Introducing your dog to her new human family is a time of joy, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. The first meeting establishes a tone. Set your dog and the training process up for success with careful planning.
The First Meeting
Take it slow and let the dog approach and meet each person on her own time to minimize stress. If you have enough people, sit on the floor in a ring, and just let her approach and snuggle as she pleases, rather than passing her around like a football. If you need to pick her up, squat to get her rather than leaning and looming over her, which can be very intimidating. Meetings between your dog and children should be very closely supervised, and the dog should be on leash for the safety of all concerned. Let her get settled in for at least several days before you have all your friends and neighbors over to meet her.
Keep It Happy
Introductions should always be positive experiences. If the dog is scared or stressed, back off and try again later. If she’s overly confident and pushy, avoid rewarding behavior like jumping up — she should only get attention for “four on the floor” or sitting.
Introductions to Other Pets
If you have other pets that she’ll be living with, it’s best to introduce them on neutral territory if possible. Most pets can learn to coexist peacefully, and some like or even love each other, but you can smooth the road by helping the first meetings go well. All dogs involved in meeting other pets should drag a leash or dragline so you can get control of the situation quickly and safely (without having to grab the collar) if necessary.
Don’t panic if there are mild scuffles or episodes of one dog humping the other. Try to give them some time to work it out, intervening only if there is an outright fight or if one dog bullies the other, or ignores protest or submission signals from the other dog. Most scuffles are bluff and posture, and generally, the more noise you hear, the less there is to worry about. Keep a spray bottle or high-power squirt gun handy, just in case.
Meetings between dogs and cats or other pets are sometimes best done through a gate or crate to start. Switching the pets’ bedding, (so the dog gets the cat’s, and vice versa) is often helpful in creating an environment of acceptance. Feeding them for good behavior in each other’s presence and preventing your dog from chasing your cats are other ways to help make the transition period easier.