The Valley Wire
Keep your dog safe, calm for introductions
New situations can be stressful so avoid overwhelming circumstances
You just got a new dog and are eagerly awaiting to bring it home, but there are already other pets in the house.
Or perhaps you and a friend have decided to go for a walk and you both have dogs.
With people, first impressions are a big deal. They are just important with dogs.
For the past 25 year, Tracy Franken, who lives in Barss Corner, N.S., has been operating a business called Beyond Obedience. Her goal is to help dog lovers establish incredible relationships with their dogs. This goes beyond just having a well-trained dog.
Kids and dogs can often struggle because of the language barrier. Kids can miss signals and signs that the dog is overwhelmed or tired. So, before talking about how to introduce dogs or puppies to kids, Franken said it’s best to research the breed and make sure the animal is the right fit for the home.
Certain breeds are more tolerant and kid-friendly than others, noted Franken. She feels getting a puppy versus rescuing a dog is a better option for families with younger kids because there can be a lot of unknowns about a rescue dog’s background — they may have a hidden trigger around kids or chaotic energy.
Even if you think you have the perfect breed, introduction to kids needs to be well thought out ahead of time.
Here are some tips on how best to do that:
1. Prepare kids about the dog/puppy’s arrival. Surprises are challenging for a puppy, cautioned Franken. Coming to a new home has excitement, screams, crying and other reactions that can amplify stress.
2. Tell your kids the puppy may be scared and may not want to be petted or handled
3. Remind kids to be calm and as quiet as possible when meeting the new puppy.
4. Allow the puppy to make first contact.
5. Because of the high energy and excitement, expect the puppy to piddle.
6. If you are introducing a dog into a household with older kids, Franken suggested having everyone take the new dog for a walk first before going into the house. This gets out some pent-up anxiety and stress about the new pack they are joining. Dogs sniff to greet. Let the new dog sniff around first on a walk before you try and pet them.
INTRODUCTION TO OTHER PETS
Keep your puppy or dog on a leash or drag line when introducing it to a cat or other pets. Be calm and quiet. And prevent your pup from rushing into the other pet’s space, advised Franken.
Cats generally are good at setting boundaries for dogs and puppies, but, if you have a shy or skittish cat, you don’t want the pup to overwhelm them. Set your rules and boundaries immediately.
DOGS TO EACH OTHER
Franken said always introduce dogs to one another with a walk. This is a parallel walk, not a meet-and-greet walk, meaning you are going in the same direction. You need to have two people for this introduction.
To begin, the person with the original dog starts walking. Keep the dog focused on facing forward and walking ahead. The person with the new dog will come in from behind and catch up to the other pack, allowing the new dog to sniff from a distance and get the info on the dog ahead.
While the new dog is catching up, check in with both dogs to see if they are anxious, nervous or too excited. If they are, you can ease up, keep some distance and take a little more time to allow some of that energy to drain during the walk. Catch up to the other pack when the new dog settles in, suggested Franken. The final step, if the dogs appear calm, is to move the other dog over.
“Always remember to use space as your friend,” said Franken.
Please note, if at any time you have one or both dogs growling or negatively interacting with one another, consult a trainer to help with the introduction.
MEETING DOGS IN OTHER HOUSEHOLDS
Before introducing your dog to a dog in another household, Franken said the first question to ask is why. If this is a dog you are not likely to ever see again, I would avoid meeting.
There are two things to remember about dog socialization, according to Franken.
1. Your dog is not going to like every dog they meet.
2. Sometimes your dog’s reaction to another dog is more about the other dog than your dog. Dogs start communication way before we even know they are talking to each other.
Generally speaking, dogs do introductions better off leash, said Franken. However, that is a risky way to do it because if things start to gowrong, you don’t have control over the dogs. Therefore, you should be very good at reading dog body language before doing this. If you are stressed or worried about the interaction, so is your dog, she advised.