Introducing Dogs at Home
Is 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:
- Your dog has successfully shared space with (lived with) other dogs, in the past.
- Your dog is generally social and friendly with other dogs.
- You have had your dog for longer than 4-6 weeks, and he is acclimated, comfortable and relaxed at home.
- 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.
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).
- 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 here
Observe your dog’s body language while approaching for red, yellow and green signals.
- 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, 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.
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 (a hose, citronella or air horn).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Our website includes a current schedule of training classes or call 619-299-7012, ext. 2398.
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