The Dog Introduction: 10-Seconds to Make a Good First Impression

dog, dog introductions

Dog introductions are tricky and should be handled differently based on who it is they are meeting and the environment in which it occurs. We can’t plan every dog interaction, so it’s important we know what to look for and how to handle each situation. A dog’s first impression happens in roughly 10-seconds, and the process is much different than how people meet.

The Polite Dog Greeting

When your dog meets another, typically this is what it looks like:

  1. The initial greeting is butt to face where a lot of sniffing goes on. When we meet someone, we face them, look into their eyes and smile. Dogs spend the first 10-15 seconds sniffing each other with no eye contact or frontal posture. If eye contact happens early, the body stiffens, or hard eye contact is given, the meeting is not going well.
  2. Next, one dog will give the other some indication that it’s okay to further the invitation. Much like a handshake or hug for us.
  3. Finally, they give each other eye contact for the first time. Depending on the context, a play invitation is given, the dogs part or there is an escalation of eye contact and body language.

Unlike us, a dog’s first impression occurs slowly. When we meet a dog, we go in with a smile (bearing our canines), eyes bright and approaching like a predator. This can lead to a bad first impression. Instead, let them come over and smell you. If they feel comfortable, they will offer their body. If they walk away, they are telling you they have not accepted you yet.

There are many ways to introduce one dog to another, here is what we suggest:

The Pack Walk

The pack walk is the most effective way of introducing two dogs. The pack walk is considered work by your dog. The only time that a pack walk occurs in a wild dog pack is to find hunting ground, find and establish new territory, or to escape predators.

When we have two dogs on a pack walk, they get their first smell of the other dog while engaging in work.

The correct way to conduct a pack walk is:

  1. Start the pack walk on neutral territory.
  2. Each dog is handled by their respective pack leader.
  3. Start with each dog on the outside of the pack leader and maintain a comfortable distance.
  4. A good indicator your dog is ready to walk closer to one another is when they do not hold a look on the other dog. A glance is fine, but a concentrated stare or look of concern is a sign that you have more time to go before moving to the next step.
  5. When the dogs are not paying attention to each other and have engaged on the pack walk, bring the dogs to the inside of the pack leaders while maintaining distance.
  6. Once they are not paying any attention to each other, put the dogs back on the outside and decrease the distance.
  7. When they are not paying any attention to each other, put the dogs on the inside of their pack leader.
  8. Continue the process until the dogs are walking next to each other with no concern or eyeing.
  9. Before you get back to either dog’s territory, you can have them meet before getting back to one of the dog’s territory.

The On-Leash Greeting

Once the dogs are walking calmly next to each other on the pack walk, they can progress to an initial meet and greet in the following way:

Note: This should only be initiated when the pack leaders are calm. If the pack leaders are jacked up, the dogs will be as well.

  1. Have your dog behind you.
  2. Both dogs must be waiting for the pack leader to initiate the greeting. The dogs should not initiate. If either dog comes around the pack leader, the pack leader should turn around and walk their dog away until calm is restored. An approach can be made at this point.
  3. When both dogs are waiting calmly, give the dogs the option to meet. Do not force or cajole the dogs them. The proper way to do this is to give the dog a loose leash.
  4. There must be no tension on the leash by either handler. This increases the energy of the dogs and can turn the meeting bad.
  5. Let the dogs sniff each other.
  6. If either dog stiffens, put your body in between and walk your dog back. Do not pull. That will initiate forward motion from the dog and could be misconstrued as a confrontational posture.
  7. If either handler is getting tense, abort the meeting by getting in between the dog and walking away.
  8. When it is time to move on, walk away with one motion. Do not stop and think about it with a tight leash for the reason mentioned previously.
  9. This process is followed for two dogs whom you want to introduce when you are out on a walk and want to talk to a passing friend or neighbor.

If everything has gone well to this point it is now time to introduce them in the house.

In-Home Introduction

When the pack leaders feel calm, you can move to the house in the following manner:

  1. Make sure all toys, bones, food bowls, and beds should be picked up before this step is undertaken.
  2. The dog who lives in the house is walked by their pack leader to the house first.
  3. Walk the in-home dog into the house, using all the commands that you normally use and especially following the pack leader through the door. Keep the second dog at a comfortable distance while this is happening.
  4. The dog who lives in the house should be walked into the back of the house with the leash held by their pack leader.
  5. The second pack leader enters the house with their dog following.
  6. If the dogs will be in the house for an extended period of time, it is best to set up their crates next to each other with a blanket over the sides. This allows the dogs to smell each other without giving each other looks.
  7. If this is a brief meeting, the pack leaders should take their dogs on leash to opposite ends of the room and sit down. They should be relaxed.
  8. This process is similar to the pack walk. When the dogs are relaxed, they can be brought on the inside, etc.
  9. Once you have gotten the dogs close under leash, you can initiate the introduction in the same manner as the on-leash introduction made outside.
  10. When both pack leaders are relaxed, one or both dogs can be unleashed.
  11. Vigilant pack leader supervision should be in effect for at least an hour or until both dogs calm.
  12. All play should be closely supervised for a good amount of time.
  13. Do not allow the dogs in the backyard until all toys have been removed and both pack leaders are calm.
  14. If time permits, the backyard should be on leash only until either the second visit or both dogs are comfortable around each other.
  15. Do not allow any guarding of the pack leader by your dog.

Seems like a lot of work? It is but it’s worth it. Like all good things, when you put in the work, it will pay off with great canine friendships.