I grew up with six poodles – all different ages. Today, I have a three-year-old Chihuahua and a one-and-a-half-year-old toy Poodle. To put it simply, I’ve introduced a lot of dogs throughout my life! I’ve seen introductions go very well and I’ve also seen them go really bad. A lot of people ask me about introducing a new dog to their home and I always say first impressions matter. Check out these six steps to help make the transition easier for your current dog, your new pooch, and yourself!
1) Introduce On Neutral Territory
I’ve made the mistake of bringing a new dog into my home and starting the introduction process in my living room. BAD IDEA. My current dog became extremely territorial and felt like the new puppy was intruding on his space. This is a normal reaction for dogs. That’s why a proper introduction is done on neutral grounds.
For the first meeting, enlist the help of a friend or family member. You will team up with your current dog and your friend will team up with your new pooch. Meet at a place you don’t regularly walk your current dog, like a park, tennis court, or friend’s yard.
2) Introduce Slowly
The whole idea is to introduce the two dogs slowly — some will take longer than others. Start by leashing up both dogs (as long as the new puppy can walk on a leash) and going for a walk. You and your current dog should be a good distance away from your friend and your new pup. You want to be close enough to see each other, but far away enough so the dogs don’t feel tension. This will help the two acclimate to each other’s presence.
If the dogs are not showing any negative behaviors, praise them and give them a treat. Then, you can begin walking closer to each other. Allow the dogs to sniff each other and then keep walking. If all is going well, you can walk together (humans on the inside and dogs on the outside). Keep praising the dogs if they aren’t showing any negative behaviors. Eventually, let the dogs walk next to each other.
3) Drive Home In Separate Cars
Once the dogs are familiar with each other, it’s time to head home. Ideally, you will ride home with your current dog and your friend will drive separately with your new pooch.
4) Bring The Dogs Home
Once you return home, if you have a backyard, let the two dogs run around together with their leashes off. Watch them closely. If all goes well, it’s time to bring them inside. Let your first dog run around off leash, as normal. Some trainers recommend keeping the new dog on a leash as you walk around the house and let him get acclimated. *Since I always brought home young puppies that weren’t leash trained yet, I never kept them on a leash for this step.
5) Mealtime From Different Bowls
Remember your first dog has established habits and feels the home is his. Since food is something dogs get extremely territorial over, it’s best to feed their meals from two separate bowls. Keep enough distance between the bowls so that your first dog doesn’t feel threatened.
6) Separate Your Dogs While You’re Away
For the first week or two, keep your dogs separated whenever you leave your house. Even if the two seem to be getting along just fine, it’s best to monitor them closely as they are getting to know each other. I am completely against the “fight it out” method,” since it simply promotes a poor relationship, allows aggressive behavior, and could leave one dog seriously injured. If a fight breaks out, it’s important that you are there to step in and break it up.