Saturday, December 3, 2022

FAD Introducing New Dogs Slowly

It's super important to introduce dogs that have never met very slowly, helping both dogs to have a great experience. Sometimes we decide to bring new dogs into our home to live with us. Sometimes we are going to a family member's house for a holiday. We as humans tend to think, "Oh my dog gets along with everyone!" But that is not true, some dogs simply don't like dogs that (insert behavior here). Azul has a pretty hard stare that lots of dogs do not like. Azul doesn't like strange dogs jumping with paws to his face. Several of the younger puppies we've met recently have be been over-excited, jumpy, obnoxious little monsters. LOL Typical puppy behavior, but I limit Azul's exposure to this so that he doesn't feel the need to get grumpy with hyper puppies. All dogs, just like people have things they like and dislike. For some, making new friends is easy but for others it's hard.

I have a set of exercises that I like to do to help dog's greet and I finally had the change to record some of the work involved yesterday with a client's dog and my Yooper Paws Assistant Faith.

Willow, an adolescent of 9-10 months old, has never met my Service Dog & Demo Dog, Azul. Since Willow's human is unable to work on outdoor training and exercise, my Yooper Paws Assistant, Faith joined me for a "tag team" training session.

Since Willow had never met Faith, Faith started out walking Azul while I led Willow away from her house to walk her neighborhood. This part isn't in the video because running a camera with a dog in this situation would have been too much. But to start with we used natural things in the neighborhood (trees, poles, vehicles, houses) as visual blockers so only 1 dog was looking at the other dog at a time. When Willow was focusing on me doing training exercises, Faith allowed Azul to watch. Then we switched with Faith doing exercises with Azul. And we made sure to maintain a safe distance apart where both dogs could be comfortable and focus on their handler. The video starts with a short clip to show how over excited Willow starts at the beginning of the session with Azul at 50+ ft away.
The next part shows Faith and Willow doing some easy focus and walking work to get to know each other and build a relationship since they had never met before this session. They are doing this at far distance of 60-70 ft away from Azul so that Azul is not a distraction while they build up some team work.
Once they develop some teamwork, Faith starts slowly shrinking the distance between Willow and the fence that separates the dogs. You can see how Azul is attached to my car on a 20 ft longline so he can move freely around the area choosing to be close to the fence or backing off. Willow is also working on a longline that was 10 ft long.
There is a section of the video where Faith and Willow are walking straight at the fence and Azul, being the distraction at the fence. This is demonstrate how easily a dog can become over-excited or stressed when approaching head on. I don't advice having greetings this way. You can see that Faith stops the moment Willow goes from happy to over-excited and hangs out there for a moment while I work with Azul to stop staring at Willow and move away from his side of the fence. Not in the video, but after this demo Willow and Azul were allowed to meet and sniff through the fence. At one point in this video, Willow was beginning to get over-excited and Faith used some steps as a visual blocker by moving on the other side of the blocker and do some relaxation sniffing, then they did some parkour practice at the bottom of the steps before returning to walking back and forth, slowly getting closer to Azul and I. When both dogs were comfortable at 10-12 ft away from each other we went for a "group walk" by going back to neighborhood style walking. We started on opposite sides of the road, relaxing and letting the dogs sniff. We always made sure the dogs were not in line with one another. One dog was always behind with the other dog out in front and switched places when the one in front stopped to sniff.
We slowly moved the dogs closer shrinking the distance between us, bringing the dogs closer to each, and walking next to each other for very short periods and moving away again. The final part of the video shows how we did this. While Willow and Azul got along just fine by the end of the walk, I still wouldn't walk them together by myself but Willow's energy would annoy Azul. We also agreed that playing would not be a good idea for these dogs at the moment. They will need a bit more work around each other before they are totally comfortable enough for high excitement activities such as playing.

Rules to Follow When Introducing New Dogs

  1. Get dogs together in a neutral area that doesn't belong to either dog. We used a park in the neighborhood of the younger dog to help her feel more comfortable.
  2. Start a long way away from each other.
  3. Use things in the environment as visual blockers to allow dogs to see it each other but avoiding long term staring.
  4. If either dog struggles with over-excitement or reactive behavior, you're too close and need to move further away. Work at the dog's emotional speed without rushing it!
  5. Move closer when one dog is distracted, looking the other direction. Do not walk straight at each other with both dogs looking at each other!
  6. Practice well known behaviors such as getting focus, u-turns, hand targets & heelwork games. This encourages the dogs to focus more on their person then the other dog.
  7. Use high value rewards for engaging with their person, ignoring the other dog.
  8. Parallel walks with lots of distance between in an open field or on opposite sides of the street can be a great way to get dogs moving in the same direction without invading each other's space.
  9. Use the longest leash or longline that is safest for the dog you have and the environment you are in. This allows for a loser leash giving the dog the choice to move closer to the distraction or further away, which ever makes them feel safest. Then the handler only moves forward when their dog is focused on them.
  10. Always do the first nose to nose greeting through a barrier of some sorts: Confident dog in a crate, new dog exploring near the crate. A fence at the park with lots of distance on both sides. Baby gates in the house to divide rooms. Be Safe! Use safety measures until dogs have shown that they can co-exist calmly before allowing them to be together in more exciting times.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Adding More Enrichment

As dog owners, we use reinforcement to reward our dogs for the behaviors we like. Enrichment is often confused as being an extra great or j...