Two dogs run along together

How to get dogs to get along

By BBC Maestro

Be honest: do you like everyone you meet? Of course you don’t, and while dogs often seem to be far more sociable and friendly creatures than we humans, they don’t automatically bond with every other dog they encounter.

This is fine in the park, but what if you really need your dog to get along with another dog? It could be that you’re about to adopt a new puppy or rescue dog – who’ll soon be coming home with you. Maybe you’ve met a new partner or friend who also has a dog, and you know that your mutual hounds will suddenly have to hang out together. How do you make dogs friends?

Why don’t some dogs get along?

There are all sorts of reasons why some dogs won’t get along, and an aversion can happen even if the dogs have never met before. Your pup may have had a run in with a grumpy dachshund in the past, so now the whole breed is on the naughty list as far as your dog is concerned. The other dog may be a size or shape that your dog finds intimidating, or they could simply have the wrong scent.

Your pet will be having a whole body-language dialogue with the other dog, where they exchange all sorts of information. A rigid frame, breathlessness and dilated pupils are signs that your dog is not feeling relaxed near this canine stranger.

Some breeds are simply more sociable than others, and if you’re planning to adopt a new dog, you can find out which dog breeds are the most compatible. Cocker spaniels, pointers and of course, Labradors, will happily co-exist with other pets, while chow chows and chihuahuas are notorious for not liking other breeds. However, with patient training and proper socialisation, they should at least learn how to behave alongside other dogs.

Two dogs play together

How to get dogs to bond

Maybe you’ve decided to adopt a second dog, or you’ve made a human friend who also has a faithful companion. How do you get the dogs to like each other? The answer lies in a carefully planned and well-thought-out introduction process. For an adoption, the initial meeting is a two-stage process. If you simply want your dog to make friends with a new pal, focus on the first stage.

Here are the first steps for a successful introduction:

  • Choose neutral territory. Find a safe and calm space free from other pets and distractions – a friend’s garden can be perfect.
  • Find a calm and safe companion. It’s so important that you’re not the one holding the new dog’s lead.
  • Start with both dogs on their leads. Look out for body language clues (a waggy tail and an interested expression is a good sign). Dog trainer Steve Mann has an excellent lesson on canine body language in his BBC Maestro course, which is definitely recommended before making introductions.
  • If your dog breaks the interaction by coming back to you, that’s fine. Let them have a break.
  • Now it’s time for a (leashed) walk, with the humans in the centre. If they seem relaxed you can decrease the distance, but still keeping them apart.
  • If all is looking good, let them off the leads to give each other a good sniff. If they seem happy, let them carry on. Keep an eye out for positive body language. If one or both does what Steve calls the “bee flick” (a sideways head flick that’s an invitation to play), you’re onto a winner. While they play, look out for respectful interaction which involves the dogs taking turns to lead and follow. This is a great sign.

If the two dogs are to be companions but won’t be living together, your work here is done. However, for an adoption, you’ll need to progress onto stage two – introducing a new dog to your home.

  • When your new pup is moving in, ask someone to take your dog for a walk, giving the new resident chance to explore in peace.
  • If they’ve had a good sniff around, excellent. Lead your new dog to a large and safe space, which is free from any dog toys, beds or other loved possessions.
  • Let your helper know that it’s OK to bring your dog home. Introduce them to each other again, this time inside your home. Watch for body language.
  • Keep everything as calm and normal as possible, and don’t change your dog’s routine. Build in plenty of one-to-one time with both dogs, as well as increasing the time they spend together. If you’ve adopted a puppy, try to make sure that they don’t claim all the attention.  Read our helpful article about puppy socialisation to find out more.
  • If you see signs of tension, separate them for at least half an hour to calm things down.
Two dogs run along together

How long does it take for two dogs to get used to each other?

It could take a few months for both dogs to settle into this new lifestyle. It’s hard to give an exact time as it depends on the personalities of the dogs. 

Even if they get on brilliantly and become new BFFs, they’ll still need time apart from each other. The constant excitement of this fabulous new companion could lead to a state of high-arousal without plenty of downtime.

What happens if they haven’t settled after a few months? You’ve researched how to get dogs to like each other and followed all the steps, but they’re still not gelling. How do you get the two dogs to get along? Options you can look at include obedience training and neutering, and it’s certainly worth seeking advice from a pet behaviourist.

However, dogs are naturally sociable animals and may just need a bit more time. When everyone has settled into their new roles, life in your two-dog household should be calm and enjoyable for you all. 

An understanding of canine body language is really helpful when it comes to introducing new dog friends, and this is covered brilliantly in dog trainer Steve Mann’s BBC Maestro course. Check out his essential lessons for more tips and techniques.

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