The approach of another dog piques the attention of most pups, but that doesn’t always mean they’re thrilled about making new friends. While some can pooches happily meet and greet newcomers, others steer clear or become aroused for a different reason – because they’re anxious.
If your companion is quiet and tends avoids canine confrontation, there is nothing wrong with steering clear of dog parks and day cares, if you can. But if she loves the company of other pups once the ice is broken, but tends to be on high alert upon introduction, here are a few tips in order make those meetings calmer and more pleasant for everyone!
1. Meet on neutral territory
If you have a meeting planned with a friend or family member and their dog, make sure the initial introduction is on neutral territory. Having the newcomer bound into your house is a bad idea; your dog will most likely consider this an intrusion (and may act accordingly). A better idea is to meet at a public park or walking path for the very first time. If you can’t, have the dogs meet outside the house in a location where neither is overly protective, like the yard (or a neighbor’s yard) or driveway.
2. Have them both on a leash
Many dogs behave better off-leash (in safe, enclosed areas, of course), because they don’t feel trapped. But if you’re introducing two dogs and one is anxious, it’s probably better to keep them both leashed so that one can’t startle the other by approaching too fast. This way you can control the distance and slowly bring them closer as they sniff each other out. Animal Humane Society even suggests taking them on a side-by-side stroll if they are cooperating!
And another note: never keep your dog on-leash in a place where others are allowed to run free, like a dog park or a fenced in yard. If one or more dogs comes to greet him, your companion may feel cornered and can act defensively.
3. Go slow
As mentioned earlier, make sure the two dogs approach each other at a slow, controlled pace. An exuberant, fast-moving pup can make the anxious one extremely nervous. Also, parents of uneasy pups should avoid places where there are multiple strange dogs until theirs is more comfortable making friends.
4. Don’t reward bad or fearful behavior
If your dog starts to lunge toward his new acquaintance, growl or show signs of nervous aggression, stop where you are or turn around. If you proceed with the introduction, your dog’s pulling gets rewarded because he gets what he wants, and if he’s acting out of anxiety, he could lash out. Do not yell at your dog in this situation; it will only increase his nervousness, and could exacerbate the bad behavior.
Or, maybe it’s the other way around: the newcomer is approaching your pup, and he begins to retreat and cower behind you. While it’s tempting to try to comfort your dog with pets and promises that it’ll be okay, you’re really just rewarding the fear, and he’ll think it’s the right thing to do.
In both situations, put some distance between the two dogs until yours begins acting calmly. When he begins to behave politely near his new friend, that deserves a reward. Gradually close the distance between them and continue rewarding good behavior. But if he’s still not complying, try again another day.
5. Use positive reinforcement for good behavior
Be very liberal about showering good behavior with rewards! Every time your pup calmly walks towards or sniffs her new friend, or they begin playing nicely, praise is in order! Reinforce the behavior with treats, pets, and exclamations of, “good dog!”