As owners, our job is to, first and foremost, advocate for our dogs. This doesn’t mean coddling. I repeat: DO NOT CODDLE. If our dog is uncomfortable in a situation where their discomfort is reasonable, we must remove them or protect them from that situation. If our dog gets anxious about flags in the wind, it is reasonable to walk them past moving flags, make them touch the flags, or even surround them in a room with flags to show them that a flag is most certainly not going to hurt you.
When we are talking about other dogs, we are not talking about flags. Dogs can be a threat. Even the small ones, or the seemingly sweet dogs can do damage. Do we want our dog to fear every dog on the street? No. To combat that if we have a dog with dog anxiety, we can introduce them to dogs that have an energy that is calm and kind, rather than one that may increase their anxiety level.
Existence first. When I say “introduce,” I don’t mean forced interaction, I mean existence. Before these dogs should even sniff each other, they should be kept at a distance in a calm environment. I recommend to all of my clients with dog anxiety or aggression issues, that a dog should hold a “place” command when first meeting another dog. If both dogs can do this, even better. Before there is any interaction, the dogs both need to accept each other in the room (or yard, or house). They need to know that there is control over the situation, even if it is a literal body blocking of an incoming dog.
If both dogs are calm, and have been with each other for a bit of time, which can vary depending on the dogs, I would then start with a quiet walk. Not a walk in a crowded location (if it can be helped), but a walk where the dogs are moving around each other in a controlled environment, getting used to each other’s presence, smells, and inching closer, but also respecting both dogs’ need for space.
Remember, the most common cause of a dog fight is an overly excited dog.
If it is reasonable for the dogs to interact, there should always be reciprocal play. Dogs that are enjoying each other will mirror each other, or take turns playing. Playtime should never be dominated by one dog, and at any point if either dog seems overwhelmed, bullied, or overly excited, playtime should be paused. Excited play is great--as long as both dogs are on the same page.
Our family dogs are often compared to their ancestors, the wolf. But domestic dogs have become much more dependent on their human families than wolves ever were with each other. While wolves need to establish dominance and a pack order, humans should be the dominant being in the dog-human relationship, and we should make sure that our pack is always safe and cared for, which will lead to a trusting relationship.
Welcome to Everywhere Dog Blog!
Tips, tricks, and lessons learned from Everywhere Dog and their journey!
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