Dog Introductions

19553877_312190202575035_828355446540567359_nA friend of mine reached out to me about dog introductions so I thought I would share my experience with over 100 dog introductions as I used to run a feral animal shelter out of my home with up to 15 animals at a time (dogs and cats) while attending veterinary school in a third world country and I now perform dog introductions as a living at a dog boarding and training facility. If you are looking to have a play date with a friend’s dog, are dog sitting, or planning on adopting, exchange something that has your dogs’ scent like a blanket or towel you just dried your dog with a few days before the introduction. It is very important that you introduce them on leash in a neutral area away from both houses. It can be just down the street from where either of you live just not on either of your properties where the dogs can become protective. Walk each dog far enough away from each other in opposite directions so that their first opportunity to acknowledge the other is brief and they are far enough away that neither can hurt the other. If one starts to react, happily in your most high-pitched exciting voice tell her “LET’S GO!” and run her ahead until she stops reacting and try again depending on the severity of the reaction for example, if there was lunging, growling and showing of her teeth, you may want to try again some other time in a different location or not at all. If she lunged because you think she was excited, run her out until she calms down and then start again. If you both think your dogs are calm enough, get closer and closer but still far enough away that they are both safe. Walk them both facing the same direction and if there is little to no reaction, move forward and start walking them in a circle with the more anxious dog following the other. Get close enough that the more anxious dog can sniff the other’s rear for about a second and then keep going in the circle for another round or so, then go counterclockwise so that the other dog can get a sniff. If both dogs were calm during their rear end encounters, walk them along side each other and let them decide if they want to go face to face. The most difficult part of introductions is that you and your friend DON’T tense up on your dogs’ leashes because that will signal to your dog that you don’t feel safe around the other dog which will then make your dog go into defensive mode. Over 90% of introductions done like this usually result in acceptance. Stay as calm as you can but watch your dog like a hawk! You both know your dogs better than anyone so trust what they are trying to tell you and go SLOWLY. IF anything is to happen between the dogs, make a really loud noise to try to snap them out of it. I carry a small air horn with me at all times attached to my treat pouch and I highly recommend you do the same. If this doesn’t work, grab your dogs by their back legs and wheel barrow them into each other. If THAT doesn’t work, then you have to get something inside their mouths to pry them off of one another like a large stick/umbrella/leashes/etc. If you use your hand/arm/other body part, you will get bitten. You want to try to avoid ripping them apart especially if they are biting one another, you can increase the severity of the wound. This is the EXTREME as dogs know how costly fighting is and a psychologically sound dog will do everything possible to avoid confrontation. Only 10% of dogs are truly fog reactive so if you really want your dog to have a friend, there is help out there for you and your dog. This is also why understanding dog body language is so important.

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