Introducing new dogs to your dog properly can make meet and greets less stressful and safer for everyone. One way to do this is to follow our 3 step plan.

Step 1: Through a Barrier

  • If possible, have the dogs meet on neutral territory. Make sure any toys or treats have been removed from the ground. (To prevent resource guarding.)
  • Have each dog on a leash on either side of a secure barrier. Allow them to approach or retreat as they see fit.
  • Watch their body language to determine if both dogs are interested in meeting.
    • Loose, wiggly bodies are a good sign!
    • Positive interactions through the fence can be a great sign, too.
    • If one dog or both dogs avoid the other, or if one or both dogs look very tense, you might give it a minute to see if these things dissipate. If not, it’s best for them not to meet.
    • If either dog is looking a little bit too intense, encourage them to walk away for a moment before returning to the fence.
  • Some dogs can be barrier aggressive, particularly if that barrier is part of their territory (like a fence of their yard). Even though these dogs may like other dogs, it puts your dog at a higher risk of being aggressed upon. For barrier aggressive dogs, skip this step and move to Step 2, if you feel it’s appropriate.

Step 2: Same Side of the Barrier

  • If both dogs are interested in meeting, the next step is to have them on the same side of the barrier, wearing their leashes, and far enough apart that they have some personal space.
  • Have the dog who’s on the “inside” of the fence move away from the door, giving the other plenty of space to come in.
  • Again, look to see if they have positive, interested body language.
  • Sometimes, moving the dogs by walking them in the same direction of a large circle can help them sniff and see each other without directly interacting yet.
  • As long as the dogs both still look interested in meeting, we can let them say hi! Hold your leash as loose as possible. (This might mean following your dog closely to keep it slack.)

Step 3: On-leash Play/Interaction

  • It can be helpful to have both dogs on loose leashes when they first meet.
  • Use “come” if you notice that your dog is starting to get over excited or stressed. If they can’t respond to this, it’s a good idea to remove them from play for a few seconds or a few minutes. (And to practice their recall during distractions to keep it nice and strong 🙂 )
  • If play is going really well, you can drop leashes or take them off. Leaving at least one dog’s leash on can be helpful in getting them separated safely should something happen. (Leashes can also pose a potential safety risk as dogs can get tangled in them. Use your best judgement.) Continue to call them out of play periodically, get a “sit”, and then release to play again!
  • If one dog growls at another, call the dogs apart or use your leashes. Don’t punish a dog for growling.
  • Some dogs will love to play actively with each other, others may be happier with peaceful coexistence and sniffing. Just like adult humans, dogs develop their own preferences for which dogs they like and how they like to play.
  • Adult dogs will also have dogs they would prefer not to socialize with. It’s normal to see dogs that enjoy nearly every other dog as well as dogs that seem to enjoy very few other dogs. It’s a great idea to keep tabs on the type of dog your dog likes to interact with and the ones that they don’t do as well with.
Any interactions with other dogs carry risks. You can decrease risk through choosing good playmates and introducing them in a predictable pattern. We encourage you to always err on the side of caution and not introduce your dog to dogs you’re not feeling good about. Happy playing!