Ask the Trainer | Meet and greet before choosing new dog
March 25, 2014
We have a 2-year-old adopted female mix named Zoey and are planning to rescue another dog soon. Zoey is good with other dogs, but she sometimes gets snarky when friends bring their dogs over to our house. What is the best way to introduce her to a new dog?
Kim and Dave
Dear Kim and Dave,
A carefully planned introduction is very important. I recommend taking Zoey to the shelter and let her meet potential candidates before making a final decision. The personalities of each dog must be taken into consideration. It is not uncommon for two female dogs to have trouble living together. It is much safer to focus on adopting a male dog.
It is always best to introduce dogs in neutral territory. Ask the shelter to help you introduce the dogs in a parking lot or open space. Begin with both dogs on leash several feet away from each other. Try to keep the leashes loose and really watch each dog's behavior. Ideally, they are interested and alert without excessive arousal.
Good signs are tails wagging at half mast, wiggly bodies, soft ears and mouth, and play signals such as bows. Bad signs are direct, hard stares, squinty eyes, stiff bodies, lunging or growling, and aggressive barking. If you see good signs, move on to parallel walking. If you see any warning signs when you start the long distance approach, proceed slowly. Interrupt any long, hard stares with some good treats.
Walk the dogs around and gradually close the distance until you can walk them parallel to each other.
Movement while in each other's presence can help diffuse tension. When parallel walking, start with the humans positioned on the inside and the dogs on the outside. You should be 10-15 feet apart starting out. Walk back and forth in this configuration until both dogs seem relaxed.
Next, move one dog to the inside and continue walking, but maintain some distance. If they still seem calm, move the other dog to the inside and keep walking. Slowly start to close the distance between the dogs and if they seem interested in meeting, let them sniff. Keep the leashes as loose a possible. Once the dogs have met, stand and casually chat, allowing the dogs to calmly be in each other's space.
When you bring the new dog home, have both dogs outside and then bring them into the house together. This will minimize the risk of Zoey being territorial. Take up toys or other objects that could create competition in advance. Also, feed the dogs in separate places to avoid food guarding problems.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.