Every now and again I see those folks that walk their dog right up to another dog they do not know and I cannot help but wonder, “Why?” I understand that we should socialize our “babies” with other dogs, but sometimes that can lead to disaster. There are proper ways of introductions and precautions should always be observed.
So, let’s talk about how we should introduce our dogs to each other. I don’t know how many times I have watched people letting their dogs walk them right up to another dog they do not know. That is not only dangerous but if a fight were to happen, the dog who led their person into the situation would be at fault. This is why we trainers strive to help teach the owners and their dogs to walk with each other, and why the owner should always remain in control of the walk. When we approach another dog while walking our own, there are signs and body language we need to observe. With the permission of the other dog owner, we proceed forward and allow our dogs to come face to face while we are observing both dogs. We should be watching their eyes, mouths, ears, backs, tails, and complete overall posture.
First, as they approach each other, watch their eyes. If their eyes lock onto each other, watch to see if they dilate to almost black orbs. This usually will be the first sign one is about to reject the other’s advances at being friends. Keep in mind that if the handlers or trainers are nervous, then the dogs will be just as nervous; so take a deep breath.
Second, now we are moving past the faces, down the sides of each other’s bodies toward the butts. Some trainers say, “Noses, tails, and butts.” While this is happening, watch their bodies for stiffness and tails going from a down position to straight out or up. Watch for them poking their chests out and hackles on their back going up. If there is no sign of this and tails are wagging, then things are going good.
Third, the butt smell of each other. For some reason there are dogs out there that want to smell the other’s butt and then not share theirs. This makes me laugh sometimes. It can turn ugly quickly because the one dog can sometimes change its mind and tell the other dog “No,” even after the butt smell.
The whole time the introductions are happening, keep watching the face of each dog. If, for some reason either party decides to not go through with the introduction, watch for the following: a face and jaw that seem to square up, eyes which take on a look like locking onto a target and ears going forward. Be wary! Usually there is a split second where it can be felt that there is something about to happen, and that is time enough to get them away from each other before it does.
Another type of body language I want everyone to remember is the play bow. If both dogs like each other and one spreads its paws out and puts half its body in the down position, this is called the play bow. Sometimes both dogs will do it simultaneously to each other and then, “GAME ON!” Sometimes the play bow can be one-sided when only one does it, but in most cases they always accept each other and play. There are a few times I have seen the play bow initiated and the other dog still would not play. Be mindful of this also because it could lead into trouble if the other dog does not want to play.
Lastly, I want everyone to realize when there are service dogs working (vest on means they are working) do not allow your dog to approach the service dog unless cleared with the handler. It is not that something might happen, but we must remember that dogs will be dogs. What would happen if your dog did not take a liking to the working dog and picked a fight? No matter how well trained that service dog is, they might decide to defend themselves if attacked. That could ruin their training. The reason I address this concern is because of the following: While Zues, my service dog, and I have been out walking in Athens, we’ve been approached by some people walking their dogs. Thankfully, I have trained Zues not to respond, but he is still a dog. Please keep this in mind next time you introduce your dogs to another.
“Remember to love your dogs because they love you. Maybe not the way you want them to, like chewing up your favorite shoes or what not, but that is just love chewing. Be thankful for the time you have with them always.”
By: Joel Allen