There is nothing lovelier than watching friendly dogs at play. Their heritage as pack animals means most dogs like to get to get to know each other, but they need to establish their position within the pack hierarchy, which can create stress and fear.
If dogs have a bad experience with another canine, it can give them a long-term wariness of mixing. What’s the best way to help dogs get along?
Introduce them in a neutral place
It’s a fair bet that you wouldn’t feel particularly friendly to a stranger who strolled into your home, and the same applies to dogs. Start somewhere neutral like a park, with both dogs on a leash with its own walker. Bring the dogs to a distance where they can see each other, then move closer unless one shows sign of distress. Reward positive behaviour like looking at the other dog with a treat.
Watch out for hostile signals
When dogs become defensive, the fur on their back stands up, their legs go stiff and they start baring teeth and growling. They also often glare at the other dog. If you see any of these signs, calm things down by moving the dogs apart and distracting them with a toy. Only bring the dogs closer together when they are relaxed and comfortable – forcing them could cause an aversion to other dogs.
Give it time
Sometimes dogs need to work their way up to direct interaction. In the early stages of socialising them, it is enough for them to just be comfortable in each other’s presence, staying by the side of their walker. Walk the dogs one in front of the other before attempting to put them side by side.
How dogs establish boundaries
Humans might get to know each other face to face, but dogs meeting nose-to-nose is more like facing off – one may become fearful and attack the other. Allowing dogs to sniff each other’s bottom is a more cordial greeting. Dogs have their own language of lip curls, growls and air snaps to tell another dog when they have overstepped the mark. This is a natural way for them to communicate, but watch out for one dog bullying the other by ignoring these signals.
Meeting in the home
When dogs are happy with each other in a neutral place, you can consider bringing them together in the home. Do not rush this process; keep the dogs in separate rooms for a time and remove toys, bones and food bowls that might be fought over. Let the dogs mix for short periods to begin with, gradually increasing these if the dogs are comfortable. It is best not to try to feed dogs together until they are well settled.
Introducing a puppy to an older dog
Cute, fluffy puppies are a whole lot of fun – but they can irritate older dogs simply by being so energetic. Even if they seem to be getting on, puppies should not be left with older dogs for at least a year. At some point in the puppy’s development, it may seek to challenge the older dog’s authority, which can lead to violence.
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