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Making Friends! How to Introduce Dogs To Each Other



As any dog owner can attest, canine introductions can be stressful situations.  If the introduction goes well, the two dogs will become playmates and pals; a bad introduction, however, can be extremely dangerous for both dog and owner.  What many pet owners do not realize is that the outcome of the introduction is highly dependent on how the owners handle their dogs.  Listed below are tips for safely introducing two dogs.

Neutral Territory
The first step in introducing two unfamiliar dogs is to find neutral territory.  A top mistake among pet owners is to attempt to bring a new dog into another dog’s space, such as the home or yard, and expect no problems to occur.  Dogs are naturally territorial animals, and even the most submissive pet may feel the need to protect its home and family.  The best place to introduce two dogs is in a nearby park or on a quiet sidewalk, preferably in a location that neither animal frequents.

Sniff Location Matters
Another common mistake that dog owners make is to allow two dogs to sniff each other face-to-face.  This type of greeting is unnatural for dogs and can be perceived as a threat, easily leading to a dog bite.  The appropriate way to allow two dogs to greet is to begin taking them for a walk side-by-side and to let each dog takes turning sniffing the other’s rear end.  While humans would undoubtedly find this type of greeting rude, dogs use a special gland in their nose (the Jacobson’s organ) to detect chemical secretions from the anal glands of other dogs.  The information they receive in this manner includes the other dog’s age, emotional state, sex, and diet.

Calm Environment
When introducing two dogs it is also important that the owners or handlers remain calm.  Dog are very sensitive to the emotions of others and can become anxious or fearful if they detect similar feelings in their humans.  Do not keep your dog on a tight leash or behave erratically, such as by pulling your dog back as soon as it starts to sniff the new animal.  These behaviors will simply signal to your pet that this situation is unnerving and that he or she should be on guard as well.  Similarly, avoid introducing two dogs in an environment that is chaotic, as too much commotion could lead to an animal becoming fearful and lashing out.

Off-Leash or On-Leash?
One of the most important aspects of a canine introduction is that both pets either be on-leash or off-leash.  When dogs are in two different states of restraint, the restrained dog can feel uncomfortable and even trapped, which will cause the leashed dog to lash out.  If choosing to introduce your dogs in an off-leash manner, choose a neutral location such as a dog park or other fenced-in, off-leash friendly area.  Avoid introducing in one dog’s yard, as the territorial issue can arise.  Never try an off-leash introduction if either dog does not listen well to commands or becomes distracted easily.

Know Canine Body Language
There are many ways to gauge whether an introduction is going well before the obvious signs occur, such as a dog bite.  Owners should understand that most dogs will naturally try to determine which animal is more dominant between the two, commonly by mounting one another or giving “corrections” by nipping (as opposed to snapping) at other animal.  These signs are normal and should not be cause for alarm.  However, if either dog growls, curls its lips, barks aggressively, raises its tail in the air, pins its ears back, or raises its fur, the dog should be removed from the situation immediately.  Signs of playfulness, on the other hand, include pawing, the “play bow” (where the dog lays its front end on the ground while raising its rear end towards the sky), a wagging or relaxed tail, relaxed ears, and relaxed facial expressions.  If either dog displays overly submissive behavior, such as urination, lip licking, tucking its tail between its legs, or rolling over onto its back, beware that this dog is uncomfortable and scared.

Importance of Praise vs. Correction
When introducing two dogs for the first time do not use corrective methods such as a choke chain, electronic collar, or prong collar.  Often, painful stimulus in the presence of unfamiliar animals can cause the dog receiving the correction to lash out, believing that the pain came from the new acquaintance.  Additionally, when aversive training techniques are used improperly they can lead to fear aggression in animals, which hinders the socialization process.  Instead, provide plenty of praise throughout the introduction process so that your dog associates this potentially scary situation with positivity. Positive dog training is a must.

Have Patience
Sometimes dog introductions take time.  If the first meeting does not go well, do not give up hope.  If the other dog is that of an acquaintance, try the introduction a few more times, first from a distance and then closer and closer until the dogs behave well.  However, also beware that just like humans some dogs will never appreciate the company of other animals.  If you are bringing a new dog into the household and the resident dog does not agree with the addition, take time to slowly acclimate the two pets to one another’s presence.  This can be achieved by keeping both dogs leashed in the house or by using baby gates to keep the animals in separate rooms.  The “crate and rotate” method is also popular, where one dog is crated for part of the day while the other dog is free.  In most instances the two dogs will learn to tolerate one another’s existence, if not become friends.

Know When to Consult a Professional
If your dog normally gets along with other animals but suddenly cannot tolerate new friends you should have a veterinarian perform an exam on your pet, as this may be a sign of underlying illness.  Additionally, if your dog regularly shows aggression when unprovoked to a variety of dogs, it may be time to consult a trainer to determine the root of the problem.

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Marilia Domingos
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