How to introduce dogs

How to introduce dogs.

In this post, Lindsay shares her tips on how to introduce dogs. Then, at the end of the article, Barbara shares her experience introducing a large dog to a small dog.

Lindsay here! A few months ago I took a dog to an adoption event. The dog I handled was an American pit bull terrier named Jesse. I was careful when introducing him to new dogs, because we weren’t sure how he would do.

Jesse is pictured below and was adopted. He was a very good boy at the adoption event and did not cause any problems.

Still, I was amazed by how careless some people were when introducing their pets to Jesse and the other rescue dogs. So many owners did not keep their dogs under control. A barking, lunging lab strangling itself on a buckle collar is going to cause problems even if he’s “friendly.”

There were a couple instances where owners would allow their extremely hyper and out of control dogs to pull right up to Jesse head on.

Jesse the pitbull - how to introduce dogs

Since I was paying close attention and predicting these situations, I was always able to redirect Jesse so he wouldn’t try to match the other dog’s energy. That’s when a situation can easily escalate into aggression from either or both dogs.

Humans meet face to face with eye contact and a handshake. Naturally, this is how we tend to introduce dogs to one another.

When friendly, socialized dogs are introduced face to face, they usually manage to be OK. They are not necessarily comfortable, but they deal with it.

Problems occur when one dog is too excited or has any issues with leash aggression. That’s when head-on greetings can lead to problems. (My weim Remy greets dogs with way too much excitement. This often brings out aggression as other dogs tell him to “knock it off.”)

Luckily most dogs will be OK no matter how bad the humans screw up the greeting process. But here are some tips for introducing two dogs when one or both could have some issues with aggression or fear.

Tips for safely introducing two dogs – How to introduce dogs

How to introduce your dog to other dogs

1. Exercise both dogs separately before they meet.

It depends on the dog, but a good 45-minute walk is ideal for most. Dogs with any kind of aggression issues should be walked for an hour or more before meeting another dog. The same goes with shelter or rescue dogs that have been kenneled for days or weeks.

I ran with Jesse before the adoption event, and another volunteer had walked him earlier in the morning so he was good and tired before meeting other dogs. The less energy the dog has when it meets another dog, the better. Even though my mutt Ace is low-energy, I almost always take him for a walk before he meets a new dog so he doesn’t bring extra excitement to the situation. (Update: Sweet Ace has passed away.)

2. Walk the dogs together.

This is sometimes impossible to do if neither dog has had enough exercise. That’s why exercising the dogs separately first is a must. Then you can walk the dogs together as a group.

Do this before you allow the dogs to smell one another. Keep one dog on each side of you or walk side by side with the other person. Don’t allow the dogs to cross in front or behind you. After a short walk, then you can allow some casual sniffing but keep moving forward.

3. Let the dogs smell one another.

After a short walk (5 to 20 minutes) with no issues, stop and let the dogs smell one another if they have a history of doing well with other dogs. Don’t worry so much about the embarrassing behaviors dogs do like butt sniffing. It’s usually best to let the dogs do their thing.

mutt-and-springer-spaniel - how to introduce dogs

4. Learn to read dog body language.

I often watched Ace’s tail when we were out on walks. Normally when he was in a relaxed, working mode, his tail would also be relaxed and low. But when he saw another dog, his tail went up. This didn’t signal aggression, but it signaled he was in an alert mode.

More “submissive” (I’m careful to use that term) or insecure dogs will have their tails lower or tucked between their legs, often wagging frantically. Dogs about to show aggression might have their tail stiff and straight out.

After meeting another dog, Ace would also shake his whole body as though he’d just gotten out of a lake. This showed he was ready to move on, as though he was saying, “What’s next?” It’s kind of like letting out a sigh of relief after I meet a new person. The tension is gone and we can move on.

The most obvious sign of a playful, friendly dog is when he does a “play bow.”

Another common behavior is for the dog to just walk away and smell the grass or focus on something else. After Ace met another dog, he usually proceeded to walk away and pretend to sniff something. This “lack of interest” showed the other dog he was not a threat.

As for signs of aggression, watch for stiff body posture, fixated eyes, curled lips and raised hair, although these don’t necessarily always mean “aggression” on their own. Raised hackles can simply be excitement, for example.

5. Use appropriate training collars.

Having control over the situation is very important. A lunging, pulling, panting lab on a buckle collar will be hard for anyone to control. Sometimes a choke collar helps, but only if it’s used properly and stays high on the dog’s neck. A martingale training collar is another option.

Most dogs are easier to handle on a Gentle Leader or pinch collar, which is what I usually use for a new dog. A dog Gentle Leader or Halti often has a calming effect on a dog for some reason. Ace sometimes wears his Gentle Leader in new situations for this reason.

6. Avoid small spaces.

Dogs are more likely to snap if they feel trapped and have nowhere to run. This is why simply being on a leash brings out more aggression in some dogs. You also want to prevent one dog from cornering the other. If the dogs meet in an open area like a park, this shouldn’t be an issue.

7. Remain calm.

Don’t use an excited voice. In fact, don’t talk to the dogs at all. Talking gets them excited, and you want to have two calm dogs. At the same time, don’t allow too much tension in the leash. It will just make the dog resist you and pull away. It can also make the dog feel tense and more likely to lash out.

8. Introduce the dogs on neutral territory.

Dogs are territorial and can be possessive. It’s a bad idea to introduce them in a home or yard where one lives. Instead, introduce them in a park or parking lot where neither dog will find it necessarily to guard or protect “his” territory.

