I love making new friends, but not all dogs feel the same way. Some dogs get nervous; others are really fearful. I can’t figure out why that would be, but I’ve seen firsthand that sometimes, some dogs take a little warming up to the idea of making new friends. A lot of humans wonder how to introduce dogs the “right” way. As if there is a right way!
I hate to tell you this, folks, but there’s no “perfect” way to introduce dogs. Just like humans, some dogs might instantly love each other, and other dogs might need to take more time to get to know each other. One sniff doesn’t always prepare us for an instant friendship. Some dogs just prefer human company to dog company. If I can give you any advice, it would be to not pressure your pup to befriend any animal. Well, that, and remember: It’s always easier to prevent a fight than it is to break one up.
Since I think all pups should be pals, I decided to come up with a guide on how to introduce dogs for my human friends. There’s a lot you can do to prepare us for new dogs in our lives.
Consider Your Environment
If you’re introducing two (or more) dogs for the first time, the environment in which they meet can be very important. It’s best to start in an area new to both dogs. Starting in a place in which one dog is very familiar gives that dog an upper hand – err, paw – in the meeting. Your dog might feel the need to protect his space, making him less open to meeting a new friend, and more interested in dominating the meeting. If both dogs are in a safe, neutral environment, they’ll likely be more at ease.
Start With Each Dog on a Leash
Once you’ve chosen how to introduce dogs, you may want to begin their introduction with both dogs leashed, so they understand that you’re their leader. Keep the leash loose, not tight. When the leash is tight, it makes us think you’re nervous, and we really feed off of your energy. When you leave the leash a bit loose, it gives us some space to walk around each other and sniff things out. If there’s any need to separate the two dogs, the humans in charge can gently but firmly guide the leash and the dogs in opposite directions.
Use Positive Reinforcement
I can’t speak for all dogs, but boy, do I love it when my parents and coworkers say nice things to me. When they tell me that I’m a “good boy,” it makes me want to keep acting like one! My humans seem so happy when I’m well behaved. I’ll bet your dog likes it when you use positive reinforcement and remind him how much you like what he’s doing. We work hard to behave and make you proud. We’ll try even harder if we know you like it!
Pay Attention to Body Language
Want to know a trick? Since canines are a bit less verbal than humans, we read other dogs’ feelings by their body language. If I’m trying to pal up to a new pup in the park and notice that her body is a bit stiff and her hair is standing up in the back, it’s a pretty good indicator that I might want to turn around and strut the other way.
Sometimes we can be a bit oblivious, especially really cheerful dogs like me or puppies who are new to socialization. My problem is that I just love to play, so sometimes I just don’t notice that other dogs might not be into me. It’s really helpful when my humans pay attention to the body language of other dogs when I’m getting to know a new dog. If I’m not paying attention to the fact that a new dog isn’t very interested in playing with me, they often remind me by steering me toward another dog or redirecting me with toys.
Take Breaks Often
Socialization can be tiring! Meeting a new dog is a very stimulating event. When we get hyper-focused on each other, it’s always a good idea to take some breaks. If you followed my advice on how to introduce dogs, you could encourage breaks by leading the leashed dogs in different directions from time to time. We love outdoor scents, and find them happily distracting. Give us a little separate human attention, as well. After we’ve been away from each other, try reintroducing us. I’ll bet we are just as curious, and maybe even happy to meet again!
Do you have any advice on how to introduce dogs? I’d love to hear other tips on how you socialize your four-legged friends! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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