Adoption & Fostering

How to Introduce 2 Dogs to Each Other: Step-by-Step Guide

So, you’re ready to expand your furry family and bring home a new canine companion. How exciting! Whether you’re adopting an adult dog or welcoming a wiggly puppy, it’s a time for joyful anticipation and wagging tails.

But hold up—if you already have resident dogs, you might be feeling a teensy bit nervous about the introduction process. Will your current dog (or dogs) welcome this newcomer with open paws? Or will they eye the new arrival with all the suspicion of a detective in a film noir?

woman holding paw of dog

Never fear! With a little know-how and a lot of patience, you can set the stage for a pawsitive meet-and-greet between your existing dog(s) and their new sibling. As a multi-dog household veteran who’s orchestrated my fair share of canine introductions, I’ve learned a thing or two about helping dogs start on the right paw.

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through the process of introducing dogs safely and successfully. We’ll cover everything from pre-intro preparations to off-leash interactions and beyond. 

Let’s dig in!

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before the big meet-up, make sure you have the following on hand:

– At least two people (one handler per dog)

– A well-fitting harness or collar for each dog

– A leash for each dog

– High-value treats: Small, delicious treats will keep your dogs focused and motivated during the introduction. Think bite-sized pieces of chicken, hot dogs, or cheese.

– A neutral outdoor area to walk, with plenty of interesting sights and smells

– Optional: A fenced-in yard on neutral territory 

– Optional: Towels for the dogs to lie on

Pro tips: You can prepare some new toys for each dog, especially interactive puzzle toys.

Puzzle toys stuffed with tasty treats are particularly helpful for anxious or overstimulated dogs. Working to extract the hidden goodies gives them a mental challenge to focus on, diverting their attention and helping them stay calm.

What do I mean by “neutral territory”? Basically, choose an area that’s new to both dogs or at least not a place either of them knows well. This prevents territorial behavior from rearing its head.

2. Exchange Scented Towels (Optional)

Dogs experience the world nose-first, so unfamiliar smells can seem strange or even threatening to them, especially in their own home. If you have the opportunity, letting the dogs get used to each other’s scent ahead of time can work wonders!

place a clean towel on each dogs bed

Here’s how to do a towel exchange:

1. Place a clean towel on each dog’s bed and let them sleep with it for a night or two. Their individual scents will transfer onto the fabric.

2. After a couple of nights, swap the towels – put the current dog’s towel in the new dog’s bed, and vice versa. 

3. Continue switching the towels back and forth (unwashed) for a few days before the introduction. The dogs’ scents will start to intermingle.

4. By the time they meet in person, your new dog and resident dog will already be familiar with each other’s smell. Voila!

Of course, a towel exchange isn’t always possible, especially if you’re adopting your new dog. But if you have the chance, I highly recommend it as a great way to get the ball rolling.

3. Choose a Neutral Meet-Up Spot

Okay, towels swapped (or not) – it’s time to get this party started! For the smoothest sailing, I suggest choosing a neutral outdoor area for the dogs’ first face-to-face introduction. 

Why is neutral territory important? A few reasons:

1. Dogs can get territorial in familiar areas, which leads to posturing and scuffles. 

2. In a new place, the dogs will be more focused on exploring their surroundings than on each other. Yay, distractions!

3. You can move the meet-up to a yard or home turf later on once they’ve had a chance to acclimate.

When scouting potential locations, look for a calm street or park in an unfamiliar neighborhood with plenty of green space, bushes, and other interesting smells to investigate. Bonus points if there’s enough room to walk with the dogs staying about 20 feet apart. Trust me, you’ll see why in a minute!

a person petting a brown and white long coated dog

4. Parallel Walking

Alright, you’ve arrived at the meet-up spot with your dog in tow. But wait! Don’t let the dogs rush up to each other right away. Instead, start on opposite sides of the street and begin walking parallel to each other, going in the same direction.