How not to introduce two dogs:

1. Don’t allow one dog to cower near you.

If one dog is insecure and using you as a guard or shield, keep moving. This is not cute behavior, it’s insecurity or possessiveness. You don’t want a fight to end up beneath or near you because you could be nipped.

2. Don’t allow dogs to guard you.

Often, one dog is possessive over the owner and the owner doesn’t even know it. I foster dogs and used to offer pet sitting. Almost every time I had a new dog in the house, it tried to place itself between Ace and I. When you are introducing dogs, keep moving and be aware of signs of possessiveness over you!

3. Don’t use an excited voice.

You want to calm the dogs, not rile them up.

4. Don’t create tension in the leash.

Dogs pick up on our posture and body language more than we realize. Tension in the leash or in your body posture will only make the dogs feel tense. Be relaxed so they will also be relaxed.

5. Don’t overreact.

Thankfully, if an unfortunate fight does happen, it will usually look and sound worse than it is. Usually the dogs will move on right away, especially if the people don’t over react. If things aren’t going well, try walking the dogs parallel some more or re-grouping on another day.

6. Don’t let the dogs approach head on.

When I had Jesse at the adoption event, I made sure not to allow other dogs to approach Jesse head on. I always redirected Jesse’s attention to me instead or we just moved away.

7. Put away all food and toys.

Don’t have anything available that could cause possessiveness or a fight. I’ve seen Ace act possessive over a water bowl!

Avoid fights by putting anything away that could cause a dog to be possessive such as a tennis ball, raw hide or even a dog bed.

How to introduce a small dog to a big dog

That Mutt’s writer Barbara recently introduced her friend’s newly adopted dog to her own dogs. She’s going to share her tips and how it went!

Hi, Barbara here! The picture below shows the ultimate outcome of slowly introducing Pekingese mix Lila, Feist mix Wally, and Lab mix Bart. They were very excited around one another the day they all met, but now they’re able to calmly walk together.

This was not the case at the very beginning, and it took about three days to get to this stage. Let me talk to you about how we got everyone on the same page!

Day 1: How Lila, Wally, and Bart met for the very first time

In preparation of meeting Bart, Lila and Wally went for a walk with me, then we hopped in the car and went to my friend’s neighborhood. Before we arrived, he had taken his new dog Bart for a walk and played with him.

Once we got there, I leashed Lila and Wally and slowly started walking away from my friend’s house. He then came out with Bart on his leash and slowly started following us. Wally and Bart both wore their head collars but no backpacks.

So far, so good, but only about two minutes into the walk both Wally and Bart started acting up since hey had noticed one another! As a result, Bart began to pull on his leash and Wally kept looking back in Bart’s direction, started to wine and bark, and decided it was time to start jumping into the air! It’s his thing whenever he gets super excited.

I was able to quickly correct him by shortening my leash and telling him NO once in a firm voice.

Of course that’s when Lila decided to take a poop in someone’s front yard. My friend and I both took a deep breath and he turned back around with Bart and began walking him in circles. He did that so that Bart would stop pulling and focus on his handler rather than the other dogs and human ahead of him.

Long story short, we walked for another 30 minutes and Wally and Bart began calming down, to the point where we were able to all walk next to each other in one line. However, Lila and Bart could not walk next to each other quite yet because Bart was overly interested in pawing her!

Our initial walk was followed by supervised backyard time

After this initial walk, we proceeded to go into my friend’s backyard and let the pups run around off leash.

Wally and Bart sniffed each other politely and did some play bows and raced around together. Lila however wasn’t comfortable because Bart was overly excited around her and kept pawing at her, so we took her inside my friend’s house. We ended up letting Wally and Bart play for about 30 minutes, then Wally, Lila, and I were headed back home to my place.

Day 2: More walking followed by supervised playtime. Enter the spray bottle.

We all met up again the next day, this time at my place. We went for another 45 minute pack walk that went ok, but Bart was still very easily excitable and tried to jump onto Lila while we were walking.

The pups had more playtime in my yard after our walk, and this time I brought out a spray bottle filled with water and apple cider vinegar so that Lila could stay outside with us as well.

Since Bart was pretty annoying around her, I gave him a good spray every time he came too close to her, and that ended up working. What I didn’t want to do was pick her up and carry her around. That would have increased his excitement and made him likely to jump onto me and her, hence the spray bottle approach.

After this play session, we decided to bring everyone inside. I kept the spray bottle nearby to correct Bart whenever he wanted to pounce on Lila. This happened a few more times. I’m not entirely sure why, but it probably had to do with their different energy levels.

Lila is a distinguished little pup who’s 8 years Bart’s senior, and Bart is an overly exuberant young dog who just got out of the shelter. Maybe her small size also activated his prey drive.

Day 3: Bart gets a job. Enter the backpack.

My friend, Bart and I met up again the following day and took a little drive to a pet store in Cary, NC. I had the feeling that Bart needed a backpack to help him calm down and redirect his excess energy into the job of carrying weight.

It’s what I did with Wally the day I adopted him and it has worked out beautifully. Bart tried the empty backpack on inside the store and we walked him around in there through all the different aisles. Let me tell you that the backpack made a huge difference in his excitable demeanor, even though it was still empty!

That day we ended up going for several walks and Wally and Bart both wore their respective backpacks.

The job of carrying weight drastically reduced Bart’s desire to want to pounce onto little Miss Lila, and we were able to go for structured, calm walks. I still don’t trust him 100% off-leash around Lila, so for now the spray bottle remains close by whenever all three pups hang out.

