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San Diego Humane Society

Introducing Dogs at Home

DecompressForSuccess.jpgIs Your Current Dog Ready?

Before bringing a second dog home, assess whether or not this will enrich your current dog’s life. Your dog may be a good candidate for having a roommate, if:

  • You have had your dog for longer than 3 months, and they are acclimated, comfortable and relaxed at home. 
  • Your dog has successfully shared space with (lived with) other dogs, in the past.
  • Your dog is generally social and friendly with other dogs (see this article on Dog Sociability).SelectiveDogSpectrum.png  DoesMyDogLoveOtherDogs.jpg
  • Your dog does not have any current behavior issues that may be exacerbated by a second dog, including: resource guarding, poor impulse control or fearful behavior.
  • Your dog does not guard resources (food, bones, treats, toys, beds, people, etc.) from other dogs by tensing, freezing, growling or snapping.
  • Your dog shows guarding behaviors, but to a degree that is preventable and easily managed.Ladder-of-Communication.jpg
  • For more things to consider, check out this article: Dog Parks: To Go or Not To Go.

Dog to Dog Introductions

  • Begin with both dogs leashed, with separate handlers in a “neutral” space such as a walk in the neighborhood.
  • Find a comfortable distance between both dogs (roughly 25-30 feet), where they can observe one another without becoming reactive and/or aren’t pulling together to greet.
  • Go for a walk! While still maintaining a distance, take turns letting one dog trail the other to gather information (smells from the scent glands between paw pads left on the ground or excrement). Check out this video on Parallel Walks for an example. 
  • When both dogs appear relaxed and comfortable or are occupying themselves by sniffing around, you may begin to close distance slowly, roughly 5 feet at a time.
  • Each time you close distance, wait for your dogs to “relax” again.
  • Once you are able to walk within 15 feet of each other, with both dogs appearing relaxed and comfortable, you may be ready to have them meet.
  • Allow the dogs to approach one another with handlers making an effort to move with the dogs in an “arc” or U-shape to avoid approaching directly or in a straight line.
  • Download a flyer with tips on dog to dog introductions here and for additional information and introduction exercises, watch this B&T Lecture: Introducing New Pets.

Body Languagefearfreespectrumoffearanxietystress_dog.pngDoggieLanguage_Lchin.jpg


  • Hard, focused eye contact with lip licking.
  • Growling and exposing teeth.
  • Body weight shifted forward with obvious muscle tension.


  • Hair raised on the back and shoulders.
  • Brief “freezing” paired with hard, focused eye contact and lip licking.
  • Hovering head over shoulders of other dog.


  • Soft, comfortable eye contact and an open mouth.
  • Wide and “loose” tails wags.
  • Looking away and breaking eye contact.
  • If your dogs appear tense, frustrated or become reactive with red or yellow signals, move apart quickly in opposing directions calling your dog in a cheerful voice and/or move behind a visual barrier (block your dog’s view). Calm your dog by having them do something else for a bit, such as smelling around in a new area or eating treats off the ground, and then start over.
  • If your dogs are greeting with green and yellow signals or are exchanging play gestures (bowing, mirroring each other, pausing with open mouths, pawing), move to a private, contained space where you can allow your dogs to engage in play with their leashes on (allow light nylon leashes to drag from their collars or harnesses, so each handler can easily grab a leash to separate the dogs if necessary).
  • If you are unsure of whether or not your dogs are both actively engaged in play, you can gently pick up the leashes, guiding the dogs apart in opposite directions. Drop the leash of the least active play participant, and wait to see if this dog approaches and engages the second dog again.
  • If the least active play participant does not approach and engage again, redirect the dogs and give them a break. Not engaging in play is often a signal that they are disinterested or uncomfortable engaging.

NOTE ON REACTIVE DOGS: If you have a dog that has a known history of reactivity on-leash, however greets appropriately and fairs well with other dogs off-leash, you should consider modifying your introduction. Good options for these dogs may include a quick leashed intro or an intro with both dogs dragging light leashes and tools to interrupt escalating play or disagreements (water from bottle, bowl or hose, spray citronella, or loud non-threatening noises like a clap or air horn).

Additional resources & training classes for Reactivity:

A FINAL NOTE: Remember to keep resources (food, bones, treats, toys, beds, people, etc.) separate for both dogs in your home for a minimum of a week. In general, it is good practice to always offer food items or items containing food in completely separate spaces as a preventative measure.

Behavior Helpline: Contact our Behavior Team

For behavior questions, please contact our Behavior Helpline either by calling 619-299-7012, ext. 2244, emailing or filling out our Ask a Trainer form. San Diego Humane Society adopters can fill out the Post Adoption Consultation form to schedule their troubleshooting session. We aim to respond within 7 days, but responses may take up to 2 weeks. Thank you for your patience!

Note: Due to the potential for serious injury, canine and feline aggression are best handled by a professional who specializes in aggressive behaviors. Because phone or email counseling is inadequate for addressing serious behavior concerns, we ask that you contact a qualified professional for help. Please refer to the list of behavior resources here.

Questions About Public Classes

San Diego Humane Society offers training classes and resources to address a variety of needs for companion animals.

Our training philosophy is based on the behavioral science concepts of positive reinforcement. Training your pet using these concepts will not only help them learn new behaviors more quickly, it will also strengthen the bond you share.

Please visit our website for a current schedule of training classes or call 619-279-5961. 

View Training Classes   Gift a Training Class


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