- Introduce on neutral territory, outside if possible because it allows for more space. Meeting at a local park or walking trail can make a huge difference. This helps to prevent one dog from feeling like they need to protect their space.
- Go for a walk together where you can start further apart, on opposite sides of the street or field. This allows the dogs to take turns looking and observing the other dog without rushing them to meet face-to-face. Slowly close the gap, getting dogs closer and closer as their comfort level allows.
- Plan ahead and do the first introductions before the holiday activities begin! When festivities start, you'll likely be busy with family and friends. While you still want to supervise dogs at this time, you won't want to deal with introductions. Plan a day or two before the festivities where you can focus on your dogs getting to know each other so things will go much more smoothly the day of activities.
- Provide a safe space for both dogs to go separately for a place to chill. If you use a crate at home, take it with you. A blanket or mat in a corner can be helpful. Having a totally private room where a door can be closed for short periods of alone time to allow dog naps is awesome.
- Use gates and barriers as management tools to create safe spaces. It's very important to dogs in separate areas where dogs can observe each other safely when you can not supervise them properly. It might make it more challenging for the humans to move back and forth, but it's so worth it. This is especially important during meal times as a single scrap of food that drops on the floor can easily cause a fight.
This is how an older dog teaches a young puppy how to play!Azul is 2.5 (black) and Finnegan is 6 months old. Azul has played with tons of dogs of all sizes. Slow introductions in a secure area outside for off leash running to help them develop a secure relationship of trusting each other & several days of co-habitating helped them to be ready for this play session.
Watch how both dogs have a turn with heads on top, mouthing the other dog. Azul could easily be on top all the time, but he moves under to give Finn a chance to play attack. Whether Azul understands the importance of this or not, this action helps give Finn confidence around Azul.
Not all older dogs will play with puppies like this. Sometimes Azul would rather nap. And that's OK. Play is best when both dogs want to play!
Back up to Day 1
Azul was off leash inside the fence checking out all his favorite farm animals when Finnegan was brought out to the gate which provided a safe place for the dogs to sniff each other. Finnegan's owner is my son who knows how I train and introduce dogs. Issac has also been around Azul since the day I brought him home and was Azul's babysitter as a pup so they are very comfortable interacting with each other. Once initial greetings were done and Azul returned to saying hi to his farm friends, Finn was allowed into the secured area. Both dogs remained off leash with freedom to engage or disengage from the other dog and both Issac and I remained vigilant to watch for even the slightest hint that either dog was not enjoying their time in the environment. Both humans took opportunities to recall and engage with both dogs independently and together.
After about an hour of running the barnyard, the barn and other off leash areas, we headed into the house so the dogs could learn to share that space as well. Azul was excited to see everyone, but then wanted to slow down for a nap. Finn of course was filled with puppy energy. So we positioned Azul on the corner of the couch where I could play with grandkids and still keep Finn from invading Azul's space. I'm not sure Azul got a good nap, but he did several short naps. And eventually Finn went to nap in his crate.
** Calm Christmas Tip: It's extra important when you're visiting someone else's house, that all dogs have safe places to rest where other people and dogs will not invade their space!