There is a new puppy in the neighborhood, and Trystan has been watching him grow from a ball of gold fur his size, to a leggy almost six month old youngster. Trystan was making the rounds re-marking his neighborhood on our walk yesterday, when we met Gus, and it seemed a good time to introduce the two. There are several important things to keep in mind when introducing a puppy to a new dog.
First, let them approach each other in a neutral area, as they choose to approach or not, on a loose leash. Make sure both people are relaxed and breathing as any tension in the people will quickly translate to the dogs. We chatted about the weather a good distance apart as the dogs gradually approached each other. Trystan then showed signs of discomfort, with hair raised and showing his teeth, so we walked near one another, about 20 feet apart, down the road, letting the dogs pay attention to the environment and each other in a relaxed way.
Be aware that nose to nose meeting is often stressful for dogs, and is not the best way for dogs to meet. A hard stare is seen by another dog as a challenge and unfriendly. Also, many herding dogs have more almond shaped eyes, to assist with their herding jobs, and that other dogs may see their gaze as more threatening than it may actually be. Watch body posture closely especially if you have a herding breed.
I like to set up a TTouch labyrinth (winding path marked with pvc poles), some ground poles to walk over, and some other elements from the “playground for higher learning” so that the dogs can walk through them on their leashes and get familiar with each other while doing something fun and focused. Studies have shown activation of both hemispheres of the brain in all four brain waves in the corners of the labyrinth in both the dog and the person. This is important because it means everyone is in a relaxed parasympathetic rest/digest state, and not the excitable reactive sympathetic fight/flight state, which creates a better situation to meet new dogs.
If the dogs show no hostility, then it is safe to take them off leash in a big fenced area. If you see signs of tension, call the dogs back to their people often to break up the anxiety. A puppy may need to check in more often to feel safe in this new situation. Pay attention to both dogs to see when they need a break. If one looks tired, stressed, or is trying to hide, that’s a sign they need a break. Trystan and his new buddy raced around the yard when off leash, but Gus needed frequent breaks with his mom.
Pay close attention to posture in both dogs. Stiff legs, hair up, teeth showing, ears erect, growling all can indicate that the dogs are not comfortable together. With a puppy, it is even more important that you be aware of these signs to help keep the little guy from misinterpreting what another dog is saying and getting into trouble. Trystan’s barks and herding dog instincts were a little overwhelming for Gus, who needed to check in with mom for reassurance, and we had to make sure to help him move around so he would not end up cornered with a barking corgi being too much for him.
Make sure the dogs are appropriate playmates. Your old girl may not be interested in a rambunctious young pup, but a younger dog with a lot of energy may be just what the pup needs for play, and to learn some rules about interacting with other dogs. Note too that not all dogs are going to like each other, just like people don’t all like everyone. Trystan is six and Gus six months, and Gus may love to play with a big two year old Lab. Trystan is small and Gus is somewhat timid, so in this situation they were a good pair.
Observe how the two dogs play. It’s important that they take turns chasing so nothing escalates into bullying. Be aware that arguments between the dogs can occur over treats, so make sure you have enough treats for both.
There is so much information about introducing dogs to each other, and taking your puppy to a class with other pups is a great way to help him socialize, and for you to have fun teaching him basic signals, with an experienced trainer to assist you. Your pup, like Gus, may just end up with some new friends!