Important Note: When it comes to puppies, please make sure the vet cleared your puppy for contact with other animals.
How do I introduce my dog to other dogs?
Preventing is always the best way to handle unwanted dog-related issues. Dogs are very intuitive by nature and experts when it comes to quickly assessing and reacting to different situations. This is simply how they have learned to deal with and experience everyday activities, such as going for walks, interacting with other animals, or meeting new people.
When it comes to meeting other dogs, you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can, to set your dog up to a good start.
Here are a couple of useful exercises, to help your dog, when it comes to meeting other dogs.
1. Preemptive Actions
Begin by asking yourself “How does my dog usually behave when meeting other dogs?”. The answer to this question will vary depending on what your dog’s past experiences have been. If you’re not sure how your dog will behave when meeting a new dog, regardless of your dog’s age, or if you’re just about to begin introducing your pup to other dogs, you will want to learn to pick up on your dog’s cues as soon as you can.
Much like people, dogs are very expressive creatures that will use different tools to communicate how they feel at a particular moment, about whatever they’re facing at the time. Your part in this exercise will be to determine how your dog feels about different situations through the different cues he/she is using, to communicate these feelings. You can work on this by simply watching your dog as he experiences different sounds, sights, and scents. Each different type of reaction (happy, excited, unsure, curious, etc) will have its own unique set of physical cues that your dog will display, and although most dogs share the same traits when it comes to this, not all dogs will be as expressive as others, thus you need to keep your eyes sharp when it comes to the most subtle cues.
As you get to know your dog more and learn his/hers quirks and quarks, you will be better prepared for when the time comes to not only introduce your dog to other dogs, but also people, new activities, places, and more. This is because you will now be able to develop and earn your dog’s trust, as you begin understanding how your dog communicates with you, so you can discern whether something is either exciting your dog, or frightening him/her, and so on.
2. Going For A Stroll
Now that you’re learning how to best understand your dog and his/hers ways of communication, you’re ready to begin meeting other dogs! This part is very exciting, as most puppy/adolescent dogs will have no problem when it comes to making friends, however, we can help them a lot, when it comes to making not just a good, but a great impression on others, more likely, older and experienced dogs.
The main idea behind this exercise is to have your dog master two things: respect and trust. Dogs show respect by giving others space and distance. This is something a lot of pups will have to learn by pushing the limits and patience of their mother, father, or siblings. Not all dogs will be as patient, however. But to help this, when meeting a new dog, what you will want to do is do your best to get the owner of the other dog to walk side by side with you and your dog, towards your desired destination. This is how dogs and most animals develop trust, by moving forward, side by side.
This exercise, where you, the other owners, and the two dogs are simply walking side by side will remove the possibility of the youngest, likely less experienced of the two dogs to behave in a manner that the other might not tolerate. Walking side by side puts both dogs on a leveled playing field, where they get to know each other, first as teammates, before they decide whether or not they will want to take that further towards creating an actual friendship. This walk can of course be a jog or run if needed, especially if the dogs are getting a little excited by each other’s presence. Running towards a park, for example, will not only accomplish the main objective of this exercise but will then reward the two with a pleasant destination and experience, where they can then decide to play with each other or other dogs that are there.