As you stroll along, periodically feed tasty treats to your dog whenever they glance at their soon-to-be sibling across the way. The goal is to turn seeing each other into a happy thing. Seeing them = getting treats, yay!

Keep moving forward until you notice both dogs are more interested in nomming their treats than in checking each other out. At that point, have one handler and dog move about 20 feet ahead, then cross the street so the dogs are now on the same side, still 20 feet apart. Everyone stops when the front dog stops.

Continue along, handing out treats whenever you catch your dog looking at the other. Once they’re walking calmly, do an about-face and switch positions so the dog that was following is now in the lead. If the dogs stay relaxed throughout, you’re ready to move on to…

dog walk 1

5. Brief Booty Sniffs

No dog intro is complete without the customary butt-sniffing! As funny as it may seem to us humans, this is a key part of canine getting-to-know-you etiquette. 

With one dog still ahead of the other, let the caboose catch up until they’re close enough to sniff the other dog’s rear end. As the sniffer approaches, the handler in front should be feeding a steady stream of treats to their dog. This keeps the sniffee calm and happy while their personal space is invaded, if you will.

After 2-3 seconds, coax the sniffer away with verbal encouragement or lure them with a treat if needed. Then switch it up and let the other dog have a turn at the sniffy end of things.

Keep the individual sniff sessions brief, and repeat the process three times total, watching closely for any signs of discomfort from either party:

– Cowering or hanging their head

– Direct, unblinking stares 

– Ears flattened against the head

– Piloerection (hackles raised)

If you notice any of these stress signals, no worries – just take a step back to parallel walking again. Every dog moves at their own pace.

dog maltese young dog white small

6. Face-to-Face Greetings

Sniffs accomplished with everyone’s tail still wagging? Beautiful. Time to turn those butts around and try a face-to-face “flyby”!

1. Position the dogs about 15 feet apart, facing each other. Double-check their body language – do they look loose and relaxed or a little bored with each other? If they seem tense or laser-focused, go back to the previous step.

2. Keeping the leashes loose (a tight leash can lead to fights!), each handler takes a few steps toward the other dog, forming a nose-to-nose approach. Dole out treats to keep your dog from rushing forward to greet.

3. When the dogs are close enough to touch their noses, allow them to say hello for 3 seconds before continuing walking past each other (treat luring if necessary to keep things moving along).

4. Aim for 3 successful flybys where the dogs stay nice and loosey-goosey throughout. Then try walking in the same direction together, side-by-side, with the handlers passing out treats and the dogs stopping to sniff and “mark” (aka pee on) whatever the other just sniffed or marked.

If pulling on the leash occurs, stop and regroup – your dog may need a refresher on their loose-leash walking skills! Any signs of stress or stiffness? Take it down a notch to just sniffing again. Slow and steady is the name of the game.

two schnauzer playing on grass

7. Off-Leash Intros (In a Safe Space!)

The dogs are walking together like old pals? Woohoo! Now you can move the party to a safely enclosed space – think fenced yard or dog-proofed room indoors – to try an off-leash meet-and-greet.

Ideally, this will still be a fairly neutral area for both dogs. See if your friend or neighbor would be willing to lend you their fenced-in yard for a short meeting. If that’s not possible, one of the dogs’ yards or homes will do – just make sure to remove any toys, food bowls, or resources they may guard.

Once you arrive, here’s the gameplan:

1. Handler A waits about 15 feet from the entrance with their dog. Handler B enters with their dog first, moving as far from the door as possible while dispensing treats. If using one of the dog’s home turf, let the “guest dog” go in first.

2. With the first dog stationed inside, Handler A enters, stopping just inside the door and treating their dog too.

3. Let the dogs sniff around and explore, rewarding them for check-ins until they’re more interested in their surroundings or handlers than in each other.

