Proper Dog-to-Dog Introductions: a Step-by-Step Guide

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dog to dog introductions, socializing dogs, dog training, puppy training

Socializing dogs, safely, is complicated.

If you do it wrong, you can end up with a dog that has fear and aggression issues whenever they see another dog.

If you do it right, you can control your dog’s positive experience!

Here is Our Step-By-Step Guide to Proper Dog-to-Dog Introductions:

1. Start Young

Proper socialization can come with an expiration date!

Puppies are blank slates learning to experience and assess their world.

If puppies don’t experience certain situations positively when they are young, they often tackle the same situation defensively when they are older.

No one wants a fearful or defensive dog!

So, it is critical to start training your puppy young, and ensure the situation is positive.

2. Find a Social Dog

Obviously, not all dogs are social.

Some dogs are actually dog aggressive.

For these dogs, it is best to avoid dog-to-dog contact socialization (meaning these dogs should be on a leash and under control at all times around other dogs).

To socialize your dog appropriately, find a dog that you know LOVES other dogs, and socializes calmly and appropriately (some dogs, although social, are very rambunctious with their play).

Then you can be assured that the other dog will be calm and well behaved.

3. Meet on Neutral Grounds

This adage is still valid. dog to dog introductions, socializing dogs, dog training, puppy training

Dogs are more likely to socialize happily on turf that they are not possessive over.

Not everyone (dogs included) want to share their space, their people, and all their things.

So, find a beautiful park or training center to introduce dogs.

4. Avoid Toys

Not all dogs like to share.

A perfectly social dog can lose his mind if someone goes to take a toy that he views as his.

Don’t add that kind of stress to the relationship until you know that everyone can and will share effectively.

5. Let the New Dog Approach the Social Dog

Start with the social dog being the “anchor.”

Bring him to the park or training facility first, because two dogs in motion are more exciting and are more likely to cause an adverse reaction.

Then let the other dog approach calmly, and obediently.

If you are socializing a puppy, you may carry the puppy 95% of the way to decrease pulling and overexcitement that can lead to naughty behavior.

6. Use Leashes!!!!!

I can’t tell you how many people talk about how their dog is only aggressive “on lead”. That is usually because the human component has created leash reactivity and aggression.

But, leashes are the only real way to have control and be able to separate quickly if there is a problem!

What is most important with leashed introductions, is that the leash stays slack.

DO NOT keep tight leashes on the dogs!

Once the dogs are showing success (happy low tail wags and no aggressive behavior) and getting along well, you may drop the leashes and let them drag.

Again, using leashes in the beginning helps to control dogs and keeps bad situations from escalating.

7. Insist on Manners

Although some dogs play rough (and of course with their teeth), and this can be appropriate if both dogs are playing this way, I require manners.

I don’t want one dog overwhelming or scaring the other.

8. Things I Don’t Allow

One dog chasing the other who is continually trying to get away or hide.

Hacklingdog to dog introductions, socializing dogs, dog training, puppy training

Snarling

Growling

Barking

Obviously, you must assess the situation, but in general, these are things I do not allow.

At best, they are rude behaviors!

At worst, one dog is traumatizing the other.

All dogs need some manners and understanding of the rules when it comes to playing.

And, dogs, like children, can get cranky and need breaks from play and sociability.

9. Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Not all dogs are social!

Not all dogs want to be social!

And, some dogs that were social when they were puppies can grow up and decide not to be social!

All of these things are OKAY!

Your dog’s willingness or desire to socialize has no bearing on you as an owner, provided that you are in control of your dog.

Neither of my dogs is overly social.

One of them will tolerate calm, social dogs.

The other just doesn’t like any dog and has been this way since he was about 12 weeks old.

HOWEVER

It is my job to make sure that I keep him from aggressing toward other dogs.

I keep him in control and teach my dog to focus on me when we are around other dogs.

I don’t expect him to “socialize” or play with other dogs, and I know he doesn’t like them, so I never put him in that situation.

If I did, he wouldn’t trust me!

But, I also don’t let him bark, or growl, or pull toward other dogs!

He has to learn to control himself and his emotions.

