Selecting an appropriate new dog to bring home, as well as selecting new playmates for dogs in your household always requires introducing the dogs. There are a few points to remember to ensure that all new greetings are as successful as they can be. A few general rules to keep in mind are: 1. Male-Female pairs tend to do better long term; 2. Adult dogs that get along initially will typically continue to do so; and 3. Walking the dogs together before greeting can greatly improve chances for appropriate greetings, especially with dogs that are selective.
Male-Female pairs are best because there will be less competition between the dogs. In a pack, there is always an alpha male and an alpha female. (Of course, in your pack at home, you should be the dominant leader, although that’s another topic all together!) Keeping opposite sex pairings can reduce dominance scuffles, which can be intense. In multi-dog households or playgroups, it’s best to determine who the top dogs are, and keep a watchful eye to be sure that other dogs do not challenge this role.
Contrary to the popular myth, adult dogs are better new additions! Getting a puppy to have it “grow up” with the other dog or with the family greatly increases the risk that the puppy will challenge an adult dog as he/she matures. If you select a new addition to your household as an adult and your current dog is receptive from the initial greeting, chances are that the roles will not be challenged in the future because both dogs are mentally mature. Mental maturity in most dogs happens between the ages of 2-4 years, which often depends on the breed and the individual dog.
Now . . .you think you have found the perfect match. It’s time to introduce the dogs! Start on neutral territory, and do not allow the dogs to greet right away. Take the dogs on a long walk side-by-side to start. The longer the walk the better, as greetings will be less intense if the dogs have burned some energy. As you’re walking, take turns having one dog walk in front and the other behind. This will give both you and the dogs the opportunity to watch behaviors. Plus, it will give the dogs an opportunity to pick up on the other dogs scent.
Once the walk is over, as the handler, you must make the decision if it’s the right time to let the dogs greet. Happy, but relaxed, posture is key. Do not allow the dogs to greet head-on; this can present a challenge to some dogs. Head-to-tail, or a sideways greeting is better, as this allows the dogs to learn each others scent. With loose leashes, allow the dogs to approach naturally; you should notice one or both dogs veering slightly to one side, with bodies curved. If the dogs are pulling toward each other with tight leashes, more walking may be needed.
Some dogs are able to meet with new dogs quickly and easily, while other dogs may need more time to get used to a new household or playgroup addition. This depends greatly on the individual dog, with breed and gender playing a role in this as well. Always know your dog and his/her reactions, anticipate responses, and watch behaviors for the best new intros.
Have safe introductions, and enjoy your new addition!