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Introducing dogs

One of the ways I help rescue dogs is to bring them to adoption events. Sometimes some of the more “challenging” dogs do not get out enough, and that makes them even less likely to be adopted because they are not out in front of people.

At adoption events, the dogs generally sell themselves as potential owners meet all the different dogs. Something about one dog will catch the attention of the right person, and I believe there is someone out there for every dog.

Last week I brought one of the rescue shepherd mixes to an adoption event. Sasha is one of my favorite dogs because of all the time I’ve spent with her over the last year through exercise and training. Still, last Thursday was the first time I brought Sasha to my home, introduced her to my mutt Ace and also took her to an adoption event.

Dogs need to socialize with other dogs

shepherd mixAny dog that has lived in a shelter or in boarding for an extensive period of time is going to have tons of pent-up energy, confusion, frustration and possibly poor socialization skills.

I have never seen Sasha or Ace show aggression, but I know there is some risk involved when introducing two dogs. This is why I made sure to set Sasha and Ace up for success.

Leash aggression

Dogs are more likely to act aggressive if they meet another dog head on. Owners typically cause even more tension by pulling back on the leash, causing the dog to lunge forward.

To avoid a head-on confrontation with Ace and Sasha, I asked my boyfriend for some help. The second I brought Sasha home, I walked her slowly down our road so Josh and Ace could catch up.

We then walked side by side so the dogs could smell each other without making eye contact. We even walked single file so the dogs could smell one another’s butts. Lovely, I know.

When the dogs were allowed to smell one another during our brief walk, neither felt threatened. There was no tension. Both had their tails and heads relaxed. They casually sniffed each other, like, “Oh, hi. How’s it going?” And that was that.

Dogs react to insecurity

Dogs will instinctively attack insecurity. Because of this, it’s important not to show any hesitation, tension or fear when introducing dogs.

I am always aware of my energy and how it’s affecting the dogs around me. I am also aware of Ace’s security levels.

Ace’s socialization skills and confidence have improved in the last year because I am always fostering and pet sitting dogs. I even use Ace to help build the socialization skills of clients or friends who own aggressive or shy dogs. Every positive interaction a dog can have with another dog is invaluable.

The only time Ace shows insecurity is when he wears his Gentle Leader. Because of this, I don’t introduce him to new dogs when he has it on. The risk of another dog attacking him is too high.

Although the Gentle Leader is beneficial for controlling Ace, it makes him instantly submissive and insecure. He tenses up, his tail goes between his legs and his head goes down. Prong collars or choke collars are better if you need extra control while introducing dogs.

Walking dogs together

The easiest way to socialize two dogs is to walk them together. After Ace and Sasha had been properly introduced, I took them for a walk. I did not allow them to walk in front. Instead, we traveled as a pack with me in the middle and one dog on each side.

This walk was especially important for Sasha. Not only did she get to walk side by side with another dog, but she got some well-needed exercise before the adoption event. It would be unfair to expect her to relax at an adoption event without walking her first.

Multiple dogs together

At gatherings like adoption events, there will be people and dogs of all kinds. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is be fully aware of my own actions and the actions of the dog I am handling. I can’t control everyone else, but I can control my own dog.

Sasha was very well behaved and got to sniff and interact with dozens of other dogs. I made sure to avoid head-on confrontations. I also kept Sasha away from any dogs that were pulling, lunging, barking or out of control in some other way.

When people look at situations from the dog’s point of view and set the dog up for success, the dog will have a much easier time building confidence and improving her socialization skills. In the case of a rescue dog, she will have a better chance of finding her new foster home or forever home!

For more information about Sasha or other rescue dogs I work with, make sure to visit my Fargo dog adoption page.


Saturday 29th of September 2012

We survived the adoption event! Our foster dog went right to sleep after coming back home and is still out. She did so good, all things considered, and she wasn't the "worst behaved" dog at all. The other doggies came there straight from the kennels so it wasn't easy for them.

She didn't get adopted but it was a good experience. The Gentle Leader helped a lot but the most important thing was your constant alertness. Makes you really exhausted. :-)

Thank you!

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 29th of September 2012

So good to hear!


Friday 28th of September 2012



Friday 28th of September 2012

Hi Lindsay,

thank you for the post!

We're planning to attend our first adoption event. We're fostering a dog aggressive German shepherd mix (over 60 pounds) and the shelter people adviced to keep her on her Gentle Leader and buy some calming spray at a pet store. Hope that helps to make it less stressful for our girl. And other dogs. She loves all people so maybe tomorrow somebody will fall in love with her.

Would you have any other suggestions?

Have a nice day!


Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 28th of September 2012

Just make sure to sit off to the side so she is not right next to other dogs. When she starts to stare or bark, just take her for a short one-minute walk or so to break up the tension. Put your body between her and the other dogs when you are sitting around. Also, if you can, sit or kneel on the floor with her rather than sit in a chair. I find I usually have more control if I'm sitting with the dog. I can block others easier that way and prevent head-on introductions.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 6th of March 2010

The dog pictured is Sasha, and we just say she's a German shepherd mix, but we don't know. She is larger than your dog, about 55 pounds. She may have some retriever in her because she is one of those dogs that can play ball for hours. So...I'm not much help! I just say German shepherd and lab. What is your best guess??


Friday 5th of March 2010

That dog pictured above looks EXACTLY like mine. I've had him for 7 years and still don't know what mix he is. Can you tell me? I'm guessing shepherd and something but i don't know what. He's about 38lbs and is identical to the dog pictured above.