general dog-dog introductions.

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