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» Introducing Two Dogs - Have a Safe Introduction
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Introducing Two Dogs - Have a Safe Introduction.

Human beings are bound by certain social rules and etiquettes.  Dogs are too, however, their rules are entirely different from our rules.  For example, it is rare that one person meets another person and within seconds begins a violent fight.  This behavior, however, is very common with our canine friends.  Introducing two dogs in public is an art and an exercise in training and control.  You must be prepared if you are going to avoid not only dog fights, but if you are to steer clear of dog illnesses and other problems when introducing two dogs.

When I have my dogs in public the first rule I live by is assume the worst.  What I mean by this is that I assume that most other dogs out there are ill-behaved and not dog friendly.  I know this sounds extreme and perhaps rude but honestly, am I that far off?  If you assume this position you will be correct a majority of the time.  Most dogs in public are poorly trained and poorly socialized and shouldnt be counted on to automatically get along with your dog.

So how do you go about introducing two dogs with such assumptions?  The short answer is, I dont.  When I am in public, generally speaking, I keep my dogs separate from other dogs I encounter.  Do I know if the approaching dog is current with his shots, do I know if the other dog is dog aggressive?  The answer is no.  Why would I introduce my dog into such an unknown situation where he could get injured from a fight or sick from an illness?

The next assumption I typically make is assume the other dog owner knows nothing about dogs.  When I approach another dog owner on the street or in a park I often find that they are eager to have their dog meet both my dog and me.  I often hear comforting words such as, Oh, hes fine with other dogs, or, Its ok, hes friendly.  Well the truth is that maybe their dog has been friendly with a few dogs but who is to say that their dog will be friendly with my dog?  I was once walking with a client and their dog down a path in the woods when along came a beautiful Airedale Terrier.  As we approached the owner of the terrier called out, Hes friendly! following which the dog immediately proceeded to lunge at the leash while barking quite aggressively, obviously looking for a fight.  Both I and my clients dog barely missed being bit as the other owner was nearly pulled over.  Ever since this experience, and many similar ones, I have realized that I cant trust the judgment of other dog owners.

As a result of this style of thinking I religiously avoid dog parks.  They are the bane of the dog world and should be avoided at all costs.  They are a recipe for disease and fighting.  You would be wise to avoid these settings.

Am I being too much of an extremist?  No, I dont think so.  In doing this I am almost guaranteeing a safe outing everywhere I go.  You may be asking, But what about socialization?  Shouldnt my dog learn to get along with other dogs?  The answer is yes, but only under controlled settings.

I am very careful about the children that my young daughter meets.  I try to avoid having her meet kids who are bullies or sick.  Why wouldnt I do the same for my dog?  Whenever I allow my dogs to meet new dogs I do so only when the situation is controlled.

So what is a controlled situation?  It could be a variety of settings, but typically a controlled situation is one where I am familiar with the other dog owner, familiar with the other dog and feel that said owner can control said dog.  A controlled situation finds both dogs on leash and under control.  When introducing two dogs I am always confident that I can control my dog so I need to make sure I partner up with someone else who can also control their dog.  With all of these ducks in a row I am ready to introduce my dog to the other dog. 

As I said, both dogs are on leash so the first step is allowing the other dogs to be near each other to see initial reactions.  I will have my dog about 10 feet from the other dog.  If either of the two begins to show aggression I know that maybe this is not a potential friendship.  If they are okay at this distance I proceed.  One dog remains stationary, preferably in the sit command, while the other dog is walked by at a distance of 5-6 feet.  The moving dog is then asked to sit while the other walks 5-6 away.  Everybody still okay?  Good, lets keep going.  Now I put my dog in the heel position on my left hand side while the other owner puts her dog on her left hand side.  From here we walk past each other head on.  By walking head on with our dogs on our left hand sides and under control the dogs are still separated by our bodies and still havent come in contact with each other.  At this point, however, each dog has seen the other from a variety of angles and from a variety of potentially threatening and non-threatening positions.  If they are still okay you can keep going.  Obviously if they have shown aggression at any point you should stop the session.

The next step is the actual introduction.  Each owner should approach the other, each dog should be preferably in the heel position.  At about 3-4 feet from each other the owners should have their dogs sit by their sides.  If everyone is still all right the owners should release the dogs from the sit position and slowly allow the dogs to start sniffing.  After a few seconds each owner leads his or her dog away from each other and walks in the opposite direction.  Do a U-turn and return to each others proximity.  Come back to a halt again 3-4 feet away from each other and repeat the process.  Do this several times, each time allowing the dogs to sniff each other for a bit longer period.  At this stage it is important to look for tell-tale signs.  If the hair on the back of one dog goes straight up lead that dog away and go even slower with the introductions.  Watch for other signs such as the lips being lifted, growling, or other very tense behavior. 

It is important to keep your dogs on leash.  If a fight were to break out both owners could immediately drag each dog apart from each other.  If when you introduce two dogs like this and everyone is still okay you can gradually give the dogs more and more freedom and allow them to play even more.

As with all dog training, use common sense.  Watch for signs in your dog.  Introducing two dogs can be fun, but you must always exercise caution.



Ty Brown
Author Ty Brown is a renowned dog trainer whose training adventures and clients have taken him to 18 states and 5 countries to teach others how to properly train their dogs. Go to dogbehavioronline.com for more dog training articles, advice, tips, and answers from a professional dog trainer 

 

 

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