Since we don’t always know a dog’s history, we need to be especially careful about how we find out about dog friendliness or at least take precautions upon new introductions.
There are many possible ways to do this and one size does not fit all! I am making the following suggestions for you to try as long as you absolutely know the dog is not aggressive.
If possible, introduce off-leash in a yard or park without lots of dogs. Even inside a house that is not yours would be good.
Dogs do better off-leash when meeting a new dog than on a leash. They don’t like to be ganged up on.
Have the other dog you are meeting on a leash so he can’t get into the new dog’s face. That will allow the new dog to approach to say hello without feeling threatened.
If the body language is good – no staring, tail not straight up, no lip licking, no hackles up, ears neutral – then take other dog off leash.
Or, ask the other owners if they could turn their dog around and hold the head facing away from your dog. Bring your dog to sniff the rear end of the dog so he’s not facing the eyes of the leashed dog.
Sniffing can relax a dog and is very non-threatening. If relaxed behavior is seen – tail wagging, but even with the dog’s back, not up or straight down – then let dogs play off-leash.
When meeting on the street, it can be done rear end first, even if the two dogs are on their leashes. You can also allow both dogs to do loose circles. Dogs circle and are both sniffing the other’s rear end.
The important thing when introducing a new dog of unknown behavior or preference is to make sure that your leash is very loose. You can still achieve control by holding the leash down low but with absolutely no tension.
Tension is likely to send the wrong signal to your dog that something is wrong and you are nervous. It also prevents your dog from having the freedom to back away if they are uncomfortable.
This technique requires practice. The other owner keeps moving around with her dog right next to her but under short leash control with slack. Watch for inappropriate body language.
If the other dog is off the leash, then body block by going to the front of your dog so the loose dog is not in your dog’s face. Ask the other person to get control of her dog. Then you can start the process.
In some cases, bringing your dog to doggie daycare is recommended. There, the staff can introduce him to a small group of same size or age or play style. The staff can usually assess who your dog is likely to get along with by their interaction with varied dogs.
Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. firstname.lastname@example.org