If you want a dog that is social, it is crucial that you approach introductions methodically and seriously!

There are 45 Comments

  1. Vicki says:

    How to stop my dog pulling when walking

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    Minette Reply:

    Use the search bar to search our free articles.

    [Reply]

  2. Sarah says:

    Regarding the advice under no. 5 that you may carry a puppy 95% of the way – please would you advise whether there is any reason one may not do this with an older dog that’s small enough to carry? And if it’s okay to carry them, if they start getting over-excited in your arms – does one turn and walk away till they’re calm again or just keep going (in a circling / indirect manner)?

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    Minette Reply:

    I’m not a fan of carrying unless I am worried another dog would eat my small dog. I want my dogs and puppies to be independent and not carried. What do Great Dane owners do?

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  3. Gina Kenitzer says:

    I use a gentle lead. It goes around his nose and then he can’t use his shoulders or girth to pull. He doesn’t like it because it stops him from pulling. So he stays by my legs trying to rub it off:) then I don’t have to use it every time because it reins him in and reminds him not to pull and to heel . You’d probably like it.

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  4. Kathy says:

    How do I stop my dog from every time he sees somebody on a bicycle from going ballistic.

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    Minette Reply:

    take our ultimate canine companion course and teach him focus

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  5. Mark Lustig says:

    I have a 7 yr old and now a 5 month old pup. I can’t get them together. The pup lunges and yelps at the dog, the dog then growls barks and snarls at the pup and runs away. They walk ok together on leash but in the house they are at each other. I need help

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    Minette Reply:

    Leashes in the house

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  6. Sully says:

    Thank you.As a canine trainer and behavioral consultant I applaud your advice on meet and greet.When owners just let their dogs go in dog parks and hope for the best, I cringe. I have seen too many unnecessary behaviors come of it. I wish they would put a little notice on the entrance that states, fearful and or aggressive dogs can get treated unfairly or get hurt by other dogs if not acting social…

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  7. Jaime says:

    We have a new puppy that at first seemed timid but has definitely become more confident. We have 2 older dogs(2 yrs older than the puppy. The boys have been great with him, vet patient. But he will nip at bite at their faces, legs and chest with no provocation. The one older dog will try to get away, but never retaliate. The other one will snap back at him but nothing overt. It seems to startle the puppy but not phase him. We have tried redirecting his attention but he just doesn’t seem to get it. Is there something else I can be doing?

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  8. Bob says:

    What is the best way to correct “resource guarding” I have a well socialized Rottie, but will snap at my wife if she tries to take a toy or treat away. Not giving her any treats or toys would solve the problem of course, but there has to be a better way.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    With aggression I recommend our ERT program or finding a veterinary behaviorist

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  9. I have a rescue puppy. She’s an Amstaff Pitt., one yr old.She has learned so many aggressive manners from my older 10 yr old mix Pitt.. They are like peas & carrots together, but if I have company they are both or independtly aggressive towards other dogs. Im an older, with some disabilities that don’t allow me to walk them, although they have access to a big back yard. Thank you.

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  10. Kelly says:

    This advice is fantastic!! I LOVE that you reminded all of us some dogs are just not social, they aren’t going to be social, we don’t need to force them to be social, and IT’S OKAY!! 😉 Thank you so much.

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  11. Paula says:

    My neighbors are complaining about my dogs barking too much. How do I stop them ?

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  12. Liz says:

    I have a six month old Chi/Russell mix that I rescued. One technique I use is to step on his leash. I leave just enough room for him to sit next to me when he exhibits unwanted manners or when he becomes overstimulated. I wait until he is calm before I take my foot off of the leash. It has worked for us, you might want to give it a try. Good Luck 🙂

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  13. Jules says:

    My boy is a gentle giant and has always been very social loves other dogs and humans but just before christmas last year he was on the lead and so was his friend, but she just went for him and he came and stood behind me then they both moved towards each other again and he sensed that she was giong to have another go at him so he had a little go at her showing that he was not scared I believe and then just came and stood behind me again. She has just taken a dislike to him on or off lead. He knows to keep his distance with her. The problem I now have is that when he’s on lead he sometimes has a go at other dogs. I try to calm him first by making him sit for the other dog to approach, I have found that by keeping him on a looser leash he has that space to move away and say hi slowly, but often he wants to pull to get to the other dog to say hi. I know he sences my tension as obviously I dont want him biting others. How do I sort this out please? I try my hardest not to show stress. He is much better off lead but I always ask the other owner if they are ok with that, if they’re not then he goes back on lead. I firmly believe that only another dog can tell a dog how they feel.

