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How to Make Friends

Ways to effectively introduce your dog to other dogs. What to look for to ensure a successful encounter.

  • Meet nose to rear, avoiding direct eye contact.

  • Keep encounters to 3 seconds for the first few meetings.

  • Maintain a close eye on the other dog’s body language, with special attention to their face. Eye contact, dilated pupils, and hard eyes should particularly be looked for. These are the most preliminary and subtle stress cues.

  • Circling is a great way to help dogs meet for the first few times. This is done by walking in a circle with the dogs on a leash and allowing them to meet for brief periods once both dogs are showing signs of relaxation.

  • Remain calm; remember that praise for good behavior needs to come from a calm source. Don’t get your dog too excited, this can lead to heightened arousal, which can easily lead to aggressive behavior.

  • Focus is very important; get your dog’s attention away from any bad situation by having them do any basic cues such as sit. This should always be rewarded with calm praise.

  • A good encounter between two dogs will mean that both dogs are comfortable sniffing each other.

  • Tail is not low and not high but in between and wagging.

Stress signs to look for include:

  • Dilated pupils and hard eyes.

  • Whale eye. (the white of the eye bugs out).

  • Closed mouth (some breeds always have a closed mouth).

  • Backline, how straight or how curved is the spine. An upward arched back means stress or tension.

  • Eye contact coupled with a nose pointed toward the other dog and ears forward, is a sign of high arousal. This could turn into a negative encounter. Do not gamble, remove the dogs from this situation.

  • Legs spread far apart, tense, stiff legs. This is your dog getting ready for action. Not to be confused with a play bow.

  • Looking away simply means that the dog is not ready or willing to meet.

  • Ears back, apprehension, still not ready to meet.

  • Tail tucked.

  • More than usual slobber.

  • Excessive shedding or and dandruff.

  • Hiding behind mom or dad.

HOMEWORK: Practice exposing your dog to new places, things (distracters), if possible have your puppy stay on leash with another person while you walk away and return; practice sit, down and come.

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