So you’ve decided that you have room in your heart and home for another dog! Bringing home a new dog can be an exciting time. You’ll be getting to know a new furry pal, and in no time at all, you’re going to be the best of friends.
There’s just one question—how do you make sure your dogs become the best of friends?
It’s tempting to just bring a new dog home and hope for the best. But both dogs deserve a more well-thought-out plan than that.
Your first dog is about to have a new pup invading their territory. That can be confusing and overwhelming. But with some careful planning and prep, you can make the introduction a smooth and seamless process for every dog (and human) involved.
Step 1: Prepare Your Home
Before you bring home a new dog, first make sure that each dog will have its own separate space in your home. This includes sleeping spaces, food and water bowls, and toys.
Make sure your first dog has access to anything that makes them feel secure, like their special toys or favorite blankets.
Step 2: Get Help
If you live alone, you’re going to have your hands full introducing your new puppy. Reach out and see if any of your friends or family members are willing to help you out. You need one person for each dog involved to keep the situation from turning negative.
Ideally, set up a place for the new dog to stay for a couple of days during a transition period. If that’s not possible, then at least make sure your house is properly prepped for separation.
Step 3: Find Neutral Ground
The last thing you want to do is bring a new dog right into your home. Your first dog will be in full territorial mode and your new dog will likely be nervous.
To avoid this unwanted power dynamic, have your dogs’ first meeting in a neutral location—a quiet park or a friend’s yard. Both dogs will be in a new environment, and both will have equal footing.
If you have more than one dog, try to keep these introduction meetings one on one. You’ll have to bring your dogs separately, but it will keep the tension low and avoid your dogs going into protective mode against the new dog.
Step 4: Keep Them Leashed
Keep your dogs on their leashes for the first meeting. Let them greet each other and get to know each other.
With any luck, they’ll take to each other right away and start playing! Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little bit more time though—just like when we meet new people, it sometimes takes time for them to warm up.
Step 5: Offer Plenty of Positive Reinforcement
Make sure that you have treats on hand to reward both dogs and create a positive experience. Both dogs need plenty of pets, scratches, and attention during this meeting.
You want them to feel like they’re meeting their new best friend and not come away with any negative feelings about the interaction.
Step 6: Head Off Any Fights
If your dogs start to fight, don’t panic. Calmly move the dogs away from each other without physically intervening, if possible.
Depending on the severity of the negative encounter, you can try again after the dogs calm down, or wait for another day. The goal is not to push either dog into an uncomfortable situation.
Step 7: Repeat as Necessary
If things are going well, you can move onto the next step. However, if the dogs still seem hesitant or nervous, it’s best to repeat the neutral interaction until they’re comfortable. This isn’t always possible, but it’s the best way to ensure a smooth transition.
Ideally, the dogs will have moved past the greeting phase, past any nervousness or excitement, and entered into a state of familiarity before you bring your new dog home.
Step 8: Meet at Home
Now that you’ve smoothed out the initial interaction, it’s time to take things to the next level—moving home.
Before letting the dogs interact in the house, take them for a walk around the neighborhood. This is a great way for them to bond and feel connected.
If the walk goes well, you’re ready for them to move inside. Keep them leashed and move them through the house together, letting your new dog explore and see the home.
Step 9: Remove the Leashes
It’s time for the big moment—unleashing your dogs in the home together! Let your dogs interact and move through the house, but stay with them! They’re not quite ready for unsupervised interaction.
Don’t leave the dogs unattended alone for at least two weeks, even if they’re getting along swimmingly. Tiffs and struggles are likely to happen, and you want both dogs to be safe first and foremost.
Step 10: Observe and Encourage
Over the next couple of weeks, make sure the dogs always have their separate spaces, especially any time they’re left alone.
If there is friction, pay attention to the cause. Examples might be certain toys or particular rooms or areas of the home.
Conflicts over food are extremely common. Start by feeding in separate rooms, then gradually move to separate areas of the same room. Once both dogs are used to eating near each other you can start feeding together.
Encourage both dogs, giving plenty of attention, love, and treats to each of them!
Before you know it, your home will be a peaceful haven for your new dog. It can sound like a lot of work, but it will all be worth it when you see your dogs snuggling up as the best of buds!