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Are you Getting Another Dog? A Step-by-Step Guide to Successful and Stress-Free Introductions

Getting a Second Dog. Puppy Sleeping on Sofa with Resident Dog.

Are you looking to get a second dog?

Introducing a new dog to your existing dog can be stressful, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, please know you are not alone.

The good news is that you can do many things to help the two coexist peacefully.

In this blog post, you’ll find my step-by-step guide on how to introduce a new dog to your existing dog at home, covering topics such as scent swaps, meeting in neutral environments, taking things slow, managing spaces with the use of baby gates and pens, and creating time for separate walks, separate feedings, and separate training.

Why Introducing a New Dog to Your Home Requires Preparation

Bringing a new dog home can be a wonderful and joyous experience. However, it’s important to understand that introducing a new dog to your existing dog can be a process that requires patience and careful planning. Introducing your dogs properly can help prevent negative outcomes such as aggression, anxiety, or general discomfort.

Here are some key reasons why it’s essential to prepare when bringing a new dog into your home:

1. It helps the dogs adjust. When dogs are introduced too quickly or without preparation, it can lead to them feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable in their new environment. Taking the time to introduce your dogs properly can help them adjust to their new surroundings, hopefully leading to a happier and healthier household.

2. Reduces the risk of fighting. It’s natural for dogs to need time to adjust when they meet a new dog. Introducing them too quickly can increase the risk of aggression and fights. Introducing them slowly and going at their pace can reduce the risk of these adverse outcomes.

3. Promotes healthy bonds. Giving both dogs the time and the opportunity to get used to each other’s presence can help them build healthy relationships and bonds with each other. This is important not just for their overall happiness but also for the health of the household as a whole.

Overall, taking the time to introduce your dogs to each other properly is an important step in ensuring their happiness and well-being. With patience and careful planning, introducing a new dog to your existing household can be a positive and fulfilling experience.

Scent Swaps to Familiarise Dogs with Each Other

Dogs use scent to communicate with one another and to understand their surroundings. When you introduce a new dog to your home, their unfamiliar scent can create anxiety and confusion for your existing dog. That’s why scent swapping can be helpful.

Take a cloth and rub it on your new dog’s coat, then take it and place it in an area where your existing dog can easily sniff it. Similarly, do the same with your existing dog’s scent and place it near your new dog.

This will help them familiarise themselves with each other’s scent before the introduction, as you can do that even before taking your new dog home.

Meeting in Neutral Environments for a First Introduction

When you introduce your dogs to one another for the first time, it’s important that you do that in a neutral environment, if possible, such as a field or a quiet park.

Introducing them in a neutral location will make both dogs feel less territorial and more relaxed.

When introducing the dogs, keep them on a lead or long line, and allow them to sniff each other at a distance. Watch their body language and be prepared to increase distance if needed.

Signs of discomfort can include muscle tension, growling, barking, and raised hackles – just to name a few. If you see these signs, it’s time to remove your dogs from each other and give them space and time to decompress.

After the initial introduction, you can gradually increase the length of their meetings. This can be done by walking them together or letting them interact with each other in a calm and relaxed way in a quiet area. Always supervise their interactions and be prepared to intervene if necessary.

Remember, each dog will have their own personality and may react differently. One dog may be more cautious, while the other may be more excitable. It’s important to pay attention to their behaviour and adjust your plan accordingly.

By introducing them in a neutral environment and taking things slow, you are setting a foundation for a positive relationship between your dogs. This initial introduction will also make it easier to introduce them to each other in your home.

Taking Things Slow to Avoid Overwhelming Either Dog

Introducing a new dog to your existing dog can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking experience. While it’s natural to want both dogs to bond right away, taking things slow is important to avoid overwhelming either dog.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that both dogs have their own personalities and comfort levels. They may need time to adjust to each other’s presence and learn to coexist peacefully. Rushing the introduction process may cause anxiety and stress for both dogs (and yourself!).

If either dog shows signs of anxiety or discomfort, it’s important to give them space and time to adjust. This may mean separating them temporarily and gradually reintroducing them at a later time.

The same applies if you notice that one dog is becoming a bit too much for the other dog. Remember that you don’t want to let them sort things out by themselves, but rather, you want to guide them both with kindness and compassion and teach them what’s appropriate and acceptable from the get-go.

Taking things slow also means not forcing the dogs to spend all their time together. They may need time to get used to each other’s presence and build trust gradually. Be prepared to give them separate sleeping areas and activities for the first few days and weeks until they’re comfortable being around each other.

Ultimately, the key to a successful introduction is patience and understanding. Dogs are individuals and may need more time to adjust than others. Taking things slow and giving each dog the space and time they need can help them feel comfortable and build a lasting bond.

