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How should I introduce my new dog to my existing dog?

How well dogs get along with each other is influenced by a range of factors related to the owner, the dogs, the environment, and husbandry. In some situations, dogs may learn to get along. In other cases, they may not be compatible.

Planning and preparation

The success of an introduction depends largely on careful planning and preparation.

  • Socialisation – Preparation begins long before you bring a new dog home, with socialisation of your existing dog. Socialisation involves exposing animals to a range of experiences to help them prepare for and cope with different situations, interactions, and environments. For more information, see the Knowledgebase articles ‘Is socialising my puppy important?’ and ‘How can I socialise my puppy?’.
  • Relaxation tasks and safety cues – Dogs must be taught relaxation (e.g., ‘sit-stay’ exercises, being rewarded for lying calmly on a ‘relaxation mat’) so that they can regulate their behaviour and not become overwhelmed (e.g., by the arrival of a new dog) [1].
  • Matching – When selecting your new dog, think about how well-matched they will be for your existing dog (e.g., personality, exercise, activity level, etc.)
  • Health checks – Make sure your dogs have had recent health checks, and are up to date with their vaccinations, worming and external parasite control, so they are in the best shape to cope with the introduction process, and will not pose health risks to one another.
  • Safe retreats – Prepare separate retreats for your new dog and existing dog. Make sure the retreats have everything they need (e.g., comfortable bed, toys, water).
  • Reduce the risk of conflict – In common areas, keep high value items tidied away (e.g., toys, treats, food bowls).
  • Pheromone diffusers – Setting up Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) diffusers in your home may help calm your existing dog and the new arrival.

Gradual introduction

Introduce the dogs gradually, step by step. Observe their behaviour to see if you should proceed to the next step. The information below is general and should be tailored to suit the individual dog and specific circumstances. For example, some dogs may be more reactive while on lead so modify as needed [1].

Step 1: Scent swapping

Ideally, your new dog and existing dog should have the opportunity to get used to each other’s scent before they have any form of contact. If possible, have someone take your existing dog for a walk while you allow your new dog to explore the home. Then swap, allowing your existing dog to sniff around the home after the new dog has been there but is not present.

Step 2: Supervised on-leash contact on neutral ground

The first meeting should take place on neutral territory outdoors (e.g., a park), with both dogs leashed and held by different people. Exercise prior to the meeting may help ensure they are calm and happy [1]. Initially, keep them at a distance and reward them for calm, friendly behaviour. If they seem comfortable, shorten the distance between them until they are able to walk side by side.

Step 3: Supervised contact at home

At home, begin with short sessions of supervised contact, starting in an open area (e.g., garden) and an area that is neutral (e.g., avoid areas where the existing dog sleeps or eats normally). Reward them for calm, friendly behaviour. Give them breaks if they become over-excited, upset or overwhelmed. If they seem comfortable, gradually increase supervised contact time.

Step 4: Unsupervised contact at home

Only allow unsupervised contact when you are sure that your dogs enjoy one another’s company.

Managing dog conflict

If persistent conflict occurs, seek advice from a vet or veterinary behaviourist. Separation, behaviour modification and potentially, medications, may be required at least in the short-term.

Good husbandry

To maximise the chance that dogs will thrive together in the same household, it is necessary to practice good husbandry, including making sure they have opportunities to engage in natural behaviours and stimulating activities (enrichment). These behaviours and activities are not only fun but are also essential for animals’ physical and mental health. For more information, see the Knowledgebase article ‘Why is enrichment important for dogs?’.


[1] Haug LI (2008) Canine aggression toward unfamiliar people and dogs. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 38:1023–1041

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Updated on May 29, 2024
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