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Introducing Two Dogs: Tips for a Successful Introduction

Getting two dogs to become friends can have its challenges. The point of this blog post is to give you a plan to follow if you’re hoping to introduce your dog to a friend’s dog for walks and hikes.

If you’re reading this then you probably have a leash reactive dog. The reactivity may come when a dog is very close or start off when a dog is far away. Regardless of the answer, your first step is getting far enough away where your dog can see the other dog bit not react. Once you’re at that distance, you’re ready to begin.

To set yourself up to succeed, have lots of high value treats ready to go in your treat bag. I’m also a fan of a leash that is roughly 6ft long and a harness that clips on the dog’s chest.

Here are some different ways to start:

1. Both dogs are stationary and they receive treats for looking at one another.

2. The non reactive dog is stationary and the reactive dog is walking back and forth maintaining the same distance while the reactive dog receives treats for looking at the other dog. (The non reactive dog can receive treats for doing a sit/stay.)

3. Both dogs are walking parallel to one another maintaining that same distance at first while receiving food rewards for looking at one another. 

The overall idea is to decrease distance between the two dogs while keeping them non reactive. So, after a few minutes of keeping that distance, you will likely be able to shave off 5 or so feet and continue. After a few minutes there, shave off another 5 or so feet. Continue this pattern. If you didn’t start with parallel walking, you’ll want to work up to it. This doesn’t all have to happen during the same session by the way. We want to try to end on a good note.

Once you’re about 30 feet away, you’ll want to try to start moving in the same direction and maintaining that 30 feet. Feed each time they look at one another. Doing so will help reinforce a non reactive behavior and also help them build positive associations with one another. Once they’re nailing 30 feet, gradually decrease the distance to 25 feet while moving forward. (And so on.)

Some dogs will be fine with continuing to gradually move together until they’re side by side. Others are more proximity sensitive and need more help with the close stuff. If you’re dealing with the latter, you’ll need to take it slow at the 5-10 foot mark. Slow and steady will help win the race. The proximity sensitive dog will need lots of high value treats while the other dog is near to help build that association and to decrease the sensitivity with that dog.

This process can take 1 sessions or it can take 10. (Or more.) In most cases though, after practicing for an hour or so, you’ll make a ton of progress.

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