Crates and/or baby gates

We had a few sleepovers at my place in December when my friend watched the pups for me when I had to work. Both Wally and Bart were crated separately in my room so there wouldn’t be any jealousy or conflict over who gets which spot on the human bed.

The pups got bully sticks while they were crated and did phenomenally well in their crates at night. When their crates weren’t being used during the day, the doors stayed shut to avoid any potential drama involving one pup walking into the other’s crate.

Lila also got some downtime in my roommate’s bedroom when Wally and Bart were loose inside the house (always supervised). We put a baby gate in the doorframe so that the door wouldn’t need to be closed. We didn’t want her to feel left out after all. Bart came up to the baby gate multiple times but always respected it and didn’t try to jump it.

Feeding time in separate areas

We created an “invisible triangle” of sorts at feeding time.

Wally and Lila are used to eating at opposite sides of the kitchen, and Bart ended up eating his meals in the living room.

As soon as everyone was done with their food, all bowls were picked up to avoid any possible fighting over (perceived) leftovers. If you’re having difficulty creating a calm environment at meal time, you could also feed your pups in their crates or use baby gates to create separate spaces.

Recap of all the tools we used :

  • Backpacks for Wally and Bart. I swear by backpacks for higher energy dogs and/or those who are still working on polite leash manners. Backpacks make them less prone to acting up because they give them a job to do by carrying physical weight and focusing on the pack they’re carrying.
  • Halti head collars for Wally and Bart. Head collars give the handlers a lot of control over their dogs. They’re able to gently redirect their attention away from distractions and keep the dogs’ focus on the handler.
  • 6 foot, non-retractable leather leashes for every dog. Leather leashes are sturdy yet gentle on our hands, which make them one of my favorite dog walking accessories. Retractable leashes are a no-go for me on walks because they offer little control and can seriously hurt yourself and your dog when you get tangled up in them. That being said, I do use them for recall training purposes.
  • Spray bottle filled with water/apple cider vinegar mix for a quick, effective correction.
  • Crates at night and/or baby gates during the day. Essentially for as long as you don’t trust the dogs together and whenever you can’t actively supervise. That Mutt’s sponsor, Carlson Pet Products, has a variety of crates and gates.

What tips do you have for introducing dogs?

Let us know in the comments!

Related posts:

How to introduce my dog to a puppy

59 thoughts on “How to introduce dogs”

  1. Katherine F.

    This is a topic I wish more dog owners were aware of. We have an 11 month old pit mix who seems to have some issues meeting other dogs. She isn’t interested in the butt sniffing unless encouraged to do so and will just try to jump in the other dogs’ faces. We try to always circle her around so that it isn’t a head-on approach. We are still working with her on it but are constantly frustrated by other dog owners who just let their dogs approach her head-on with no warning to us. She usually freaks out at that point and we remove her from the situation. sigh.

  2. Lindsay Stordahl

    Ugh. Dog owners can be so clueless. At least you are aware of the right way to handle the situation. Hopefully others can learn from you. Good luck with your pitbull mix!

  3. Great info – I have a colleague with a dog that she is trying to teach socialization. She warns other humans that her dog isn’t necessarily friendly but they still insist on bringing their dogs close to hers. Of course, they are always surprised when her dog snaps. Doh!

  4. When we got Chamois, the generic dog, Misty pouted for most of the day. Then she just decided that Chamois was HER pet and took over as alpha dog. Chamois was her slave from then on.

  5. Lindsay Stordahl

    I’ve noticed Ace’s socialization skills improve over the last year from being around more dogs. He used to be really shy and would drool and tuck his tail between his legs. Now he will actually encourage other dogs to play, which is good to see.

    Jan, I know what you mean about the pouting. Ace does the same thing. But then it’s usually the other dog who takes over.

    1. As a full time pet sitter I have found that by placing my dogs in my bedroom (with door closed) my incoming doggy guest is not intimidated and neither is the doggy mom or dad. It also gives the “guest” to sniff around their temporary dwelling and become comfortable with me as well. I wait until the parent leaves and continue to interact on a 1:1 with them. A nd actually, when it’s time to introduce my dogs to them, I do so on a leash, reminding my doggy kids that I’m their alpha….corina I enjoyed reading this article and gleamed more doggy training advice. Thank you

  6. We are working on this ALL THE TIME with Biggie. The problem is that as a guarding breed, he goes on high alert the most when we are nervous, which makes him get even more protective, which makes us even more nervous. Also, because there are SO many people and dogs (and weird people with weird dogs), it is often hard to control the dog-dog interactions.

    Biggie does great on lead with any dog he has met at least once off lead. If they haven’t met before, it is a much touchier situation. Your suggestion about walking the dogs together is a great idea – we do this with a cane corso in the neighborhood who dominated Biggie when he was still an intact (70 lb) pup. Now that they are about the same size, Biggie won’t put up with it and Truman is afraid to charge him, so in the dog run they look at each other and snarl and bark but neither one is willing to make the first move. But when we walk them on leash together, they are fine!

