How to Introduce Dogs to Each Other
Just like humans, dogs need friends to be healthy and happy. Also, just like when humans meet, the first interactions between dogs are really important in order for the relationship to get off to a good start. Dogs are very social animals, and a lot of social information is communicated whenever two dogs are introduced – so much, in fact, that the pet owners might not even realise how many subtle interactions and exchanges are happening. Even if you know your pet well, you won’t necessarily know about the temperament of the other dog in the situation.
If you’re wondering about the best way to introduce dogs, or if you’re looking for ways to make sure things go smoothly in an upcoming meeting, there’s a lot you can do to so set the situation up for success:
- Talk to your dog. Dogs are conditioned to respond to your verbal feedback, so this can be a great tool in order to steer the interaction in the right direction. If you notice that the dogs are getting off on the wrong foot, or seem to be nervous or agitated, you can offer encouragement just like you would in other situations. Using a gentle, soothing voice, and assuring your dog during the encounter can help set an appropriate tone and prevent any miscommunications from getting aggravated.
- Let them take their time. When dogs meet, they need plenty of time to feel each other out and there are many behaviours they will perform before settling into comfort around one another. Instead of pushing things or cutting encounters short, the best thing a pet owner can do is wait, give appropriate space, and allow the dogs to do what’s necessary in order to become acquainted. Instead of forcing them into direct interaction, consider having them share space without encountering each other directly, so they can grow accustomed to each other’s presence. Of course, every dog is different, so this may take some time, but it will be worth it in the long run as the dogs will build a rapport that can be built on.
- Keep the dogs on leash. Having the dogs on leash can be helpful, especially if the tone of an introduction is going downhill. If things get physical, don’t hesitate to step in and use the leash to end the engagement. Leashes can also be helpful when introducing dogs for the first few times, as the owners can control the distance between the dogs and preserve their feeling of security and personal space.
- Use a neutral meeting space. Playing it safe can be a good idea when its not clear if two dogs are going to get along. Territoriality can be a big factor in dog behaviour, so a conservative approach is to have the dogs meet in an environment which is new, or neutral, for both of them. Note that even a park or other area that a dog is familiar with might not be a good idea. In neutral places they are unlikely to feel territorial and act aggressively.
Remember that different dog breeds react in all different ways when meeting each-other. Small dogs may shy off, or become more standoffish, only to protect themselves. Please remember larger dog breeds may become more intimidating. It is always good to do some more research into your dog breed before you take your dog to the park to introduce him or her to others.