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  14. Abigail says:

    I just say no pull and when Willie stops I say” Goodboy. goodboy” he was badly abuse when he was an infant. Goodboy means I love him. I can get him to do most anything when I say Goodboy. Treats help. I give him Denta Sticks, or something healthy. I adore my Sillie

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  15. Hannelore says:

    I am so happy to hear, that even you as a trainer has a dog that is not social,but soo agree with still being well behaved around other dogs, my dog is ok with dogs he knew since he was a puppy, but does not like to be around other dogs, that said my do doe a lot of activities where he can perform by himself, while the next dog awaits his turn in a crate (agility, scentwork, treibball,and rally)

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  16. Mada Jones says:

    I have 2 brothers, pitbull terrier mix, 10 months old. Should I introduce them together, or one at a time? They are “getting” to know and respond to the click.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    separate

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  17. Dawne White says:

    I have same problem with my dog – bikes, skateboards and rollerblades are a problem too

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  18. Joan says:

    This is wonderful…for dogs and for parents of children. I love this example of not putting your beloved– dog or child–in a threatening situation. Accepting and appreciating them as they are. But also taking the time to teach ( and model) good enotional regulation and social effectiveness skills. And i love your insistence to keep them on a leash or in your arms. Children and dogs deserve safety and comfort. Thank you.

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  19. Anne says:

    Would love to see how to introduce adult dog to kittens

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    search our articles there are several in there

    [Reply]

  20. Ruth says:

    My dog chases cars. He recently was run over and has endured four surgeries with one more to go. Is it too late to stop him from chasing cars?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Find a veterinary behaviorist in your area

    [Reply]

  21. Cindy says:

    Great tips! We have 2 dogs, 1 who is very social & loves to meet other dogs. The other, not so much. While walking if we see someone with another dog, we cross the street and I make the reactive dog sit and stay calm while the person passes with their dog, our other dog sits there & cries because all he wants to do is say hi! With lots of patience he is slowly learning. And today was a good example of how he is learning.
    I was at the groomers and had someone who just wouldn’t hang on to her dog (who was young and very energetic) I told her my dog wasn’t very good with others coming face to face, and she was just “oh, my dog just loves other dogs”. Mine was a good boy, he got up, went behind me and laid down in the corner behind me. Fortunately, the groomer stepped in and took mine right to the back and said very pointedly that all dogs are not so social.
    Thanks again for the good lessons!

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  22. James says:

    All dogs are just like people with the same personality and the quirks…. I tell everyone I have met a dog that represents every person I ever met and I’ve met a person that represents every dog I ever met…. And between A and B there is A to Z on types and personality….

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  23. Kim Newis says:

    Had dogs all my life, now a 6 years old Dachshund, good in everything except when she sees another dog, it is embarrassing, l cannot interact with another dog owner.

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  24. Sharon Krug says:

    I have a rescuer Border Collie with abuse issues, that said, she is afraid of dogs that are bigger then her. Smaller dogs and even cats are GREAT, but she will AIR SNAP from where she is, to warn bigger dogs to stay away. It has taken her 9 mo. to not want to nip my GSD mix, but not my SAINT mix. She is jealous of the GSD mix who stays by me a lot, because she doesn’t trust the B. collie. around me. I think it’s working it’s way out, but is there any thing I could do to move this relationship along ?THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HELP WITH UNDERSTANDING DOGS THINKING,

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You can’t force relationships, dogs or human… but you can teach dogs control. My male and female still don’t like one another but at least they respect me well enough to listen when they are with me and together. Otherwise, I never leave them together.