  7. Here in Africa, the dogs are all lose, so when you encounter another dog, you’re the only human. It took me some time before I realized that I have to be very clear on the stance that the pack is going to take, as my dogs follow me, and never the other way around (for years, I couldn’t quite understand why my dogs let themselves be bullied by other dogs, but that was simply out of respect for me). When a lose dog comes charging my way, I will tell my dogs come back to base (me) and then I will tell the other dog to go back home. Knowing it’s on the street and not on home turf, it always obeys. In the bush, Sheba keeps very close to us (riders) and is totally uninterested in socializing with other dogs even if they are friendly, but that’s her job. On home turf (our garden and the street to the office), she’s confident and playful, winning over most dogs with time. There is one aggressive dog that has sneak-attacked both of my dogs, and so whenever I see him, I just order him back to his gate. He knows I’m not afraid of him, and I don’t care how much he growls and snarls while he makes his retreat, as long as he does it. I don’t mind if my dogs are next to me when I order him back, as they know they’re not allowed to charge unless I say so. But in one way, it’s easier to deal with dogs without other human intervention to keep in mind than one’s own. We humans have a very powerful impact on our dogs, and I know many dog owners who are totally oblivious to the signals they are sending out. Dogs involuntarily feed on our state of mind, whether it be passivity, frustration or uncertainty. An army can never be more strategic than its leader, so assuming responsibility for one’s dog starts with asking oneself, what kind of signals am I sending out? Being calm is the way to go.

  8. Lindsay Stordahl

    Biggie, my dog is obviously not a guarding breed, but he will still bark when we are sitting at a park and people walk by. He never barks or even really acknowledges people or dogs when we are on a walk, but if we stop to read or eat lunch or something and someone passes, I can’t get Ace to stop barking. I tell him “no” and make him lie down and he continues to growl and do those quiet “woofs.” What’s the best thing to do? Redirect him with food? I guess I will start carrying treats in my pockets again.

    Great advice Esther! I’ve been out walking dogs and have had loose dogs charge me. It makes a big difference if the charging dogs knows I’m in control of the situation or not. If I’m nervous or insecure, the dog knows. When I’m confident and tell the dog, “No!” and step forward towards it, it always retreats or stops. The biggest factor is having respect from the dog I am walking because the other dog will read that.

  9. I have this hound mix that will not meet any other dog but head on and then she has to smell their behind which I am okay with she’s fine and the other dogs are also. The other day when I was walking my dog she met this lab that did not want my dog to smell (lab) behind and the lab coward near the owner and so we moved on. Then we passed the lab again and I did not want the dogs to meet again so I had my dog leash tight to pass but the owner wanted the lab and my dog to meet again. My dog lunged and snapped at the lab. Was my dog trying to show dominance over the lab because she has not done that before? She did not bite but the lab coward even more to the point that she was behind her owner. Now I feel bad but I knew that she did not like the fact that the lab did not let my dog smell her behind. So was this my fault and should I not let her meet any more dogs? Or was this my dog’s behavior to the situation? What should I do the next time?

  10. Lindsay Stordahl

    Dogs will often act out negatively around insecure dogs because an insecure dog gives them more power. That lab was clearly insecure and hiding behind its owner. Your dog was also likely responding to your tension in the leash, which was telling her she had a reason to be tense and “on guard.” She was the one in control at that moment, not you. You should try to encourage your dog not to approach other dogs head on, but from the side, and make sure you are relaxed and in control. I would keep introducing her to more dogs to reinforce the proper way to approach them. It sounds like she’s usually OK, so hopefully this was a one time incident.

  11. Thank you! Today I tried the way you said and it went by great. But we did not meet any dogs that was insecure, but I will keep introducing her to other dogs because she acts better at home when she meet at least one other dog.

  12. Lindsay Stordahl

    I’m glad it went well yesterday! The more dogs you meet successfully, the better it will go.

  13. I agree with the comment that people do not know how to intro dogs. I always here from people, “Oh he’s/she’s friendly.” It really upsets me that dispite years of training and positive reinforcement, my border collie does not like dogs running up to her. Their dog may not be agressive, but mine is. She also has a right to be walked. So those who may think they can control thier dog off leash, they cannot from 50 yards, I promise.

  14. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yeah people can be so clueless. Just because their dog is friendly does not mean it should be running up to random dogs. Even a normally friendly dog can get defensive when a hyper lab comes bounding up out of nowhere. Most people can’t control their dogs from two feet away, let alone 50 yards.

  15. i have been incare of my pit mix marley…she is really a charming girl but she has not had much socialization with other dogd…we live in a neighor hood that dogs are not leashed…marly was happily playing the other dogs in neighborhood..she seemed so happy…there was another dog in the pack that started aggresion with a small femaLE dog and marley startedto join in…i was devested..spelling not right…she was fine until the other dog started to pick on the smaller dog…is this a clue to me to just keep my marly on leash as all dogs are supposed to be…theis other agressive dog alwAYS PICKS ON THIS LITLE DOG…WHEY DID MARLEY FOLLOW HIS LEAD..UP UNTIL THAT TIME MARLEY WAS PLAYING WITH THE LITTLE DOG……

  16. Lindsay Stordahl

    Dogs will often gang up on weaker dogs. If this little dog is at all insecure or very submissive, then it would not surprise me that this other dog began acting aggressive towards the small dog, even if it started out as rough playing. Your dog simply joined in. It’s easy for playing to escalate to aggression, especially with a group of dogs that do not have good social skills.

    If the little dog was the one acting aggressive first, the other dogs were matcing that energy.

    The best thing you can do to improve your dog’s social skills is to let her interact with as many dogs as possible. But, make sure it is in a safe, supervised manner. It sounds like your neighborhood is a bit of a free for all, and I would be very careful about letting your dog play so freely. Since she is part pitbull, people will already be judging her. Try arranging smaller groups of dogs to play with your dog or have her meet, walk with or play with one dog at a time.

