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3 steps to introducing dogs

My husband and I have two large dogs, Charlie and Ellie, who are night and day in personality. Charlie is quiet, exudes calm, and loves a soft place to nap. Ellie is boisterous, hates new places, and lives to bark at the mailman. Despite the differences in their personality, they are fur friends, but it didn’t start out that way.

Both dogs up until our dating were used to being the only dog, and as such were not used to having to share their bed, toys or human. And as much as I hate to admit it, my dog Ellie was not exactly friendly with other dogs. She would bark, growl, and emit a high-pitched whine of frustration whenever we saw a dog on our walks. Charlie, my husband’s pup, went to doggie daycare and liked the company of other dogs.

When the day came to introduce them I was nervous about what would happen, but we followed three easy steps and by the end the two were sharing a water bowl.

First, pick a neutral space

A neutral space will help eliminate any potential territory issues either dog might have. I also think it’s good to choose somewhere outdoors with long lines of sight so that neither dog feels trapped. This simple step can go a long way to easing your pet’s discomfort and increasing their feelings of safety in a new situation.

Second, take a walk

Dogs are full of energy, especially dogs that might be feeling anxiety. So leash up the pups and take them for a walk to burn some energy and get used to being near each other. Keep them on a short leash and about 5 feet apart. Try to keep them as even as possible, you don’t want to let one lead the other. The goal is to make them feel like equals and be close enough to smell each other. Make sure you correct any bad/unwanted behavior the moment it happens.

Next, be prepared to go the distance

Put on your walking shoes and know that it could take a while for the dogs to get comfortable. In our case we walked our dogs to a park, sat for a while and then walked back to our starting point. This whole process took a couple of hours for us, but know that the time it takes varies. Each dog is different, so be patient.

Other things to consider

Read up on pet behavior signals. It is important to be able to recognize the difference between a hot pant, and an anxious pant. Knowing this in advance can help you head off trouble. Also if one dog is very aggressive, or your suspect one might be, consider bringing in the help of an expert dog trainer. Always consider the safety of the dogs and yourself.

My husband and I were completely shocked by the end of our walk, when Charlie and Ellie started drinking out of the same bowl. And the two dogs have had a very positive influence on each other. Charlie is more lively and playful in his senior years, and Ellie has become much calmer. In fact when she feels unsure she goes and sits next to Charlie for comfort.