Knowing your dogs communication skills
Watching dogs interact is fascinating. They have their very own method of communication. Some are social butterflies charging into the crowd with exuberance, while others hang back like a deer in the headlights.
Determining how to introduce one dog to a new, unfamiliar dog takes some consideration to ensure that the meeting achieves a positive outcome for all both dogs involved and their owners.
Firstly, a good understanding of each dog’s character type is helpful. Knowing whether the dogs are shy and reserved or outgoing and excitable plays a big part in how they should be introduced.
Unlike people, dogs do not have the ability to “prepare” for a new encounter. They live mainly in the moment and react to current situations. However, being aware of their character, and their history in similar situations, will allow you to prepare for them.
In most cases, if both dogs are sociable and tend to mix well with a variety of dogs, old or new, then the meeting should go relatively smoothly. They are likely to play energetically and thoroughly enjoy each other's company.
Nevertheless, monitoring the play is still essential. Play can escalate to rough play quickly and become boisterous. The dogs should be monitored and may require a timeout to calm down and relax.
Working with dogs that are more reserved
If a dog is more reserved and nervous, introducing them to a new dog needs care and effort. Socialising should always be encouraged. If a dog shows signs of fearfulness or uncertainty in these situations, it is almost certainly due to a lack of socialising when they were younger or bad past experiences.
It is possible, like with the racing greyhound, to appear to have good social skills as they interact well with people and other greyhounds. However, take a closer look, and the sheltered manner of their upbringing actually leaves them quite clueless when it comes to social gatherings with other breeds.
Greyhounds bred for the track are raised in a unique way. They are often kept with their litter-mates and in some cases their mothers, for the first six months. This is unlike the traditional eight weeks for most pups. Mum plays a much larger role in their lives; potty training and keeping control of her litter as they begin to venture out of the whelping pens and into the runs.
The extended time spent with their litter-mates teaches them a sense of family and socialises them exponentially, albeit in a contained world.
During their career years, racing greyhounds are in contact with many handlers. They are also constantly with other greyhounds but rarely have a chance to socialise with other breeds. It is because of this that their communication skills are quite limited and they are awkward in social gatherings involving other dogs.
How to introduce reserved dogs
It may be wise to gently introduce them to calm, quiet and good-natured dogs to begin with. Plan to have the dogs meet on neutral ground. An accompanying professional dog behaviourist will help the owner to remain relaxed, and will also observe and give guidance where needed.
Keep the dogs on their leads but try to keep the leash loose. Tension on the leash could communicate an anxiousness onto the dog. With all being well, walk the dogs side by side with the owners between them to provide a safe distance. The owners should talk and provide a sense of ease.
After a period of time, turn and walk back on the opposite side, allowing each dog to smell out where the other has just been. When both dogs seem at ease in each other's company, allow them to sniff at one another in close proximity.
It is important to keep the situation non-threatening. It would be great to see the invitation to play by way of a play-bow, but baby steps are still progress and always welcomed.