There’s nothing quite as exciting as bringing home a new furry member of your family. If your old dog rejects the new one, though, you could end up breaking dangerous fights and debating whether you need to re-home your new dog. The right introductory strategy can make a world of difference when you bring a new dog home. Sure, it might take a bit more time, but the investment in long-term harmony will save you much time and stress.

Choose the Right Time

Wait to get a new dog until things are calm in your home. Family stress can affect your dog’s behavior, so get any major problems under control first. Ensure your dogs are all in excellent health, and wait till things in your pack are stable, with no fighting and no one currently holding a grudge. Bringing a new dog into a troubled pack is inevitably a recipe for disaster.

Meet on Neutral Ground

Introduce the two dogs on neutral territory, like a dog park or a friend’s house. If you bring the new dog straight to your home, your other dogs might get territorial. And if you take your dogs with you to pick up the new dog, the new dog may become overwhelmed and aggressive. Plan a low-key meeting at a place that’s new to everyone instead.

Begin With a Walk

Dogs are pack animals who, in the wild, spend most of the day hunting for food and patrolling their territory. Walking offers dogs the same bonding opportunity that long, meaningful conversations offer humans. Perhaps even more importantly, walking wears your dog out, burning off anxiety and aggression. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, so if you’re anxious about your dogs’ first night together, plan on a long walk.

Reward Good Behavior

When you’re anxious about a new four-legged family member, it’s easy to intervene when there’s conflict while ignoring positive actions. You need to do just the reverse. A little conflict is normal, so ignore snapping and growling unless someone is acting like a bully or your dogs start fighting. Instead, offer all dogs a treat and lots of attention when they play well together. This shows all your dogs—new and old—that a multi-dog household doesn’t have to be one where anyone gets less attention.

Increase Time Together

The first few weeks will be the most difficult as your dogs work to determine their place in the pack and how the new family member will affect their relationship with you. Keep your dogs separated when you’re not there to supervise, but work toward offering them steadily more time together. For the first two days, you might only allow them an hour per day of play time, and then gradually increase the time until they’re spending all their time together.

Go Slowly

Relationships aren’t built overnight, and you’re working on something that will last your dogs’ lifetime, so there’s no need to rush. Plan for a few minor disputes, but if you run into serious trouble, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trainer. Most dog behavior problems can be solved, so a fight doesn’t mean you have to re-home anyone.