Dog training and behavioural improvements are often best assisted by a qualified professional to support you and your dog. However, there are some basic steps that any person should be able to try out if they’re introducing two dogs to each other.
Why can’t dogs go at it and sort it out themselves?
Meeting like this can quickly end up not going right – ending in growls and snarls, or worse. The goal is to take steps that protect your dog and preserve their good behaviour and positive feelings about other dogs.
Hopefully, you already have a good sense of where you’re dog’s social skills are at (and the other person does too). Do they normally play well? How do they act with dog visitors to their home? How do first-time encounters on the street go?
If there are already problems in these areas, you may do well to seek the services of a qualified dog behaviouralist professional or trainer.
Quick tips for introducing dogs to each other:
- Try exercising dogs before introductions so they’re not bursting with energy
- Remove toys in a play zone to minimise guarding behaviours
- Use extra caution with puppies to not play with bigger or aggressive dogs
- Senior dogs need extra care to keep high-energy adolescent or puppies at bay
- Try to match for size in playmates
- Best to use safely fenced and outdoors areas
- Neutral territory (neither dog’s home is ideal)
What if things go badly?
Watch the dog’s behaviour. Positive signs a dog is receptive to meet another dog include: tails wagging at half-mast, soft body posture, ears back, no direct hard eye contact. The opposite of these is usually warning signs that a meeting may not go well.
Excessive arousal leading to aggression can escalate quickly; however, remember that it is normal that bite each other during play and growl. Where both dogs seem to be enjoying that type of play, it doesn’t require intervention.
Try calmly and cheerfully calling the dogs back for some quiet time out and let the excitement calm down.
Distracting with some treats interrupts the excitement for a moment and returns focus to you, and not the other dog.
If things calm down enough, walking the two dogs in parallel for a while to each other on a loose leash without yelling or stern words can help keep the situation cool and get the dogs used to each other.
Calmy removing your dog from situations can also be a reasonable strategy if things are not working out in the introduction. You should avoid jerking on leashes and yelling, so the dog isn’t reacting to you as well as the other dog.
Plenty of dogs naturally seem to do well socially. And in many cases, patience and behavioural training can help improve a lot of situations. If you’re dog won’t interact with any (or specific) dogs – not forcing that, and accepting them for the individual they are will help you and them be more relaxed and live a better life.
This is a summary of a full original article from the Whole Dog Journal. I’d encourage you to continue your reading there for a heap of extra helpful information. The thoughts around what do with the leash during an introduction are fascinating reading – be sure to check it out.