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Introducing Big Dogs to Little Dogs

Dogs are pack animals, and most breeds will do well in pairs or groups, but you should still be careful when you are introducing dogs to each other.

If you already have a little dog and are looking to introduce a big dog into your family, then there are several steps you can take to make sure that the introductions go well and that you are giving both your dogs the best chance of getting along.

How do you introduce a large dog to a small dog?

One of the big keys to successfully introducing big dogs to little dogs is to take things slowly. When you let the dogs get used to each other through a calm and planned approach your chance of success at a positive introduction will be much higher.

Here are five easy steps that can help you get a strong start on making sure the new member of your family integrates well. You will want a second handler who understands dogs to help you with these introductions.

Start with neutral territory

Dogs can be territorial. They will often defend what they perceive to be “their own space.” If possible, you want to introduce the new big dog to your little dog in an area that’s not been claimed by either dog. This can help avoid initial conflicts.

Potential areas include a fenced dog park when no one else is around or a friend’s fenced backyard.

While outdoor spaces are the best, if one is not available you can use a large, enclosed indoor space. Dogs will often pee when they are meeting for the first time, so make sure the space is a place that can be easily cleaned.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to make sure that any items that belong to the current dog are put away to avoid jockeying for position over their prized possessions. This can include toys, bowls, bones, and other objects.

Make sure to keep both dogs on leash during this process.

By preparing the space ahead of time and being careful about the space selection for the first meeting you can help to set your dog up for success.

Keep an eye on what the dogs are doing

Dog body language can be very revealing as to what is going on with the dogs emotionally. During the process of introduction, you want to carefully watch what both dogs are doing.

The reality is that some dogs will hit it off immediately, while others won’t get along well at first. You need to watch how the two dogs are interacting to get a feel for how well the introduction is going to work.

If you see hackles raised, tucked tails, tenseness in their postures, or even growling then you want to back off and may need the help of a professional trainer.

If both dogs look happy and excited to meet each other that is a good sign. Wagging tails and happy body language indicate that your dogs are ready to move to the next step.

Together, but apart dog walking

If the two dogs are getting along after the first meeting, you can proceed to walking them together. You will want to walk the bigger and smaller dog close enough together that they know that the other dog is there, but far enough apart that they aren’t going to try to reach each other.

This distance can differ depending on the exact dog in question.

Make sure the dogs are walking parallel and not face to face. This is less stressful for the dogs.

One of the important things to do on this walk is to take the time to allow the dogs to sniff. You especially want them to sniff where the other dog went to the bathroom, as this lets them get comfortable with the other animal.

As long as both dogs are exhibiting social and positive behaviors you and your partner can start walking the dogs closer together.

Once the bigger and smaller dog have completed this interaction, you can then move on to the next step.

Time to go off-leash!

Many people are tempted to jump right to this step, but we recommend that you make sure you complete the other three steps before you move to this one.

Once your big dog and little dog have gotten used to each other and are walking nicely together you can take them back to the dog park or other enclosed area and drop their leashes.

As they go off-leash, you need to continue to observe how they are interacting with each other. They may sniff at each other and walk away, or they might start playing.

If they start growling or acting aggressive, you still have their leashes to get them carefully back under control. Don’t get in the middle of a dog fight!

What you want to see is that the dogs respect each other and can interact well together.

Bring your new big dog home

The final step in this process is to bring your new big dog home.

It’s a good idea to have the person who is helping you take the little dog for a walk while you let the big dog check out her new house.

Just like with the enclosed space you want to remove items that are special to your little dog like food bowls, bones, or toys. This can help you avoid conflict.

After your new big dog has checked out the house, you can bring your little dog in. Just keep the big dog in an open room and away from the front door.

When the dogs have become acclimated to being in the same place for a while you can start to reintroduce the food bowls, bones, and toys.

Remember that if you notice the dogs starting to get tired of each other or see body language like hard stares then you should separate the dogs for about half an hour to give them a break.

Can big dogs and little dogs live together?

Big dogs and little dogs can live together! Sometimes the little dog even ends up being the leader of the pack!

By taking the time to introduce your big dog and little dog in a calm and controlled way and understanding that it can take several months of “get to know you” time for them to become real friends, you can give your big dog and little dog the best chance of being their own little pack.

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