    1. Question, i have two dogs
      they got into a huge fight where a tooth was lost and stitches were needed. They had faught befor but we would never seperate them. this time we did so they could heal plus we moved a day after an it was just easiyest (now i regret this)
      and we are wondering how to introduce them again.
      i got bit in the process of them fighting last time. and am a little nervious but love both my dogs an want to work with them.
      one is 6years old low energu

    2. Question, i have two dogs
      they got into a huge fight where a tooth was lost and stitches were needed. They had faught befor but we would never seperate them. this time we did so they could heal plus we moved a day after an it was just easiyest (now i regret this)
      and we are wondering how to introduce them again.
      i got bit in the process of them fighting last time. and am a little nervious but love both my dogs an want to work with them.
      One is 6years old rotti mix low energy
      Other is a pittbull mix high energy who is 2years old.

  17. Hi there,
    Love hearing all these stories. Here’s mine. I have 2 7 month puppies. They are brother and sister, and I live in Saudi Arabia. I brought them from Canada, and unfortunately, although I had done lots of reading before, obviously not enough. They were with their litter mates until 12 weeks old, and so probably fairly socialized, but once we got them, over a period of 2 weeks, they were only together, and fairly coddled by my two children. When we arrived back in Saudi, I was busy trying to house train etc. and now when we go for walks, (all dogs are leashed here)they really flip out when they see or hear another dog. They will bark at people, but not for long, or be aggressive. I have taken them to training classes, but even there, it takes almost 45 minutes to calm them down to try any training techniques. I diligently walk them every morning for at least 30 minutes, but what I find is again, other owners who do not understand that meeting head on is not ok. Even when walked, they will still completely go beserk over another sighting of a dog. Yesterday both of them separately met another dog in the neighborhood. This other dog was SO gentle in its approach to each of my dogs I was amazed. My male, after barking up a storm, eventually turned his back on the other dog. My female also barked a lot, and tried to lunge, but eventually lay on her back and did the total submissive mode. I know this is not necessarily a good thing, but I kind of feel like I would rather they did that than be aggressive. The problem was that the owner was totally dominated by her dog. And really didnt seem to even get that she should hold it back at all. It was like she couldnt hold onto the leash. Anyway, it all turned out ok, and I would like for them all to meet again, but certainly not with both of my pups at the same time! ANY SUGGESTIONS WOULD BE APPRECIATED! Hard to socialize them without wondering if the dogs I know about through friends are actually stable and able to handle mine.

  18. Lindsay Stordahl

    The fact that your dogs eventually show submission to other dogs tells me that the barking they do initially is out of insecurity. Your dogs are not naturally dominant or aggressive, they just need to learn to meet other dogs. Unfortunately a lot of people allow their dogs to run up to other dogs head on. I would seek out people who seem to have calm dogs and ask if your dogs can meet them (probably not together, as you said). Keep up the work with the training classes, because its good for them to learn to be obedient around other dogs. Below are two posts I’ve written. One is about leash aggression, and one is about socializing dogs. You may find a few tips that will help you.

  19. Hi, I have a 13month old full blooded pitt. I just got him this past week he has never been around other dogs or people he was kept in an 8 by 8 pin until I agreed to adopt him. My mother is terrified of pitts and I’m not sure how to start introducing them. Can you give me a few pointers since I have only had him for a few days .

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Is your dog friendly around new people? If he is, then just keep him from jumping on her. Have him on a leash the whole time and distract him with toys or treats. She will see how sweet he is and come around.

  20. Not sure why you would use a prong on a dog to introduce it to another dog. I should think that if a dog gets corrected, accidentally or otherwise, at the moment the other dog begins greeting behavior, that the dog could assume the pain was caused by the approaching dog. That certainly isn’t what I’d want my dog to learn.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I have recommended just about every tool for one dog or another. Gentle Leaders can be great. Haltis can work well, and so can prong collars.

  21. Hi Lindsay,
    I have a 7yr old staffordshire bull terrier (I have had her for two years) who hated all other dogs but will now tolerate them as long as they are respectful to her. She still has her moments but she knows I wont tolerate her being aggressive. Sometimes I muzzle her in high density dog areas just to be on the safe side as she can sometimes find it a bit overwhelming, the muzzle calms her instantly and she just wont bother trying to make contact. Here in the UK staffies have a very bad rep so sometimes it’s easier to do that than get an earful from the cockerpoo brigade!
    I would love some advice if possible as we are going to be fostering a male staffie in a couple of weeks for an untold amount of time (if he fits in he will most likely stay) He is not neutered and is described as ‘unpredictable’ with other dogs. His current owner now doesnt let him off lead and avoids contact with other dogs. He lives with another staffie, an elderly male, with no problems. We walked (paralell on leash) on Sunday and the dogs dutifully ignored eachother which is good, until we got back to the house and the children came out – then ensued a row over attention as My dog was getting cuddles from His family… She is equally to blame as she has a bit of a ‘little princess’ attitude sometimes.
    We are due to walk again this evening (we have a two week ‘transition’ period before the family move to NZ) and I would really appreciate any tips and advice, I think the trouble will start when he officially moves into to our house but we have fostered previously and used crates with both dogs (and hundreds of hours of leash walks!) to intergrate the new dog and let our dog understand that this is whats going to happen!
    I wonder if having him neutered (which I will do straight away) will have any affect? He is 6yrs old and I think half his problem is his ‘learnt’ behaviour from his owners who have kept him away from other dogs because he might react to them.
    Many thanks.

