One of the biggest problems I hear about is how to introduce dogs to other dogs. We’ve all been out on a walk before when we come across another dog, and of course our pup leaps into an excited frenzy.
“Oh, boy! A new friend! I have to meet them RIGHT NOW!”
It doesn’t matter how big your dog is, or even the breed. They can all get so wound up you’ll wonder if they’re going to explode right there. And you know how frustrating it feels when they start dragging you along as if you weren’t even there.
But it’s more than just frustration. It can be embarrassing, dangerous, and make you feel out of control. Not responding properly can lead to things quickly escalating and getting quite scary.
Is it aggression or excitement?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell what your dog is feeling, and often it is a mixture of many emotions. Most commonly in a situation where you are introducing your dog to other dogs, it will be aggression, excitement, and even stress.
These are not the emotions you want your dog to be going through if you want your meeting to go smoothly. Maybe the meet will go well and you’ll go on your way with new friends.
But over time, leaving improper behavior unchecked will cause the behavior to get worse and worse. Soon your dog will become more and more aggressive in its approach to the other dog.
Before long, your dog will “greet” their new friends reared up on their hind legs, with their eyes bulging and probably plenty of overexcited barking. You may be thinking, “we’re already there!”
So how do you stop that from happening? In this article, we’ll cover the three options you have available to you. From there, you will be able to choose a simple, basic approach that works best for your dog that will put you both on a path to success.
Before beginning, it’s important that you have established yourself as your dog’s pack leader. You must be seen as the one in charge or your dog will not listen. If your dog is particularly aggressive, it would also be a good idea to take a look at our more complete article on how to stop dog aggression.
Let’s begin with option #1:
Does your dog seem calm and relaxed? Great! After all, that’s the goal. Leave them on their leash and approach the other dog. Stay silent as you walk towards the other dog and let them meet each other.
In other words, your dog is acting correctly in this situation, so you should reward their behavior by staying out of the way. Just be relaxed and don’t upset the happy meeting you have going on in front of you.
Now, if your dog is not so calm, you’re going to want to try option #2:
Keep your distance
If your dog is barking and going crazy, then obviously the right move is your first instinct: stay away. Whether they seem eager or angry isn’t important, just keep your distance and walk away.
For starters, you have no idea how the other dog will act or behave — not to mention their owner. This is particularly important to pay attention to if the other dog is small or older, and you should use more caution around these other dogs even if your own dog is being calm.
But the biggest reason why you want to keep your distance in this situation is that it makes it clear to your dog that you are the one in charge. They need to get used to the fact that sometimes they will not get to meet everyone or sniff everything that they’d like while on walks, and those decisions are up to you and you alone.
Finally, let’s go over option #3:
Calm your dog then decide
If your dog seems a bit excited but nothing too over the top, try and calm them first. If you are able to and the other dog seems receptive, then you may choose to approach the other dog. But the choice is still yours (and the other owner, of course).
What’s really important to take from this third point is that you are taking the time to show your dog that if they calm down and behave that good things will happen. Over time your dog will learn that if they relax they will get to meet other dogs.
So which should I choose?
Each of the three options could be right for you at different times. In fact, I would say it’s very likely that you will need to use each of these three options at some point.
Younger dogs will be more likely to need a calming down before meeting other dogs than those that are older. But this training will filter over into all aspects of you and your dog’s relationship, so don’t worry it will be worth the time.
How can you guarantee results?
As I discussed earlier in the article, you will not be able to accomplish anything if your dog does not see you as the one in charge. They MUST see you as their pack leader.
Until that has been accomplished you cannot reliably predict how your dog will act in certain situations. There’s a great dog training site ran by a trainer named Doggy Dan who goes over everything you need to know. Watch his video series by clicking here.
The mistake you must avoid
I won’t beat around the bush on this one: you CANNOT reward bad behavior. Imagine your dog is barking and wagging their tail at a nice little dog across the street. You cross and meet them and everything goes well.
But you have actually made things worse for both you and your dog. By following your dog’s lead, you have rewarded their bad behavior. The barking and excitement will only continue to increase until you can no longer control your dog at all!
Be Patient with Your Dog
All dogs — no matter how hyper or big or small or aggressive — can learn to be calm and how to approach other dogs. It just takes commitment and patience on your part, but it is not complicated once you have learned how.
Take the time to establish yourself as your dog’s pack leader and any other training you do with your dog will be much more effective. The more your dog sees you as the one in charge, the more they will pay attention to you and follow your direction.
Again, Dan’s video series is excellent for learning more about this and I highly recommend it.