How to Introduce Your Dogs to Other Dogs
Updated: Mar 31
Repetition is key in any form of a dog’s behaviour management, that’s why the key to your dog interacting with other dogs, or socialization, is familiarity and experience. You should expose your dog to as many positive experiences, with as many different people, places and animals as you can to really solidify this, make being friendly and meeting new people the norm.
Is your dog calm, confident and controllable when he is interacting with other dogs or people? Some dogs display curious personality quirks. Quirks such as afraid of people wearing gloves or men with beards. Some will bark ferociously when they see another dog or are terrified to get into a car.
Socialization aims to correct this behavior in dogs. It's a process that should begin when a dog is young but continue throughout adult life. Don’t worry, even if you’ve adopted a dog at an older age, they can still benefit from socialization training.
As we’ve said: familiarity and experience are the key to socialization. You want to expose your dog to as many positive experiences, with as many different people, places and animals as you can.
Simple repeated exposure is not enough, the experience your dog has while in these new situations must be positive. For example, inviting a friend's young children over to let your dog get used to them won't be helpful if they pinch and poke him or make him frightened. There needs to be gentle affection, rewards and playing.
Being young has great potential for your puppy. Events and activities such as Puppy Training School and Puppy Parties in your home and vet clinic are great opportunities for your dog to socialize with, and become friends with, other dogs. Resist the urge to remove nervous dogs from the situation or isolate and punish overly rowdy ones. Dogs are social animals and they need to learn about interacting with each other, and, not surprisingly, the best way to do this is through interacting with other dogs!
Introduce them to as many people as you can, people of all shapes, sizes and ages and have a few treats ready to help reward the good behaviour to enforce it. Change the route of daily walks and take your dog places he's unused to. The more he experiences, the more comfortable he will be in out of the ordinary situations. Also remember to never leave your dog alone with toddlers or infants - very young children might hurt or frighten them without meaning to and if your dog is startled or feels uncomfortable then they may turn on the child.
Dogs, descended from wolves, naturally have instincts for a strong sense of hierarchy and you need to always be at the top. They need to know that you are confident and in control before they can be confident and unafraid too. So if you’re trying to make your dog feel at ease around larger animals but you’re nervous around them yourself, you need to stop right there as you’ll do more harm than good. Wait until you can demonstrate that you’re comfortable and in control of a situation before you teach your dog to be.
This is why a simple yet effective method in having your dog become socialized is to keep their attention on you while they’re in a situation they’re unsure of. Your dog recognizes you as the leader of the pack because you're strong and competent and will take comfort from the fact that the leader will take care of things.
Lastly, if your dog is displaying aggressive behavior then don't hesitate to look for professional help. An aggressive reaction isn't necessarily the sign of a bad dog but it needs to be addressed quickly. Talk to your vet, who will be able to recommend a behavior specialist as that needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible.