It’s that time of year when families get together and share special celebrations! For many families, coordinating group dynamics involves bringing along the dogs. Maybe you’d like to do a little training before guest come over or before you bring your pooch to Grandma’s house? In that case, check out our Holiday Manners Tune-up 2-week class. Additionally, in this blog series, I’ll share some tips for helping dogs from different households get along so that everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.
If you recently adopted a new pet and are trying to introduce him to your own household, read more here. The focus of this article is more about helping your extended family having a great time while including all canine family members in the plan. I wrote about my first-hand experiences with this here. If you are ready to get down to details, read on!
Before you get the dogs together, do a little thinking about what you know of the dogs who will be meeting. Are they similar ages and sizes? Are they same or opposite genders? Neutered or intact?
In general, dogs of similar life stages, similar sociability and playstyles, and opposite genders do the best together. On the other hand, dogs that are too similar may have status issues and any time the dogs are the same sex, you should certainly pause and think before bringing them together. Same-sex dogs have the worst fights, and while male dogs might fight more frequently, the females are much more serious about each fight. Two females who decide they hate each other are better off kept separated.
Some dogs are very aware of their social ranking with other dogs and some dogs couldn’t give a rip about it. When observing your dog meeting new friends, look for the signs. Is he always stiff and tall? Does he greet other dogs by putting his head over their back or shoulders? Or does he arc his body, sniff the ground and avoid the drama?
If you have a dog who has not met the resident dogs of the household where you’ll be visiting, it’s a good idea to do an initial introduction on neutral turf. First impressions are everything when you introduce dogs.
My Go-To Meeting Method
My best advice is to meet somewhere and simply go for a parallel, on-leash walk. Don’t bring the dogs face to face at all. Just start walking with a distance between the pups. If the dogs are pulling toward each other and not engaging in the walk, increase the distance between them, but stay on a parallel path. I like big, open fields for this kind of a walk because there is no limit to the options. You can walk closer together or farther apart without running into obstacles or traffic.
When the dogs are mutually busy and enjoying their walk, you can alter course slightly and draw nearer together. Ultimately, they should turn their heads, take a sniff and continue. A “no big deal” attitude is what we are after.
If the dogs are very interested in each other, walk in a large circle, allowing each dog to find the scent trail of the other. The circle is a great walk pattern because the dogs get to fully sniff the other dog without any space infractions. It’s excellent if the exchange pee mail messages, too. If the dogs seem to be relaxing, go ahead and circle smaller.
Remember, keep your leashes loose! Tight leashes add tension and can alter subtle body language messages. Raise the head of one dog and the other dog might say, “Why you uppity so-and-so!” And then boom… you have a fight. Keep slack in your leash as much as possible. If you need to intervene and move your dog away, lower your hands so your leash pull moves your dog to the side in an arc away from the other dog, rather than up.
If both dogs are social around food, you can toss boring kibble around the greeting area in a wide space. Allowen them to nibble. This keeps dogs’ heads down, promotes mirroring behavior and allows the dogs to move their bodies into a digestive, relaxed state. If either dog has shown a proclivity for guarding food or toys, skip this step entirely! Don’t set them up to fail!
Next Steps in Meeting
I also recommend to keep these initial meetings short. The first meeting shouldn’t go on and on. Walk for 10-20 minutes and then get on about your business. If the dogs seemed to be more interested in the environment than each other, then you are clear to take the next meeting to the resident dogs’ property. This is also true if their bodies were loose, relaxed and both pups seemed to enjoy the meeting
On the other hand, don’t rush it. If you have any sign that the dogs would benefit from a second or third parallel walk, do it! Ultimately, you should be able to sit down and relax together in a neutral location. The dogs should be mutually relaxed and comfortable in each other’s presence. That’s when you know you are ready for the next step.
Tomorrow, we’ll cover how to bring the dogs into each others’ homes and how to set them up for success.
Latest posts by Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA (see all)
- Second Chances: How WHS and OSCI are Working Together - May 3, 2017
- Come to Me: 3 Easy Recall Games for Dogs - March 23, 2017
- Come to Me: Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching the “Come” Command - March 2, 2017