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  25. Stacie says:

    My dog is 20lbs. With me and with big dogs like my neighbor’s pit bull for example she just loves but with dogs her own size she wants to attack. My guess is that with the little dogs they are fighting for the alpha position. It will be a year in July that I’ve had her and with me she couldn’t be more sweet and cuddly. But she did spend the 3 years before in foster homes and was abused by a man in at least one of these homes and still gets startled easily.
    What can I do to help her get along with dogs her own size? I’d like to take her to a dog park but I think they are often divided by dog sizes.

    [Reply]

  26. Lisa says:

    I have a 1 yr old rescue . He is a lab mix. He gets along fine with my other dog but shows aggression towards other dogs that walk by when we are out in the yard. Is it too late to try to socialize him with a socialized dog? He does have possession aggression also so I have to be very careful when giving him bully sticks or treats like that. He has to be on a leash then when the treat gets to be too small we are working on getting him to leave it .

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  27. Robin Jenks Vanderlip says:

    All your training Secrets a really good thank you.

    [Reply]

  28. Pam says:

    My 6 yr old German Shepard attempts to mount all other dogs. He is not fixed. We have decided not to breed him. If we get him snipped at this late date will that help the problem? Will he be depressed? He is nice otherwise, no growling or snipping.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    depression to a neutered dog is sheer anthropomorphism. Dogs don’t miss their testicles. I would definitely neuter him for behavior and for his health

    [Reply]

  29. Desperate says:

    7month Terrier/ dachshund mix..when my oup gets ahold of something she shouldn’t eat i put my hand to my pups mouth n say no ,spit it out,,she will viciously attack my hand almost rabid like..the noise n all teeth..then when I’m trying to remove my hand after her biting down n drawing blood , she will try to chew my hand up again..please how do I stop this..

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  30. Bill Green says:

    I have two large GSD’s who are 5 years old. when they were pups they went to training classes and did quite well. As they grew older they became aggressive towards other dogs. I have tried employing a specialist trainer who did manage to calm them down but the behaviour returned. When they see another dog and show the signs of reacting I make them lie down until the other dog has passed by . But these meeting can take you by surprise and then havoc breaks out. It’s hard enough trying to control and socialise one dog but two are proving very difficult. It’s as though one dog reacts and the other reacts in support. I’ve tried to identify if one dog is more prone to aggression than the other but both are the same. Any answers or advice please!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    By allowing them to watch the other dog pass you are creating some reactivity. I suggest our ERT program and teaching them a focused heel instead

    [Reply]

  31. Susan says:

    My old Jack Russell is an excited greeter and likes to rush in first for face to face. It is impossible to use a slack leash because I’m afraid he’ll cause a problem. Then of course the problems start

    [Reply]

  32. Aset says:

    What about humping?? I find it rude…. but my lil guy is a happy character. Always wants to say hi to other dogs and sniff them. But emphasis on “lil” I think he has a Napoleon complex. Nooot a big fan of other Male dogs that are bigger than him and especially unneutered. But everyone else he happily introduces himself and I soon find him trying to hump. He is a mess lol but what is your advice on this matter?

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  33. Helen West says:

    I have a 4 lb Chihuahua, he and my Chihuahua, Dachshund mix ,are my support animal’s. I HAVE FINAL GOTTEN THEM TO ACT PROPER IN PUBLIC PLACES,BUT NOW MY FRIEND’S LIKES THE LITTILE ONE TO ATTACK THEIR HANDS FOR FUN I TELL THEM STOP IT BUT ,I DON’T WANT THEM MAD AT ME BUT IT’S MAKE IT MORE PROBLEMS FOR ME TO GO TO THE STORE,MY DOG’S THINK IT’S OK TO LUNGE AT ANYONE I NEED THEM CAUSE MULTIPLE MENTAL PROBLEMS,BUT MOST THE TIME I HAVE TO LEAVE THEM AT HOME.IF I HAVE A ATTACK MY DOG’S LET ME KNOW BY LICKING MY HAND AND THEN I KNOW WHAT TO DO.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You need to put your friends in their place, if they are truly your friends, they will understand.

    [Reply]

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