Two dogs with their owners on the bed.

Using Baby Gates and Pens to Separate Dogs When Needed

Don’t underestimate how helpful managing your own environment can be!

Baby gates and pens can provide a barrier between the dogs whilst allowing them to see and smell each other. This allows for safe and supervised interactions until both dogs are more comfortable and relaxed around each other. Furthermore, baby gates and pens can help you keep your furniture, shoes, and other belongings safe from destruction as your new dog acclimates to their new environment.

As the dogs become more familiar with each other, you can gradually remove the barriers. However, I advise keeping separation up when it comes to feeding or offering resources such as toys and chews, especially at the beginning, as this will allow you to keep an eye on their behaviour and prevent any conflict over resources.

Ensuring that the baby gates and pens are sturdy and cannot be knocked over easily is crucial. You can also put them in different rooms for a while to allow each dog to have their own space before gradually reintroducing them to each other.

Making Time for Separate Walks, Training and Activities

While spending time together is important for building bonds between your new and existing dog, creating opportunities for each dog to bond individually with you is equally crucial. Taking your dogs on separate walks is a great way to give each dog your undivided attention, helping them build trust and confidence in you.

During these separate walks, you can work on things such as lead walking, recall, and focus training. I recommend using positive reinforcement training and rewarding desirable behaviours with something your dog loves, such as food or toys. And remember to be patient and consistent with your training!

As your dogs become more comfortable with each other, you can gradually start taking them on walks together.

Keep in mind that each dog has their own personality, and they may have different needs and preferences for the length and type of walks they enjoy.

Make sure to consider each dog’s needs when planning your walks. Some dogs might prefer long walks with plenty of stimulation, while others might prefer shorter, more relaxed walks.

In addition to separate walks, you can also spend one-on-one time with each dog in other ways. Play games, offer individual training sessions, or just spend time cuddling and bonding – as long as they enjoy what you offer!

By making time for separate walks and individual attention, you’re laying the foundations for a harmonious relationship between your new and existing dog. Remember to take things slow, be patient, and always prioritise your dogs’ comfort and safety. With time and effort, your dogs will hopefully form a strong bond and enjoy a happy, healthy life together.

Feeding Separately to Prevent Conflict Over Food

It’s important to feed your dogs separately to prevent conflict over food and the development of resource guarding, especially at the beginning, as they are still getting familiarised with each other.

If you offer your dogs treats or chews, give each dog their treat or chew in their separate areas to prevent conflict.

Remember, feeding time is important for bonding and training as well, so take advantage of this time to build a stronger relationship with each dog.

Separate feedings might seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it in the long run to have happy and well-fed dogs.

Training Each Dog Separately and Gradually Combining Training Sessions

While you might be eager to jump right into training both of your dogs together (I know the feeling!), it’s important to take it slow and start with individual training sessions for each dog.

This will allow you to assess each dog’s behaviour, strengths, and weaknesses and work with them accordingly.

It’s also important to note that each dog might have different levels of training or different learning styles, so tailoring your training sessions to each individual dog can help you see better results in the long run and make the session nicer and more fun for all involved.

Once both dogs are comfortable and successful with their individual training sessions, it’s time to start gradually combining them.

Start by having both dogs in the same room (if safe and appropriate!) but at a distance from each other, and focus on cues that don’t involve direct interaction between the two dogs.

As both dogs progress in their training even further, you can start working on exercises requiring more interaction, such as walking on lead together.

Remember always to reward desirable behaviour and avoid punishment or aversive techniques, as this can create problems down the line and weaken your bond with your dog.

By taking the time to train each dog separately and gradually combining training sessions, you can help set your dogs up for success in the long term.

In Conclusion

Introducing a new dog to your existing dog can be a challenging process. However, with patience, preparation, and following the steps outlined in this guide, you can help ensure the introduction goes as smoothly as possible.

Remember, every dog is different, and there might be setbacks along the way. But, by taking things slow, managing their interactions, and offering each dog plenty of individual attention, you can help them build a strong bond.

If you encounter any issues during the introduction process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can book your free 15-minute consultation here.

Adding another dog to your home can be a wonderful experience with a little patience and effort. Sharing our lives with multiple dogs can be challenging, but it can also be extremely fulfilling.

Dog trainer with her dog

This blog has been brought to you by Giulia, the owner of My Kinda Dog.

Giulia is a qualified and experienced dog and puppy trainer covering Bristol and surrounding areas. 

She offers private puppy training sessions, private dog training sessions, and scentwork classes.

Giulia is passionate about helping people understand, communicate, train and thrive with their dogs. 

You can see her here with Ruby, her beloved canine companion.