New Friends: Safely Introducing a New Dog to Your Home

Adding another dog to your family means more love and companionship for you and your existing dog. You hope your dogs will become best friends, but they may not want to share their space right away without a bit of preparation. How you introduce the dogs makes a big difference. Help create friends for life by taking the time to do it right.

Put Away Toys and Food Bowls

You want to get their relationship off to a good start, so try to avoid any easily preventable sources of conflict—like toys and food bowls. It’s best to put them away temporarily before you bring your new dog home. Also, remember to separate the dogs when giving treats, bones or special toys while they are still getting used to each other. Plan on keeping toys and food bowls away for a few weeks until they are comfortable with one another. Similarly, be sure to buy a separate bowl for each dog and put them in different rooms for feedings at first.

Choose a Neutral Meeting Place

Another way to help your new friends evade a quarrel is to give them an introductory meeting space where neither dog feels territorial. If possible, arrange to meet your new dog at a park that is unfamiliar to both dogs. Alternatively, a get-together at your local pet store may work if your dog is familiar with an outing like that. A walk around the neighborhood or a friend or neighbor’s yard could also work.

Start the Introduction

Have each dog on a leash held by an adult. Keep the leash somewhat loose so that the dogs do not feel pressure on their throats, but not loose enough they may slip out. Aim for a relaxed atmosphere. Do not allow them to meet nose-to-nose, as it encourages eye contact, which is often seen by dogs as a challenge. Instead, have the dogs walk side by side with a good amount of distance between them. Then allow them to sniff where the other dog walked. Next, permit some momentary sniffing of one another, then lead each dog to a separate area to give them a break and calm them down. Return to let them sniff again, keeping a close eye on their reaction to each other.

Watch Body Language

Observe the dogs closely to understand how they are feeling. Some good signs they are making fast friends are loose movements, pawing each other, legs outstretched in a play bow and an open mouth. Alternatively, stiffening of the body, hair standing up, teeth bared and staring at each other are threatening signs. Lead them apart to dissipate the aggression and then bring them back together. If they try to lunge at each other, stop the introduction immediately and try again with a dog trainer or behaviorist present who can help you safely overcome these obstacles.

Do not put yourself at risk when stopping aggressive behavior between dogs, as it is common for owners to be bitten in the middle of a dog fight—even between two usually mild-mannered dogs. If you have to break up a fight, do so as carefully as possible. A Coeur d'Alene injury lawyer who advises victims of dog bites recommends getting immediate medical treatment if you are bitten, as even a minor puncture wound can become infected. Once any aggression has dissipated, reintroduce the dogs in the calmest atmosphere possible and keep a close eye on their interactions for the time being.

When they finish checking each other out and seem comfortable together, bring them home. Be sure to remember to give the dogs time apart, especially if the new dog is a high-energy puppy. With some forethought and planning, introducing a new dog into your family is the first of many happy new experiences together.

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