When it comes to introducing two dogs to one another, first impressions are important. What happens when the dogs meet will have a lasting impact on their relationship. Introductions can be a challenge, but there are ways to insure the first meeting goes smoothly.
Factors that go into first encounters
When two dogs meet for the first time, there are several factors to take into consideration. If both dogs are social, their first meeting should be pretty easy. However, some dogs are not as well socialized as others, which can lead to aggression or tension. Whether the dogs are spayed or neutered also plays a role. If they aren’t, this may make the meeting more difficult.
Keep Both Dogs on a Leash
You want to have complete control over your dog during the first meeting. Even if one dog does well off the leash, this doesn’t guarantee that the other will behave. Make sure you keep your hold on the leash fairly loose, because tension may communicate that you are stressed out, which will make your dog stressed out.
Meet on Neutral Ground
It is best to meet in an area where neither dog feels territorial. Even your dog’s favorite park may be a problem area. It’s best to give the dogs plenty of room, so avoid doorways, gates, or other confined areas. Neutral areas like a neighbor’s yard, a tennis court, or a training center are best. Dog parks also work well because dogs are used to meeting other dogs there. If your dogs are meeting at a shelter, you can ask a staff member to help introduce them.
Take the dogs for a walk together, keeping about 10 feet of space between them so that they don’t stare or greet the other dog; you want to acclimate them to each other without tension. While still maintaining distance, have the dogs cross paths and stiff where the other has walked.
Watch for signs of Play Between Dogs
If one dog makes a play bow, this is a great sign. You may be tempted to let the dogs play, but this can be risky if they’re still on the leash. Keep walking the dogs and let them and give them a chance to calm down before letting them off the leash.
Letting the Dogs Meet
Let the dogs get closer to each other, paying attention to their body language. If you’re not sure about how to read their body language, it’s best to have someone there who does. If the dogs aren’t showing any signs of hostility, take the dogs to an enclosed area and drop their leashes. Give the dogs some space and let them play. While you might want to micro-manage the situation, it’s best to avoid hovering because this can make the dogs more tense.
Dog usually respond well to verbal feedback from humans, so this can be advantageous when introducing dogs. For example, if the dogs are getting to tense around each other, say something in a soothing tone. If dogs are showing positive behavior, reinforce it by speaking in in encouraging tone. Usually verbal cues are enough in this situation, but if they become too excited or are clearly headed for conflict, we may need to step in and physically separate them.
The first meeting can set the tone for a relationship between two dogs, so keeping it under control is key. Remember to keep both dogs calm and take it slow. You can also seek help from a trainer if you’re not confident about dog-to-dog interactions.