4. Replay the previous steps from earlier – parallel walking, booty sniffs, flybys – inside the space until the dogs are completely at ease.

dog explore and sniff new places

5. When the dogs are giving off “we’re all friends here” vibes, drop their leashes and let them drag (supervise closely!) as they mingle and greet each other at will.

6. If a greeting occurs, let them interact for 30ish seconds before calling them apart for treats, then release them back to explore and greet again. 

7. Watch vigilantly for signs of tension and call the dogs to you immediately if you notice any, using the leash to gently guide them apart if needed.

8. Assuming all continues going swimmingly, gradually increase the dogs’ free-roaming greeting time, working up to 10-15 minute chill sessions together.

And that’s all she wrote (for now)! Through the magic of supervised introductions, treat reinforcement, and taking it slow, your new dog and current dog are well on their way to becoming best buds. Good job, team!

Before we wrap up, let’s talk about the next steps and troubleshooting, yeah?

Okay, My Dogs Met Successfully! Now What?

Way to go, you savvy dog guardian, you! A stress-free first impression is a huge accomplishment. It lays a strong foundation of pawsitive associations for your dogs’ budding friendship.

If this was just a play date, feel free to stop here. For future visits, start by repeating the on-leash parallel walking/sniffing/flyby sequence to ensure the dogs still feel good around each other. Once that’s confirmed, head inside (guest dog first) and do an off-leash session in the safely enclosed area like last time.

boxer dogs dogs good aiderbichl

But what if your new dog is moving in permanently, you may ask? Well then – buckle in for the longer haul (but it’s so worth it, I promise). 

Those early interactions you facilitated were key, and you’ll keep building on them until the dogs are completely at ease together. Every dog acclimates at its own speed, whether it takes a couple of days or several weeks. Go at their pace, however long it may be!

In the meantime, here are my top tips for integrating a new dog into your home:

– Keep the dogs separated in different rooms/areas when you’re not actively supervising, especially during the first few days.

– When they are together, put away any high-value toys, food, chews, or other resources they may compete over.

– After intros, walk the resident dog while the newbie explores the house nose-first, then switch – walk the new dog while the resident explores the house with the new dog’s scent in it.

– Feed meals separately, either in different rooms or with a gate/barrier between them to prevent conflict.

– Keep interactions brief at first, under 15 minutes, with dragline leashes on in case you need to intercede. Build up to longer sessions if all goes smoothly in the first week or so.

– Until you’re confident the dogs are simpatico, keep them separated when you’re away from home, at least for the first few weeks of cohabitation.

dog walk

But My Dogs Aren’t Getting Along! Help!

It’s not you, it’s them. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a dog intro doesn’t go quite as planned. If one or both of your dogs were too stressed or aroused to make it through the steps outlined above – don’t panic! 

This is where an expert’s guidance can make all the difference. Look for a certified canine behavior consultant in your area via the CCPDT or IAABC directories. They have advanced education in resolving dog-dog tensions and can help you troubleshoot this tricky situation using science-based, force-free methods.

A skilled behaviorist will also be able to assess whether the dogs are a good match, personality-wise. As much as we’d love for them to be, not all dogs are destined to be friends. Factors like size, age, play style, and energy level all come into play. A 5-month-old Lab puppy might not be the best fit for your arthritic 14-year-old Pug – and that’s okay!

Generally speaking, dogs are more likely to jive with a new family member if they’re similar in age, size, activity level, and play preferences. Of course, there are plenty of delightful odd couples in the dog world, too. At the end of the day, your certified behavior consultant will help you determine the safest, lowest-stress option for all the wagging tails involved.

Final Words

You now have a step-by-step guide to introducing your new dog to your resident dog(s). With patience and positive reinforcement, you’re well on your way to fostering a lasting bond between your canine companions. Remember, bumps in the road are normal. Stay committed, seek support if needed, and trust that your love and guidance will help your dogs become lifelong friends.

dogs puppies friends

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you have any additional tips for introducing dogs, please share them in the comments below. Your wisdom can help even more pups become best bud

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About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.