  22. I have a 9 year old Staffy x Dalmation (Cobain) who lives with my parents, and my house mate has a 2 year old Staffy X Kelpie (Hex) who is much smaller than Cobain because Cobain has taken the dalmation size. I wanted to introduce them to each other because Hex gets very bored while we are at work and she doesn’t like other dogs that much, this way she would have a play mate. We introduced Cobain and Hex through a fence that they could see each other through, initially and both were off lead as Hex doesn’t like harnesses or leads much. They were aggressively barking at each other but we were able to calm Cobain down to a point where she would sit and take treats off mum . Once I put Hex on a lead she stopped barking but was running up and down the fence excitedly but still in an aggressive way, so there was improvement.

    What suggestions would you have for future meetings as we really want them to be able to get along and play? It would also be great for if my house mate and I have to move but can’t find a place right away that we can keep her there. My parents have a dog run in their yard for when Cobain had an operation and couldn’t run around too much, so even if we could get them to calmly be one one each side of that, that would be fantastic as they can see each other but can’t get to each other.

    1. I’d like to add that they are a while away from being trusted to meet, Hex’s excited behaviour was still aggressive. Hex has met with a smaller dog before and there was no problems, but that dog seems to be the only dog she likes and Cobain I don’t see as a dog who would attack unless attacked. Cobain was also aggressive initially but was able to be settled.

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      Take them on a long walk side by side. Don’t let them sniff head on. Just walk forward. Let one sniff the other from behind and after walking a bit with no issues, perhaps let them sniff in the face for just a second or so. Take things slowly. Walking together is your best be, though.

  23. I have a Black lab/border collie mix. I’ve had him since he was 5 months, he is now 6 yrs old. He’s only ever been around 1 other dog. That was when i lived with my dad. I am now trying o introduce him to my boyfriends dog, which is a blue heeler mix, he’s 3. The problem is my dog seems soo aggressive. We tried a meeting once, but they got in a fight. Do i try again? My boyfriends dog is fine, he wants to play. But mine just tries to stay away and shows his teeth. When we try to encourage sniffing and saying hi, my collie just gets upset. At a loss, bcuz we eventually want to move in together. But we want the pups to get along first. Is it too late, since my dogs almost 7?

  24. I have a 8mo old female German Shepherd/Pit mix who is EXTERELY hyper. Whenever she meets another dog even in a calm state most dogs do not seem to like her, she is constantly picked on. She seems to have no concept of personal space. However she is not aggressive at all.
    We just got a new 10wk old pure bred German Shepherd puppy. He is definately the more dominate one of the 2. We tried introducing the 2 of them slowly but generally one of 2 things happens 1. With her being hyper active she seems to push the bounderies with him with regard to personal space. She likes to invade his space. OR 2. He tries to exert his dominance by mounting her which she does not like. She retaliates by moving quickly and not allowing him to get behind him she also swings her head towards him but doesnt bite. He on the other hand once this takes place will attempt to latch on to some part of her. We could really use some good advice for getting the 2 to get along.

  25. We have a beautiful pitbull female who is 8 months old. At home, she is the dominant dog (we have a male staffie too). When we are out and meet other people with dogs, she runs up to them and flops down in front of the other dog/s in a submissive but excited state. This normally results in the other dogs growling and snapping at her – she got bit in the face yesterday. How can I teach her the correct way to introduce herself to other dogs? I think she may have been bullied by the other pups when she was a lot younger??? Please help if you can. Thanks,Helen

    1. Sounds like she might be greeting them with too much excited energy. You could definitely try increasing her exercise. Introduce her to lots of calm, easygoing dogs who will help her learn to be calm. Also consider obedience classes where she will get to be around other dogs in a structured way so she learns some self control while walking near others.

  26. I have two 6 year old small spoiled dogs. Both nuerted and get along for the most part. The Yorkie is toy and food aggressive and has started becoming territorial of sleeping areas. I have just acquired a 9 week old toy female poodle and my life has been hell. I worry about the puppy’s safety as the other two act as if she is an animal of prey. They have to be kept separated at all times. I have kept the puppy crated unless I am present with her. Please help. I about to give up and find a home for her and I already love her but I don’t want her traumatized.

  27. I have a 9 year old Jindo mix and my brother in law has a 2 year old boxer that he suddenly needs a temporary 1-2 month home for. My Jindo mix is roughly 50 lbs and the boxer is 85 lbs. The problem is that my Jindo has a history of aggression with other dogs. Looking back over the years I think I have determined that she is aggressive mostly with other females and dogs larger than her. When I first adopted her she was a year old and had been returned twice. She had a lot of energy and I started taking her to a dog park. She would mount a lot of the dogs, mostly the bigger dogs but she did go after a couple of dogs at the park which made me stop going. I then decided to take her to the petstore training classes thinking she needed socialization. The trainer decided there was no problem of aggression after walking her by the other dogs and there being no reaction. Once they were all loose my dog attacked a lab and she was then banned from the petstore. She also slipped out of her collar once when I was walking her and without warning sprinted after a collie and attacked it outright. I kept her away from dogs after that but then later when she was about 7 years old I introduced her to a friends Irish Setter (about the same size as her). It was a submissive male and she never attacked him and showed almost no interest in him, even keeping them in the same room.

    The boxer isn’t aggressive and while I want to say he is submissive (my husband and brother in law think he is) he is too high energy for me to really tell. I’m worried that since she was never socialized she will mistake his playing as aggression. When we introduce them I’m thinking that my husband needs to be the one to hold her leash since I’m worried she can sense my anxiety and that may put her on edge. Is there anything we should look for from her as a sign that she is not ok with the boxer?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Definitely walk them together first, side by side without direct eye contact. That will give them a chance to get used to each other and they will be able to smell one another at that point without getting too close.

