Introducing dogs to each other

Author picture Katy  - updated: 10/06/2019

Mind the body language: This is how you introduce them safely

Anyone who walks with a dog every now and then knows how exciting it can be to meet another dog. In any case, it's important to pay close attention to the body language of the dogs and to ensure that the meeting is calm and friendly. Also, if you're a pet sitter offering home dog boarding and you want to add a new dog to your 'pack', it is crucial to make sure that first meeting is a nice experience for both dogs. But how do you do that? How do you introduce dogs to each other in a safe and fun way?

For your dog it can be very nice to get to know other dogs. But such a new encounter can be quite complicated. And every owner has their own convictions: 'Just let them go ahead and sort out their difference on their own'. Or: 'my dog doesn't do any harm, he just wants to play!'. But what is really  wise to do if you want dogs to get acquainted safely? With these 5 tips, you ensure a safe and fun first meeting between two dogs.

1) On-leash or off-leash?

There are different opinions about whether you should introduce two dogs on a leash or not. Yes, it is true that off-leash dogs feel freer and move around more easily. They can decide for themselves how and how fast they approach the other dog. This way we can see encounters in off-leash areas run smoothly most of the time.

But still, there may be a very good reason to keep a leash on a dog when meeting a new dog. Always keep in mind that the other dog may be leashed because of an injury, because he's anxious, or inclined to run away. In any case, put the leash on as soon as you see another leashed dog. Problems often arise when one dog is on-leash and the other is not. Don't force the dogs to do anything they don't want to, and let them take the initiative to approach each other.

2) Space, space, space!

Dogs that meet each other for the first time often are very reluctant and polite. When we meet someone new we tend to approach one another and make direct eye contact. For dogs, that's all very different. They want to express non-threatening signals and therefore they tend to walk around each other in a circle instead of a direct approach.

Before dogs start to smell each other, they want to check out who they're dealing with from a distance. They keep enough space around them so they can walk away at any time if the meeting goes wrong. So, step aside and give the dogs the time and to explore each other without any pressure. If you see from afar that another dog (or your own dog) is not at all interested in a friendly encounter then avoid the confrontation and just walk the other way.

3) Watch body language

Once the dogs have spotted each other, they will let each other know if they are open to contact. Always pay attention to the subtle signals of the body language. Where it may seem as if the dogs are not interested, in reality, the dogs might actually have whole 'conversations' with each other. Observe your own dog well in every situation, then you will understand the body language of your dog more and more, which increases the bond between you and your dog.

Also pay attention to your own posture and body language: as soon as you see another dog approaching, talk positively about that other dog. By doing this, you bring a relaxed and positive vibe to the situation which makes the introduction less stressful. 

Now look closely at the body language...

This is going well:

  • Looking away: 'I will do no harm!'
  • Calmly walking around each other in a circle
  • First sniffing each other on the butt
  • A relaxed wagging tail at medium height
  • Shoulders down, butt in the air: 'I want to play with you!'
  • The dogs respect each other's corrections and give each other space.

The dog doesn't like this, pay attention:

  • Staring and stiffening the body, tail straight up
  • Growling, showing teeth
  • Neck hairs up
  • Tail between the legs, anxious, squeaking
  • One dog ignores the other dog's corrections and continues where the other does not want. Stop them.

Twee honden ontmoeten elkaar
During the meeting, play close attention to the body language of the dogs

4) Intervention: calm and resolute

Do you see any warning signals from one of the dogs? If so, stop the meeting. You can do that by stepping away from the dogs, call your dog and walk away. Of course, always praise your dog when he listens to you.

In case of an unfriendly or even a hostile meeting, always try to remain calm. Screaming and raising your voice only stirs aggression and excitement. Do not push or pull the dog but try to calmly distract your dog with your voice. Make sure you have a tasty snack with which you can attract the attention of the dog. 

5) Respect each other

Maybe you have a very enthusiastic dog that is always happy to play with other dogs. But every dog is different. Some of them may be afraid because of a trauma. Others may have an injury, are in a training program or have another reason why they can't or won't meet other dogs. Therefore, don't only look at the body language of the dog, but also of his owner ;-) Because the owner knows best what's good for his dog. Respect each other's boundaries! Here you can read more about dog etiquette

Adding a new dog to your pack

Are you a dog sitter offering home dog boarding or doggy daycare for multiple dogs? Or maybe you already have a dog yourself and you want to offer dog walking services together with your own dog? Make sure that the first encounter with the new dog is always on neutral territory: meet each other outside. Walking together is a safe and non-aggressive way to introduce dogs to each other. Every dog loves to walk and to do that together with another dog you immediately bring a positive atmosphere to the pack. Walking together is great for bonding!

Do you want to walk several dogs at the same time? Walking with a pack is fun, but it's not easy. And many owners book a personal dog walking service because they want a small-scale daycare for their pup. Do you still want to walk with several dogs? Here is how to do that!

Enjoy your walk! <3