When Puppies Meet

My brother has a dog, my sister just adopted a dog, and my parents just adopted a puppy. I have two dogs. Safe to say, we rely on the wisdom gleaned from such websites as Stopthatdog.com to keep us abreast of the latest advice for dog owners on a variety of hot topics. Wouldn’t it be great if at the next family gathering, we could all bring our dogs? After all, what’s cuter than puppy playtime? But, while we might all talk on the phone and chat online, our dogs have never met before. When introducing new dogs to each other, here are a few things to keep in mind…

  1. Do NOT just throw the dogs together in the backyard and assume they’ll get along. In all likelihood, they won’t. If you pick one dog’s home and bring the other dogs to “his” backyard, expect some territory issues, especially as the new dog finds the resident dog’s favorite toys.
  2. Put the toys–and food–away, and any other objects (like a favorite pet bed) that might lead to possession issues if a new dog tries to check it out. Once the dogs are content to hang out in the same area, feel free to bring out a toy for everyone to play with–but you (the human) should stay in charge of the toy. Preventing one dog from controlling the toy is one way to prevent any nipping or fighting.
  3. Introduce the dogs on neutral territory. If you can get everyone together for a walk, that’s the best place to do it. Don’t force anyone to walk too close, just let the dogs hang out together without having to focus on the other dog. This step can be especially helpful for timid dogs who might overreact if forced to greet the other dog before they’re ready.
  4. Don’t force the dogs to be best friends, right away or at all. Some dogs want to play with the first dog they see, while some dogs are content to just laze away in the same backyard. Other dogs might not want to be anywhere near the other dog–and that’s okay. We don’t become friends with every person we meet, so why should our dogs?
  5. When you do let the dogs meet, carefully watch their body language to see if someone isn’t quite ready for the introduction. Expect some sniffing and maybe even some play bows–totally normal behavior and a good sign that the dogs are okay with each other. If you see any tensed up bodies, bared teeth, or prolonged staring, separate the dogs (carefully now that they’re on high alert) and give them some space separate from each other. Once they’ve calmed down, feel free to try again later. Try to stay calm and relaxed yourself–if you don’t see the meeting as a big deal, it’ll help your dog see that it’s no big deal either.
  6. Try to keep introductions to one dog at a time to keep the meetings as stress-free as possible for your dog. This isn’t always possible, at dog parks for example, but you know your dog best. Just try to keep him away from situations that will be extra stressful for him.

Hopefully the steps above have helped you help your dog make a new friend–congratulations! If the two dogs haven’t met for awhile, just remember to start slowly again if you think they need it. Hopefully you like the owner as much as your dog likes his new friend!

By Rachel Leisemann Immel