      If the boxer is really high energy, your dog might snap at him to get him to stop. Try not to let him jump all over her and get too excited, as that might be overwhelming.

      If she is licking her lips a lot, panting heavily or avoiding eye contact, she may be stressed, so keep the intro really slow and calm if that is the case. If she is very forward with a high tail, raised hackles and staring eyes, you will also want to take things slowly. Try to defuse any tension by whistling or clicking to get them to look away from each other and at you instead. Try to avoid tense leashes and leash corrections, too, as that often triggers a reaction.

      Basically try to keep the entire atmosphere as calm and relaxed as possible! Easier said than done, right? If there is an initial squabble, it may defuse instantly and then they might be fine. Don’t get too worried if things aren’t perfect right away.

      Bet of luck!

      1. Thank you!!! We did The meeting tonight and walked them. We wanted to give my jindo more time (she was very tense even after 30 min) but the boxer’s owner was impatient and brought him in too soon. She snapped and tore part of his ear off 🙁 After she did that though he didn’t fight back and they have been fine and even playing for these few hours. Definitely not leaving them unsupervised ever but the first part is over. Thanks for your help! Your site is really great 🙂

        1. Thanks for letting me know how it went! Sorry to hear about that initial snap, ut glad to hear things are going better now.

  28. I have a two year old pit lab mix shes our lil luvbug but hasnt had socialization with othet dogs and is reactive she whines barks fur up on her back but I dont think its super aggressive ive never let her get close enuff to another dog to find out though we are rescueing a 10wk male pitbull puppy and would like to know the best way to introduce them

    1. She might be just fine with a puppy since he will not be threatening to her (as far as dominance). At the same time, though, it’s best to introduce them slowly just to be sure she is OK with him. I would keep both dogs on leashes and prevent them from charging right up to each other’s faces. Try to encourage calm behavior from each dog.

      If your dog gets very tense, don’t react by pulling back on the leash. Instead, try getting her attention focused away from the pup by whistling or holding up a treat. Praise her for looking away. Don’t let any playful behavior get too “exciting” quite yet. No rough housing or play wrestling. Keep them calm when they are together until you know they are OK.

  29. Hi, I have an 8 month old dalmatian, who I would dearly love to stud at least once, but I have a problem…. He keeps trying to hump certain dogs, which is not good, some owners get quite mad, does anybody have any tips to stop him doing this. Many thanks

  30. I have an Alaskan Husky and my friend has a Pitbull x Shepard and they are both dominant females, when they first met they were fine, sniffing butts and what not, but each one would try and be dominant over the other (head over the shoulder, trying to ‘hump’) they got into a scuffle, with both dogs getting a little nipped on the legs, they were sort of ok after that, but still kept trying to be dominant over each other and i have a fear of my dog or my friends dog getting injured, my dog is fine with other dogs because she is playful and enjoys to run, she asserts her dominance and then plays. but with the pit they dont seem to be able to just play, each want to assert dominance and they end up fighting. im not sure what i can do, ive tried to find what to do online but i couldn’t and you seem to really know whats going on.. help please, this is a close friend of mine and i would love to have our dogs running and swimming together.. im just afraid that one will get hurt.. (my dog is not spayed, she is 2 years old and the pit mix is a year old)

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It’s hard to say without actually observing the dogs, and you may want to consider hiring a trainer in your area.

      One thing I would suggest is to keep them on leashes for now and do lots of walking together, side by side as a group. This puts them both in a follower position, assuming you and your friend are the leaders. It will help them do something fun together, without worrying about dominance.

      Then, back at home, keep them on leashes and work on having them sit quietly or lie down quietly next to you while you watch TV or do whatever. And then after all goes well for a few days or weeks doing both these things, try allowing them to play briefly in the yard but only after a long walk first. I think these things might ease some of the tension and help them find more of a “pack” state of mind.

      And also, make sure both dogs have a high level of obedience. Make sure they can lie down and stay on command for up to a half-hour. Make sure they know “heel” and “come.” All of these things build a stronger relationship with the human as the leader. You also want to make sure both dogs are well exercised.

  31. Hi Lindsay.
    I have a 2 and a half year old American Pitbull Terrier who likes to lunge and whine at other dogs when he’s on a leash. The part hat causes problems is that in my neighborhood where we walk several dogs are allowed to roam off leash and not fenced by their owners. Other than timeing our wals and runs to when I think they won’t be out we are stuck inside. I’d also like to be able to take him in walks with my friend’s standard poodle but I’m not sure how to have them meet. He does well with other dogs off leash at the vet’s playcare as long as they don’t get snarky with him first. I’m not sure how to introduce him to new dogs and walk him with other dogs around (other dogs on and off leash). We have trainer but we’re working on our door agression with people other than immediate family.
    Thanks in advance of any advice.

  32. Hi,

    I have a 2 year old chocolate labrador who loves to play. Whenever he sees other dogs on a walk, he gets very excited and pulls like mad. All he wants to do is say hello, but when he actually meets the dog, he starts getting on top of them and…. Is this normal? He is fixed, but it gets old after a while, and we want him to play and interact in OTHER ways. Should I discourage it, or let them sort themselves out?
    Thanks for the advice

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would discourage it usually because the other dog (or the dog’s owner anyway) won’t appreciate it. Instead of jerking on the leash (which can just add tension to the situation) try getting your dog’s attention by distracting him before he makes contact with the other dog. Or use your body to gently body block him by stepping between the two dogs and pushing your dog back a bit.

  33. Thank you for this information. A relative has a usually friendly and lovable black lab/pit mix he’s large, 4, and energetic, which doesn’t work too well given that the owner is not the most energetic and when it comes to training they are uneducated, too lax, and when it’s needed it’s nonexistent.

