For many dog guardians, part of the fun of having a dog is the social aspect. Doggie playdates, dog parks, outdoor bistros, and even the casual dog-dog sniff while out on a walk. A well-socialized, confident pup is often what we picture when we think about bringing a new canine home. Achieving that ideal is easier said than done, and no one wants to be the pet parent dragging their leash reactive dog away from the party. So how do you get your dog to get along with other dogs?
Just like human children, our fur babies need help learning how to play nicely with others. Understanding how dogs communicate with each other is a crucial part of helping your dog develop their social skills.
Dog greetings 101
Professionally run puppy socials, supervised play dates, and well-vetted dog parks can be fun ways to give your dog a social outlet. When meeting a new dog or attempting a casual greeting in passing though, it might be helpful to keep some dog-dog intro basics in mind.
Butts are less threatening than teeth. Going straight for a nose-to nose greeting can put your dog in a stressful or risky position.
Brief is better. A greeting of about three seconds usually gives both dogs time to get a good sniff and keep the greeting light and happy.
Watch for body language. Both dogs should have a loose or wiggly body and soft or bright eyes. If you notice nervous or non-social behaviors from either dog (lip curl, low growl, tense body, hard stare) it’s time to move along.
Be aware of the leash. Keep a firm hold on the leash, without pulling back on it. Tension in the leash can cause tension in your dog. Avoid leashes tangling by staying precisely opposite of the other dog’s leash (like the hands of a clock at 6:00).
Speak up for your dog. Your dog’s safety is more important than a brief social interaction. Communicate your dog’s greeting style or quirks to the other pet parent, and when it’s time to move along, just say so and go!
Some dogs are naturally more socially inclined than others, but with training, patience, and tuning into your dog’s needs you can be the proud parent of a confident, pro-social pooch. If your dog is working through some leash reactivity (aka leash aggression) and not ready to be approached by other dogs, you can find more info here on additional training to do before putting any of the above tips into action. Want help tuning more deeply into your dog? Book an animal communication or lightwork session here.