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Dog to Dog Introductions

April 6th 2016

Author: Sarah Butler

Alrighty. Today I'm going to talk about dog to dog introductions. This is especially important at off-leash areas. You'll own one of three kinds of dogs:

  1. The more timid dog who has a closed circle of friends,
  2. The chilled dog who's happy to be friends with everyone, or;
  3. The bully who goes around making everyone else feel uncomfortable. And you might not know which one it is.

If your dog cowers at the sight of other dogs he is fearful and needs counter-conditioning training and slow positive exposure to become used to other dogs. If your dog pretty much ignores, or plays with other dogs willy nilly but is more happy sniffing around on his own that's fine, but if your dog is the one in everyone's face, the one that pursues retreating dogs, rolls them over and is overly boisterous, chances are he's a bully. And he's rude. It's not polite to run up and get right in a strangers' face, even if your intentions are friendly. And if your dog is making other dogs uncomfortable, making them retreat to their owners in fear, and not exhibiting social niceties, he needs to be kept on a lead until he can be taught some manners (or some dog might teach him some eventually).

EITHER WAY if you have your dog at an off-leash park they must have reasonable recall training so that should they be in a situation where you need to isolate them, or keep them under control they can be recalled to be put on a leash (I know this is hard with distractions, I'm still working on it with my dogs).

I had a situation where an owner of a very friendly, large, boisterous goof of a puppy let her dog pursue my timid, retreating dog (both on a leash) 'to say hello'. When my dog couldn't retreat any further she growled to verbalise her discomfort and say 'GO AWAY'. She didn't snap, or bite, and the growl was perfectly in context. The owner of the puppy was disgusted with my dog's behaviour and labelled my dog an aggressive dog and left. Classic situation. Actually HER dog was lacking in manners (it WAS a puppy who are inherently socially inept...), and didn't read my dogs' body language until my dog had to verbalise her need for space. The fact that the puppy's intentions were friendly doesn't matter; she was being rude. And my timid dog had another negative dog-dog interaction which sets us back another step in trying to counter-condition her to other dogs. For those out there with behavioural issues, you'll know how much a negative experience can affect your progress.

A good interaction is controlled nose-nose sniff (usually with tails up and a stiff wag), this may progress to side-side butt sniff, or straight to one dog exhibiting a play bow and inviting the other dog to play. Or both will walk away. If one dog is showing signs of anxiety or submissive behaviour, the other dog should be kept at a distance so the anxious dog can choose to interact. Or not interact. A dog that goes straight in over the shoulder of another dog is being a bully, and this behaviour will either be accepted by the other dog and they will show signs of submission, or it will end in a fight.