For your dog, getting to know peers can be incredibly fun. But such a new meeting can be quite complicated. And every owner has his own convictions: 'Let them go, they will fight it out themselves'. Or: 'He won't do anything; he only wants to play'. But what is smart to do if you want dogs to meet each other safely?
Leashed or not?
There are different opinions about whether you should let dogs get acquainted on a leash or on the loose. Yes, it is true that dogs that are loose feel freer. They can set their own pace and manner of approach and flee if they wish. That's why you see that encounters in a loose-leash area often go off without a hitch.
Yet there may be a good reason to leash a dog. Make your dog in any case fixed as soon as you encounter another leashed dog. There is always a reason why the other dog is leashed. Problems arise frequently if one dog is fixed, however, and the other not. Moreover, it can be so that the other dog is perhaps injured, fearful, or runs away quickly and therefore stuck. Is your dog on the line? Give him maximum space and let the line hang slack. Let the dogs themselves take the initiative to meet each other.
Space, space and more space
Dogs that meet each other for the first time want to quietly look the cat out of the tree first. When we humans get to know someone, we walk right up to each other and look the other person in the eye. Dogs do this very differently. They want to come across as non-threatening and therefore like to walk towards each other in a small detour first.
Before dogs start sniffing each other at all, they look at each other very subtly. They want to have the space to be able to walk away if it does not click. So, give the dogs enough room to escape and let them get closer at their own pace.
Pay attention to body language
Have the dogs seen each other? Then they will let each other know if they are open to contact. Always pay attention to the subtle signals that dogs give. Where it may seem that dogs are uninterested, dogs can have entire "conversations" with the other dog with their bodies. Observe your own dog carefully in every situation, then you will understand your dog's body language better and better.
Dogs prefer not to sniff each other nose-to-nose directly, but start at the back, flanks, or neck. A polite dog also does not look directly into the eyes of the other dog but looks away a little. Thus, they let each other know I am harmless!
Also pay attention to your own attitude and body language: as soon as you see another dog coming, talk positively about the other dog. In this way you bring a relaxed and positive charge to the encounter. Can you see from afar that another dog (or your own dog) is not keen on a meeting? Then avoid the confrontation and just walk the other way.
Pay attention to the body language of the dogs:
Positive signals, let them do their thing:
- Looking away: 'I don't mean any harm!'
- Quietly walk around each other in a circle
- First sniff each other from behind
- A relaxed wag, tail on medium height
- Ears straight up or relaxed
- Shoulders down, back up: 'I want to play with you!'
- Pauses in the game: take turns being 'the boss
- The dogs respect each other's corrections and give each other space.
Stress signals, be careful:
- Staring and standing still, tail straight up
- Yawning, licking lips
- Showing the whites of the eyes
- Growling, showing teeth
- Neck hairs stand up
- Ears flat backwards
- Tail between the legs, anxious, squeaking
- One dog ignores the other dog's corrections and continues where the other does not want to go. Intervene.
Intervene: calmly and decisively
Do you see that one of the dogs is giving signals that he doesn't want to? Intervene. You do this by stepping away from the dogs, resolutely calling your dog to you and walking away. Reward your dog, of course, if he listens to you properly.
In the event of a less than pleasant encounter, always try to remain calm. Raising your voice and shouting only fuels aggression and excitement. Do not push or pull the dog but try to calmly distract your dog with your voice. Make sure you have a tasty snack on hand with which you can get the dog's attention.
Not every dog wants to / can play
Maybe you have a very enthusiastic dog that always wants to play. But every dog is different. Some dogs are afraid because of a trauma. Other dogs may have an injury, are in heat, are in training or have another reason why they cannot/do not want to encounter other dogs. Therefore, not only look at the body language of the dog, but also look at that of its owner! Because he knows his dog best and knows what is good for him. Take each other into account!
Have a nice walk!