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How to Introduce Dogs on Walks: A Happy Dog Expert Explains!

While out walking your pup, you may get into situations involving other people’s dogs where you don’t know the best action to take. This article will share some dog walking tips on how to introduce dogs to each other while out and about.

First Things First…

Remember, having contact with other dogs is very enriching for our dogs' quality of life, but only if it happens in the right way. Otherwise, this contact can be very stressful. These dog walking tips are not intended to treat animals with socialization problems, but to encourage a positive experience when introducing dogs to each other. 

If your dog is having problems with socialization, it is essential to contact a behaviour veterinarian. They will be able to evaluate, diagnose, and treat your dog, adapting exercises to their personality and difficulties. A qualified behaviourist can also give handling guidelines adapted to your own situation.

Understanding Our Dogs’ Personalities

First, in order to promote a good relationship with other dogs, you must know your own dog’s temperament, and how sociable they are. For example, are they just sociable with the opposite sex or are they shy when introduced to all other dogs? A good match is important when introducing dogs, as is having as many quality walks together as possible.

Two dogs on a walk outside.

Making a Decision

When you see another dog coming during a walk, you should decide if you are going to allow them to interact with each other. The decision should be based on the other dog’s behaviour towards your own dog – rather than breed or any physical aspect – as well as the attitude of the person with the other dog. 

It’s essential here to learn about canine communication and body language. If you see the other dog behaving anxiously, do not allow any interaction between them as this could result in a negative experience for all involved.

Communicating With Your Dog

Once you have made a decision about introducing two dogs, you must let your dog know. It may sound strange, but predictability and control are helpful tools for dogs when managing stress. Anticipating whatever is going to happen will calm them down greatly.

You can use different systems to communicate your decision. I use the phrase “Look who’s coming” combined with a cheerful tone when we are going to greet someone, either a person or dog. I use the words “Let’s Go” when I am not going to stop, and I use this word repeatedly as I start walking a little faster. This way, my dog always knows if I want them to interact with the other dog or not, which helps them manage frustration. 

Pair of dogs being introduced in a park.

My dog is young, very sociable and likes to interact with all the dogs they come across. Therefore, when it comes to introducing dogs on walks, I choose active dogs that look friendly while avoiding confident or fearful dogs. If my dog was fearful of other dogs, I would try to choose quieter, calmer, and smaller dogs for interaction.

Reacting to Different Situations

Once you have made the decision and communicated this to your dog, a few different situations may arise:

You may change your mind. For example, the other dog’s human may tell you not to get close to them, or the other dog’s behaviour may change and become anxious or fearful. In that case, you can use whatever words you have chosen to tell your dog that they are not allowed to interact before moving on.

Your dog may show signs that they do not want to get closer, so you can continue your walk.
If your dog does want to get closer to the other dog, you may choose to approach. An important dog walking tip here is to pay attention to the lead and keep it loose. This will allow your dog to communicate properly. If you notice any of the dogs are becoming anxious or frightened, you can move on. If they get along well and want to play together, you should allow them to play for some time before continuing on the walk.
When you decide you want to move on, use the word you have chosen (in my case, “Let’s Go” – and continue with the walk.

Three dogs meeting in the street.

Dog Walking Tips How to Introduce Dogs To Each Other

In my opinion, and from my experience, there are two main important tips for introducing dogs in these situations.

First of all, read up on canine communication. This helps to anticipate the reactions not only of your own dog but also other people’s dogs. If you do not know how to recognise another dog’s behaviour, it becomes difficult to make good, quick decisions about who your dog should interact with.

Secondly, be consistent and keep calm with your messages. Always use the same cue words, do not use the lead to move your dog (e.g. do not pull on the lead), and do not contradict your messages. 

These are all the necessary skills so that our dogs can manage everyday situations, even if you are not consistent. For example, if you meet someone you know who is walking their dog, you will probably want to stop and chat even if their dog’s profile is not the most appropriate for your dog to interact with. If we are in a rush, we will not want to stop at all. 

Our dogs do not know how to interpret these situations and will not know whether they can interact or not. Those situations are not based on the context, which is what dogs use to anticipate what is going to happen.

And remember, if you start using these tips on your walks, you will not notice changes immediately. Having very good communication with your dog may take a little time, but it's a matter of being attentive and consistent. However, in the end, walks will be much more relaxing and peaceful for both you and your dog, and you should have no problem when introducing dogs to each other.

Are you interested in finding more tips and advice from our wonderful team of Happy Dog Experts? Discover all our articles online! You can also get in touch to ask any questions, or stay informed with all our latest news by signing up to our newsletter.

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