    We tried to take the dog to the beach but upon spotting a dog in the distance he was too aggressive for us to stay. And the control collar choked him too much causing his mouth to foam as he refused to stop tugging. I fear the idea of us using it improperly, I fear the idea even more of someone else in the family continuing to use it improperly enough to cause damage with the misguided idea that it’s training him. Personally I dislike the idea of a choke collar on him to reign in his natural energy when he hasn’t really been trained in the first place.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You could try a no-pull harness or a Gentle Leader/Halti-type collar. However, I have a feeling he would just paw at anything over his mouth. The no-pull harness could work though.

  34. Thank you so much for posting this article! It was by far the most helpful one I was able to find. We’re introducing our current dog to a new dog we’re trying to adopt tomorrow and I really feel a lot more at ease that I’m going into it more prepared!! I had so much anxiety because I know he has a little humping issue when he first meets new dogs…Glad to know this is not “weird” or “abnormal”…We will take all of your advice and I’m sure it will go well!!!

  35. I recently adopted a pomeranian from a local shelter. He’s a really great dog and listens very well! If we’re on walks I can call him and have him sit and listen to me and he catches onto what I want very fast. When we first brought him in, walks were terrible because any kind of dog at any distance sparked a reaction in him. Behind fences, across the street, in front of us, anywhere that there was a dog he’d growl and bark and lunge at them. One time he got off leash and chased a dog through the park nipping at it’s heels and even biting off bits of fur, I’m glad the other dog wasn’t aggressive but it was a really terrifying experience seeing him bolt after a large dog. Over the past two months I’ve been putting him on his back when he growls or barks at other dogs and so far this has had amazing results, it calms him down and I can quickly let him up and correct the behaviour. Dogs behind fences don’t matter to him at all now and he can easily walk by them even if they are lunging and growling at him with no problems. He’s been able to get somewhat close to them without reacting but I still have to keep a close eye. Sometimes if theyre barking at him he freezes up and can’t move unless I gently call him and lead him away. Dogs across the street and in the park that are far enough away he won’t react to either, he’ll easily leave looking at them if I call his name. However meeting dogs and crossing them on the same side of the sidewalk is still an issue. He’s been unable to walk by a dog on the sidewalk without growling and too often people let their small dogs wander about offleash and I’m afraid he’d hurt them or get in a fight with a large dog and be really hurt. I’m wondering if you have any advice as to how to help him? My friend has a very well socialized lab I’m hoping to introduce to him in November and we’re thinking of using this article to help do that, I just want to keep training him correctly so it doesn’t end up a mess!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m glad you have made some progress. I would suggest walks with calm dogs like your friend’s dog. Walk them side by side with some distance at first so there is no pressure to interact. It sounds like your dog may be fearful of other dogs, correct?

      I like the book Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell. She writes about listing out your dog’s “triggers” and then working at the point just before your dog will react, using treats. So, if your dog reacts to dogs from 10 feet away but is good with dogs at 15 feet away, you would want to practice being around dogs at 12 feet. Use treats to distract her and reward good, calm behavior. I realize it’s hard to find “real life” scenarios where you can practice this, but maybe your friend’s dog will be helpful.

      Here are a couple links to some similar posts you may want to check out:

  36. I have a question I have a 6 month old pit. That has latched on to two dogs ears and won’t let go. How do we break him of this behavior? He is fine with our other two dogs but doesn’t not like my brother in laws dogs.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Is this a “playful” behavior or an aggressive behavior? It sounds aggressive to me, but I don’t know the details. Have you tried taking the dogs on a long walk together and letting them sniff and interact a bit during and after the walk? After that, if all seems to be going OK, you could have the dogs together in the house or yard but on leashes. Maybe avoid the off-leash play/excitement and encourage calm behavior like lying on dog beds with leashes on.

  37. I wish I saw this post when I first got my rescue Shepherd! We went to the pet smart training (did not work for my dog and I at all! We found another place that I feel comfortable with now.) and I already knew my dog had some sort of leash aggression or had a hard time meeting dogs on a leash. But with the point that you mad with not meeting other dogs head on was EXACTLY how all the dogs at the pet smart tried to meet my dog. The trainer there was not helpful and basically said to let them meet nose to nose and it was my negative energy causing my dog to lunge, bark, growl and pull up how hackels. Now I know that I should have NEVER put my dog in that situation in the first place. I’ve learned a lot since moving to another training facility and the biggest trigger for my dog is meeting nose to nose on a leash. He is now CGC certified and is working towards his urban CGC. I really wanted to emphasize your point to not meeting nose to nose, even if the other dog is great with it. Don’t make assumptions! Thanks for this post!

  38. I found this to be an excellent article. My only criticism would be the use of choke or pinch collars as they can do damage to the dog even if you supposedly know how to “use them properly”

  39. Yes, walking the dogs together is a very good idea. I would choose a “neutral” area, not ones home where one dog may get territorial. Both dogs should be walked in a “Structured” fashion, which means each dog is totally controlled by a separate handler, structured means no sniffing, marking, lunging,barking, walking at heel. Use training collars if the dogs don’t walk well on lead. This shows both dogs that the humans are in charge of the pack, and are making the decisions. The dogs should look to the handlers for information. Stay calm. I like a 45 minute walk total, after a few minutes if the dogs are calm try walking past each other, then back together in the same direction. Dogs do NOT need to meet each other face to face. Packs of dogs both domestic and wild move together, it bonds them as a group.

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