How to Avoid Common Mistakes for New Dog Introductions from a Force-free Dog Trainer
Step 13 of 15 in the Dogly New Pet Channel
with Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals, Training Advocate

Bringing a new dog home and into your life is full of excitement - and often, expectations. Of course you want to introduce your new dog to your current resident dog (or dogs) and other dogs in your life... easy enough, right? Nope, new dog introductions are far from it!

Actually, the care needed for successful dog introductions not only applies to a new dog you're bringing home, it's important for all dogs any time they're meeting unfamiliar dogs without a previously established rapport between them.

How does meeting & greeting feel from your dog's perspective?

It's always a good idea to try to think like your dog in any situation, and meeting dogs is no exception. We all know how hard it can be as humans when we're put on the spot to meet new people and become friends in a matter of seconds. If you're an extrovert and super outgoing it might be easy. It's similar for dogs, but for most dogs, much more layered with the natural emotions that come with being a dog and even more so for dogs who are sometimes fearful or anxious in unfamiliar situations.

Dogs love predictability, and one of our biggest jobs as dog parents is to make sure our dogs feel safe and secure - to always help them process the world around them with as much predictability and confidence as possible. For dogs who have anxiety, stress or underlying medical conditions like arthritis, meeting new dogs can be really scary and full of trepidation!

Shy, fearful or anxious dogs might not be able to make eye contact or want to approach other dogs. Forcing a dog-to-dog interaction or thinking that taking a dog to the dog park will "socialize" him or her is really the opposite of socialization for many dogs. Instead of getting them comfortable, it can make them highly uncomfortable.

Okay, but tell me more...

Forcing a meet and greet, especially in a place like a dog park, can result in what a dog trainer or animal behaviorist might call "flooding" or overwhelming your dog with emotionally triggering stimulus which can push your dog into emotional and physical stress and shutdown.

Yet for some crazy reason, we humans have the unrealistic expectation that introducing a new dog is a great idea and dogs should be fast friends with every dog they meet. Not all dogs enjoy other dogs. They can be very selective about who their friends are, and that's ok!


But how do you handle it when introducing a new dog is a necessary part of life?

Maybe you're bringing a new dog into your family when a current dog is already a family member or you're moving into someone's home for a short period of time, or even going vacationing/camping with families who have dogs. Or you're fostering dogs and bringing new dogs into your home on a continual basis.

All these situations and more are why we as dog parents need to learn how to navigate new dog introductions and set our dogs up for success in the initial introduction period between dogs.

7 dog introduction mistakes to avoid with your new dog:

  1. Meeting face to face on a leash
  2. Not paying attention to their behavior & body language
  3. Letting a dog sniff a dog who is in a crate
  4. Dropping off a dog for a visit in another dog's back yard or home
  5. Having loads of dog toys, bones, or food bowls all over the home or yard
  6. Introducing dogs in a dog park
  7. Having children involved

All of these are to be avoided and are things to be keenly aware of even if other dog parents think they're great scenarios for a dog-to-dog introduction between their dog and yours.

Why these aren't a good idea & what to do instead

Why meet in a calm, neutral place instead of one dog's home or yard?

When dogs don't meet at neutral calm areas outside the home, resident dogs can feel threatened or that their prized possessions are threatened. Face-to-face meetings like having dogs meet head-on, directly walking toward each other on a leash, is also a threat in dog body language.

That's because dogs greet each other by doing a series of behaviors like moving in arcs, giving calming signals, sniffing, and then gauging the other dog's body language to decide if they want to interact or not. Which is why many street dogs are exceptional at dog body language and typically tend to only fight over resources - knowing social skills is a survival technique for them!


Why not go to the dog park?

Not every dog likes every dog nor should they be forced to interact with other dogs. No matter whether your dog is a puppy or an adult dog, large or small, dog parks can be exceptionally bullying, stressful, and scary places for dogs. They're also unnatural places that don't simulate real life, and tend to decrease social skills rather than build them. Dog parks are what to avoid if you want your dog to be friends with another dog.

Never bring your dog to a dog park until your pup is confident, has had lots of positive introductions with other dogs, and has an absolutely solid recall. Even then, you only know your dog, and unless the dog park is always full of regulars, you have no idea of the other dog parents' and dogs' attitudes, personalities, and training/communication skills. Keep a watchful eye and be ready to whisk your dog away in a flash if your pup's safety or confidence is at all threatened.

Why not meet through a crate?

When one dog is isolated/confined in a small space, the direct head-on approach of another dog is seen in dog body language as seriously threatening. I would never recommend having one dog in a crate and allowing another dog to approach/sniff the crate/interact. This is highly threatening, your dog will bark, growl, and lunge at the crate door in an attempt to protect him/herself since there's no ability to get away/escape.

Try this instead of a crate-meet

Always use a covered baby gate instead so your dog has room to walk away and then they can choose to sniff each other in their own time and their own way without feeling threatened.


How to watch & respect each dog's behavior

When dogs are meeting each other, it is fun to sit down, relax and let them play. If you're visiting with friends or watching your dog run in an enclosed space, make sure you watch his/her behavior.

If your dog is feeling scared and trying to hide behind things or people, take your dog away quickly so he/she doesn't go into learned helplessness. If your dog is bullying/badgering other dogs and not respecting dog social skills also take your dog away as this will lead to a dog fight.

What's often behind dog fights

Whenever I hear of dog fights it is typically over resources (like toys or high-value treats) or when a dog has not had a proper dog-to-dog introduction and was just dropped into another dog's backyard or home. Your resident dog will want to protect his/her home and resources and will feel threatened by the new dog(s).

Other common triggers? When two dogs are forced to interact by their people and are scared, stressed, or simply don't want to interact. Or in a face-to-face meeting, the leash has created tension which causes them stress, quickly leading to striking out and a fight.

Recommended Products

Next up in the New Pet Channel on Dogly

Knowing what not to do when introducing dogs is incredibly important as it will reduce dog fights, help resolve issues between two dogs in a home, and create long-term positive associations for dogs who will live together or even just know each other as play and walk friends.

Next up is a guide on one of the best ways to introduce dogs or re-introduce them after any kind of difficulty. Jump into the step-by-step guide on parallel walks here.

If you have any questions about helping your new dog and resident dog meet, just ask in the community discussion in the New Pet Channel.

Or if you ever need more personalized dog training guidance, please reach out!

Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ruby because she brings her rescue experiences to our dogs - to increase our bond, decrease behavior issues.

Ruby guides you

New Dogs - Manners - Enrichment - Reactivity - Barking - Walking

Ruby is certified

Low Stress Handling - Fear Free Veterinary Professional - Fear Free Shelters - Shelter Welfare - Enrichment - & Canine Behaviour