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Rotating Dogs in Groups SOP

The goal when rotating dogs into playgroup is to minimize frustration and keep all dogs and people safe. Leashes and fences can create barrier frustration when dogs are being brought from the kennels, and the dog being brought in can be overwhelmed by dogs rushing to greet them as they enter the play yard.


  • Handlers in the play yard encourage dogs in the yard away from the entrance area just prior to the new dog coming into view. Dogs familiar with playgroups often learn that the entrance is an exciting place where new dogs enter. Be prepared and proactive to account for this, using the options listed below:

    • Option 1. Have leashes on hand and place on dogs that may be harder to call away.  Leashes can be left on some dogs and dragging during play if managed (see Monitoring Leashes during Drag-Leash Play). Pick up ends to use as needed if the dog is hard to call away, but otherwise try to keep leashes loose or dragging to prevent barrier frustration.

    • Option 2. Use happy voices and treats, or toys, to encourage or distract dogs away from the entrance area.

  • The runner brings the new dog to be introduced to the group, keeping a visual barrier or distance as long as possible to reduce barrier frustration. Bushes, the corner of a building, or opaque material attached to fences can serve as visual barriers. 

    • You can choose to remove the new dog’s leash immediately, or leave it on and dragging as the dog is released into the group. Ideally everyone has freedom of movement when they see each other.

    • Handlers of the ongoing playgroup then release or stop distracting the other dogs already in the group at strategic intervals (one at a time is usually safest) after the new dog is released into the play area. Encourage dogs to greet new dog one at a time particularly if the new dog seems initially overwhelmed. Use treats, happy voice, leashes and toys to manage.


  • If any of the dogs appear tense or growl, try the following steps:

    • Move the dogs away from each other using encouraging talk, food, or the leash if needed. 

    • Give the new dog several seconds or minutes to relax away from the other dogs.  

    • If, after a break, the dogs show relaxed body language, you can try another greeting. Keep the next greeting very short (3 seconds or less), then use a happy voice and food to call the dogs away.

    • Repeat brief greetings as long as all dogs show relaxed or friendly body language. 

    • If all dogs continue to remain relaxed, drop the leashes and continue monitoring play. (See What is Normal Play, When to Intervene)

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