To set the tone for a positive relationship from the beginning, proper introductions with each dog in the home are essential (regardless of age). Kids should not handle a dog during introductions.

1. Arrival: When the new dog arrives – before taking it inside the home – bring one of your dogs outside on a leash. The new dog should be leashed as well. The dogs need to meet in a neutral area (preferably with little going on around it so as to not stress the dogs even more), such as the sidewalk or a park – but not directly in front of your home and definitely away from other dogs.

2. “No contact” walk: On one side of the street, walk the new dog, and on the opposite side of the street, walk one of the current dogs in the home. They should be allowed to see each other but have no physical contact. If there are little to no signs of reaction (barking, snarling, etc.), proceed to the next step. Otherwise, continue walking them at varying distances from each other, but still on opposite sides of the street. This may take a few minutes or even an hour.

3. “Same side” walk: Now, walk the dogs on the same side of the street. It does not matter who is ahead, but you may want to alternate who is ahead and who is in the back so that they can sniff each other’s scent. Again, if little to no reaction, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, continue or repeat the previous step. This may take a few minutes or longer.

4. Meet: Bring the dogs to the sidewalk or yard in front of the home and allow them to meet. Leashes should still be in your hand. Important: While maintaining a solid grip on the leash, allow slack in the leash between you and the dog you’re holding. Move with them as they move and sniff each other. Tight leashes cause a dog to be on high alert and tense; you want them to be relaxed. You may give high-pitched praise if they seem relaxed and doing well. Otherwise, calmly and firmly correct any negative behavior with a lower-pitched voice. If a dog acts out toward the other, pull away the aggressor – not the dog who did not react. Otherwise, the dog who didn’t react will think he/she did something wrong. (This does not mean a dog is aggressive.)

5. Rinse and repeat: When the dogs appear somewhat relaxed around each other, have the person with the new dog go back out to the sidewalk, off the property. Take the other dog back inside and bring out the next dog in your home. Do this one-on- one with the new dog until each dog in the home has met the new dog.

6. Entering the home: When all the dogs have met, bring them all outside on leash and go inside – with the dominant dog of the pack going first, followed by the other dogs who have already been in the home, and, lastly, the new dog.

After introductions:

All dogs in the home should be supervised and on leash for several weeks, if not months, when you are home. The new dog should not be allowed to interact with the other dog(s) unsupervised. During the first few days, or even week or two, the new dog should be crated or gated off with a solid gate that it cannot jump over(such as a DreamBaby gate from Walmart), and it should not have physical access to the other dogs. This gives the new dog its own space and gives other dogs in the home their own spaces while getting used to the new dog. It helps to lessen the stress. If you have a metal crate, you may want to place a sheet or blanket over the sides and back of the crate to provide less visual stimulation.

Toys, treat, attention
Toys, treats and affection should be restricted for a few days to weeks, as these are likely triggers to starting fights. Fights can occur right away as a result of stress or one of these triggers. They can also occur once the new dog gets more comfortable in the home. So don’t let your guard down -even when they seem to be doing well together – until you see how they play with each other or with toys and until it has have seen you give affection to another dog in its presence. Keep treats and dog food where the dogs cannot access them.

Be the pack leader
In a multi-dog home, it is especially important for you to be the pack leader. You may think you are but not realize you might not be, even as an experienced dog owner. You need to always appear calm and in control when interacting with the dogs, and the dogs need to work out their canine pack status among themselves.

Other tips to reinforce your pack leader status:

  • Do not bend over toward a dog – bend down, keeping your upper body straight.
  • Do not give unsolicited attention or treats. Make them work for either one! If the dog is coming toward you, call it and then pet or give a treat, or ignore and call it back to you later. This can help prevent jealousy among dogs.
  • When feeding the dogs, distribute the bowls to the dogs by giving the new dog his food last. Feed the new dog in a separate space so as to not have any of the dogs feel like their food supply is threatened.
  • Make sure you go through doorways first. Use a leash, if necessary, to enforce this.

Giving corrections
When you correct any negative behavior, stand tall, puff out your chest, firmly say “No” or “Bah” and do not look the dog in the eye. This helps you establish yourself as the pack leader. In your home, your dogs and those of guests should be corrected when appropriate.

Giving attention
Do not give unsolicited attention. It can incite a fight at that time or later. Dogs can get jealous. When you want to pet a dog, call it to you or make it sit or do something to work for it. If the dog is coming toward you seeking attention, ignore it, or call him and make it look like it was your idea, so you appear to be controlling the behavior. Otherwise, the dog is in control and knows it – and may try to one day discipline another dog.

In case of fight
If the dogs are leashed, one person should grab one leash and another person should grab the other. If it’s not safe for you to do so, read the next section. If dogs are leashed but you are the only one home, attach the leash of one dog to a door handle, but do so on an inside door handle and then shut the door, so it doesn’t just slide off the outer door handle. Attach the leash to a chair leg or anything that will give you at least a few seconds to pull the other dog away and separate them.

If the dogs are not leashed when the fight happens, avert the dogs’ visual by throwing a blanket or sheet over them. If outside, use a hose and get them in the face, including up the nose. You can also take a chair and place it over one of the dogs. If more than one person is home, grab the hind legs of each dog.

Multi-dog homes
Once you have a pack (three or more dogs), dogs may get more of a pack mentality. Don’t be surprised if your sweet, loving, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly dog joins in a fight with two other dogs in the home.