First Introductions to another dog should be controlled, not rushed, and energy as calm and confident as possible. Use leashes for safety and control, not to manipulate or create tension. Begin by meeting on neutral territory, if at all possible. Have each handler introduce each dog to the environment by letting them smell around, pee on things, and investigate the area. Verbally greet the other person from a distance and be upbeat and have happy energy.
Depending on how this goes, continue to maintain some distance and have the calmer dog walk in front of the other dog – this can be 10 – 20 feet (or even more if dog(s) are escalated). If the dog in front is interested in smelling something or pees on something, let the second dog come up to that spot after the first pup has moved ahead to smell and investigate. If this is going well, continue to move forward and have second dog continue to get closer to the front dog.
We often suggest starting at 10 feet apart, then 5 feet, then 3 feet, and then smell. Do not rush this process and keep the smell short and sweet. Only continue to move forward if both dogs are calm, the front dog stays facing forward most of the time, and the energy is that of interest and curiosity—not too much arousal or reactivity. If one or the other dog ever gets too aroused, or is lunging or barking, then slow the process down and walk for 5, 10, or even up to 30 minutes.
Switch the process at some point—typically after the second dog has come up and smelled the first one—and have the dogs switch positions, letting the other lead. It is also recommended to walk the dogs together with the people in the middle and the dogs on the outside. Eventually, work up to letting the dogs smell each other nose to butt, doing a circle. Face to face meetings are not recommended and are typically considered rude. If one of the dogs becomes aroused—freezes body posture, growls, gives side eye, etc.—quickly separate with small pops on the leash and walk again. Energy should remain positive, and tension should not be put on the leashes.
Dog-Dog Greetings, On-Leash
NOTE: The beginning stage of this exercise is extremely similar to Dog-People Greetings. Before your pup greets another dog, body block so that he does not pull ahead of you. Try to body block before any dog-dog contact happens! When done properly, a body block is strong body language to the person approaching that his/her dog should not greet your dog.
It is important that you learn to verbally greet the person while body blocking your pup. Ask him/her to allow the dogs to greet once your pup is calm. Typically, using the word “training” helps the approaching person have patience while you work with your pup. For example, you could say something like, “I’d love for our pups to say hello! I’m training him to greet other dogs calmly, can you give me a second?”
If body blocking calms your pup, give the “sit” cue. If pup is still too excited to respond to commands, use a treat to lure your pup into the sit position. Put your pup in placement: cross your feet and spin halfway around, so that you are facing the greeter; your pup remains behind you, slightly off to one side. Once pup is in placement (behind you while you face forward), pause to make sure your pup remains calm. Pup may stand up, which is okay, but pup cannot move forward. If your pup tries to move forward, give a verbal “eh eh” correction.
If pup is insistent about coming out of placement, turn around and body block him. Restart the process once he is calm.
From the placement position, take one step toward the other dog, using your body to create a barrier between the two pups to avoid face-to-face greeting. By taking only one step, you should have opened your body block, implying that your pup can now move forward. Sweep your arm toward the other dog and calmly give the cue, “Say hello.” Continue to use your body to block face-to-face contact; encourage the pups to sniff each other’s behinds instead. Keep the greeting short and do not allow energy to escalate (move away if either pup starts to show excitement.)
Hint: Throughout the greeting, keep your pup on a short, LOOSE leash. Move with your pup as necessary but do not give him more than a foot or two of leash.
This article was written by Jenn Kyzer, M.Ed, Master Behavior Trainer at KyzerDog.
Jennifer Kyzer has been training dogs and their humans for almost 20 years. Jenn now lives in Hanover with her family. They have four kids – two with fur and two of the teenage human variety. She enjoys helping dogs and their families through our Homeschool program. When she’s not covered in dog hair, she’s cooking, mountain biking, and hiking with friends.
For more information visit http://kyzerdog.com/.