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So Nice to Meet You! Or Not: Best Practices for Dog to Dog and Stranger to Dog Interactions

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

It has come up quite a bit with my clients lately. How do I introduce my dog to a strange dog? How do I get my dog and a new person to know each other? There is a lot of misinformation out there, and this process is not one to take lightly. Even if you have a go with the flow nice dog, one bad experience with a person or dog can set them back. So, how do we make new friends? Or at least acquaintances?

First thing is first, don't allow people to come up to your dog head on and stick their hand in his/her face. And for god's sake don't be that person. This is a great way to get your hand bit! Also, I promise you that dog smelt them/you as you were coming closer, they don't need your hand to do that. It's also just weird from the dog point of view, if you need more proof of that just get on the ground and have someone do it to you and you'll quickly stop doing that. Also front on greetings never happen between friends in the dog world, that is a que for a dog fight. If you watch dogs at a dog park go up to each other, if they are well socialized that is, they may walk towards each other but if neither wants a fight they move to the side and curve their bodies to communicate their peaceful intent. The best way for a person to meet your dog is to the side, letting the dog investigate before they ever reach to pet the dog. Watch the dog's body language! It's up to you to intervene and not let someone pet your dog if they're not comfortable or to know when to not touch someone else's dog even if they don't say anything. I see this all the time and it always stresses me out, WATCH YOUR FACE! I don't care how friendly your dog or another persons dog seems, ALWAYS be aware of where your face is compared to the dogs. Also NEVER allow your children to run up to dogs, yours or otherwise. This is rude to dogs and dangerous for your child. Remember, just because a dog is around does not mean you can pet them! They are not there for your amusement, no matter how much we love them.

So, you have a reactive dog, how do you make them more comfortable around other dogs? Start with tandem walking. As you see in the picture attached to this post, we walked Mina and Zenos side by side for a bit before letting them get close. Leashes are a tactical disadvantage and dogs know it. That is why so many dogs are leash reactive. It limits their body language, which without a voice is their only way to communicate with each other. This knowledge stresses them out and makes them react in unpredictable ways. Really the optimum way for two friendly dogs to meet is off leash on neutral ground so they can give each other play and calming signals. But short of that, tandem walking is the next best thing. Start at a distance, then move in closer until they are right next to each other. If that goes well making them sit near one another can also help them get the scent and intentions of the other dog without direct contact. This approach takes the pressure off the dogs. It sounds simple enough but it is easy to misstep and cause a scuffle if the situation is read wrong by the dogs or the people. If you want help with introducing your dog to other dogs or strangers reach out, we will be happy to help you!

For the Dogs,

Christina, DTFC

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