Introducing your Dog to New People and Dogs

Tuki Talks

Hello again – your friend Tuki from my perch at the Potter League. I can’t believe September is here already! All you kids will be going back to school soon – if you haven’t already. I know because I can hear your parents cheering! Between the kids going back to school (and maybe making new friends) and all the wonderful people who adopted a furry friend during the Clear the Shelters even, I bet a lot of you are wondering how to introduce your furry family member to new people and other animals. Well, as usual, I’ve been listening to the staff here at the Potter League and I have a few tips for you.

You know what they say, ‘A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.’ If you want your dog to make new friends successfully, there are some things you can when introducing your dog to guests that will help make the situation more comfortable and safer for your dog and your guests.

  • Use a leash – for your dog, not your guest! Put the leash on before your guests arrive so you can control the introduction. Make your dog sit before you open the door or have your guests call or text before they get there so you can both greet them at the door. This is especially good if your dog gets excited when he hears the doorbell.
  • Have your guests greet you before greeting your dog. This give your dog a chance to get a little more comfortable with the guest’s presence before meeting them. Remind your guests to pet your dog’s body rather than their head – some dogs can be fearful of that and may bite.
  • Let your dog go to the person rather than the person going to the dog. This is helpful if your dog is shy or nervous.
  • Use a baby gate. If you’re not sure how your dog will react or you think they might become overwhelmed, separate them with a gate so they can check out your guests from a safe distance. Once your guests are settled and you see how your dog reacts to company, you can decide when and how to introduce them.
  • Don’t forget to praise and reward your dog with treats if he exhibits a behavior that you like such as sitting or staying when told. If you are comfortable with the situation, you can have your guest give the treat.

If you are out and about with your dog and ‘a friend you haven’t met yet’ asks to meet your dog, watch your dog’s body language to see how he reacts. Since not everyone has dog experience, you let the person know whether or not it is ok to approach your dog. Ask them to hold their hand out in a fist with the palm down for your dog to sniff and if your dog seems comfortable with that, tell them they can pet or scratch your dog on the side of his neck or body.

If you are going to introduce your dog to a new dog, whether this is a dog brother or sister or just a new dog friend, here are some things to help the meeting go well. Some dogs may not be as social as others, so you want to be sure both dogs are comfortable and safe.

  • Pick a neutral location. You want a place where neither dog is likely to be territorial.
  • Have both dogs on a leash, each with his own person. Hold the leash loosely and stay calm and relaxed – remember, your dog takes his cues from you and if you are nervous, he will be too. Try walking the dogs side by side first.
  • If the dogs are doing well, allow them to meet. Watch their body language as they approach each other. Dogs often won’t become best friends right away. They have to test each other a bit by acting assertive or making noise. If you aren’t sure you can tell the difference between dogs getting acquainted and dogs who don’t like each other, ask someone who can tell the difference to help.
  • If they don’t show any signs of hostility, take the dogs to an enclosed or fenced area, drop their leashes and let them get to know each other. Give them some space – don’t be a ‘helicopter’ pet parent and hover while they are getting to know each other.
  • Give them feedback. If they are getting too excited, as dogs often do when playing, use a calm voice and remind them to take it easy. If one dog is getting too excited and the other isn’t correcting him, you may want to say, ‘Slow down!’ or ‘Knock it off!’ which usually encourages them to calm down a little Also, remember to give them lots of praise and rewards for appropriate behaviors!

If you want to introduce your dog to other furry friends like cats, there are lots of tips for doing that too, but that’s the subject of a whole other column!

So long for now!

Your friend, Tuki

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