Love Me, Love My Dog
There is an abundance of articles that deal with the problems of introducing one’s children to a new partner. Understandably so, as it can be a very emotional experience.
However, we rarely read about the issues of introducing each others pets. Our furry friends are important to us and if you meet someone special who also has a pet the last thing you want is for your new relationship to be marred by warring animals.
In this article I will look at introducing dogs to each other and in the next article I will look at the introduction of dogs and cats.
When introducing two dogs to each other there are a number of factors that will influence how easily the dogs will interact. If both of the dogs are very sociable then this first interaction should be quite easy and lead to a greeting. On the other hand if one or both of the dogs are lacking social skills and don’t interact regularly or at all with other dogs the introduction may need a little more time and effort.
If either of the dogs have a history of reactivity or aggression please seek the help of a positive science based behaviourist or trainer to help you work through the introduction.
Make sure you use a neutral environment preferably one neither of the dogs have been to before for this first greeting. Choose a place where neither dog is going to feel territorial and make sure there is nothing in the environment that is going to make them defensive, reactive and that there aren’t any resources they are likely to guard. Give your dogs feedback throughout this whole process, telling them how wonderful they are when they do the right thing and interrupting any undesirable behaviour with an excitable let’s go while moving away from the other dog and giving them a little more distance.
Trying to keep greetings, as stress free as possible. Take your time, start watching the dogs’ body language from a distance that you feel comfortable. Try to maintain nice loose leads giving the dogs room to make choices as tension on the lead often inhibits their natural behaviours and can make dogs stressed and fearful. Once you are happy that the dogs are curious to meet each other you can begin to walk them side by side still keeping a safe and comfortable distance from each other. Then turn back around, swap positions while still maintaining that distance and allow each of the dogs to walk back along where the other had walked and take in each of the other dogs scents. Dogs have more than 220 million olfactory (scent) receptors in comparison to us humans that only have 5 million so they view and remember the world in a very different way to us. This is why it’s so important to allow a dog to sniff where other dogs have been as there is a vast amount of information gathering and socialisation that is actually going on way before the dogs physically meet. Once you’ve walked back and forth, you can take it in turns to follow each other in a circle slowly decreasing the gap so they can complete a bit more information gathering.
Once the gap between the two dogs has decreased and they have both got close enough to sniff each other’s bums without there being any negative reactions (keep sniffs to 3s long) you are ready to proceed to the next stage of the introduction. The next phase is allowing the dogs to approach each other on a nice loose lead, make sure you watch both dogs body language closely for any signs of fear, frustration or stress and if any of these occur go back a stage and take more time. If you take more time and you can’t seem to get the greeting to work please ask for help from a professional. A good sign that interactions are going well is that there is nice fluid happy body language. If the dogs are looking relaxed and happy and have shown no signs of aggression or confrontation then in an enclosed area they are ready for you to drop their leads or put them on a long-line. As long as all of the first interactions when loose are nice and relaxed, they have nice fluid body language, interactions are mutual and not one-sided then it’s safe to step back and let them get on with getting to know each other.
Below is a list of bullet points on dog behaviour to try and help you understand how the interactions are going.
- If your dogs bodies seem stiff, they are staring at each other, their hackles are up, their teeth bared, they are growling or snapping then they are probably not going to become friends fast and you will need to do lots of set ups before you move to a greeting and I would advise seeking help from a professional.
- Try as much as possible to avoid nose to nose greeting as to dogs these are very confrontational and a well socialised dog will ark around when greeting so you can simulate this by curving around towards each other rather than walking in straight lines. It is very rude for dogs to stare at each other for extended periods of time when dogs first make eye contact the appropriate behaviour is to have a quick look and then look away. If they do start to stare and stiffen up walk them away from each other talk to them in soothing tones and give them the chance to shake off and loosen up before starting again.
- If the dogs rush each other when you get to the last phase even if it is to play keep a close eye the the play doesn’t get too over the top as over excited play full of adrenaline can often lead to unwanted behaviour.
- If one of the dogs is continuously following the other and ignores the other dogs signals that it is uncomfortable be aware that this can quickly turn from play to bullying and it’s important you do a consent test by holding the dog that is doing the pursuing on the lead and giving the other dog the opportunity to either re engage in play or to go and have a break.
- If there is lots of play-bowing, mutual play and wiggly loose body language then you are onto a winner just make sure you give them verbal praise for all the nice interactions.
Once the dogs are getting on well with each other and you are ready to take them home make sure they are both transported back either in separate cars, or if in the same car in different crates. Have solid barriers between them for management, as you don’t want to create any unnecessary tension between the dogs from being confined together in close quarters. When feeding the dogs at home please feed them in separate rooms and keep them apart whenever you give them high value items, to reduce the potential of stress and possible conflict. In time you may be able to have the dogs together eating high value rewards but I would wait until you are certain the dogs are good friends and I would always give the dogs their own space to eat their meals as eating around other dogs can add a level of unnecessary stress that could damage their relationship…and yours.
Latest posts by Jordan S.
- Love Me, Love My Dog - March 21, 2018