Side-by-Side walking–101 DogSpots way!

Side-by-Side walking–101 DogSpots way!

One of my favorite methods of introducing two new dogs to each other is “side-by-side walking”. It’s actually not quite what you might expect!

1) DISTANCE: First off, the dogs are kept far apart–far enough apart so there is no lunging, barking or straining at the leash. Instead, the dogs get to walk along in some grassy area sniffing at fun stuff. This might be 10 feet, or it my be 1000 feet apart. It is whatever distance the dogs are comfortable.

2) BASIC PROTOCOL: The dogs are walked in the same direction. Mostly “side-by-side”, but occasionally crossing paths so they can sniff where the other dog has been, or one ahead and one behind, etc. Remember, leave lots of space.

3) BODY LANGUAGE: It is important to let the dogs behave naturally without interference, except for increasing distance if they become alert or agonistic (“aggressive”) towards each other. SNIFFING THE GROUND is good–that is non-confrontational body language (don’t be fooled, the dogs are aware of each other, they are just politely saying “I’m not intruding in your space” to the other dog!).

4) NO PAIN: The dogs should not be kept in heel. The dogs should not be on a prong collar or other aversive tool. Your voice and demeanor should be calm, relaxed and happy. No grumpiness, no telling the dog off. You should not, unless it is an emergency, pull on or correct the dog (practice a gentle stop in case the dogs start approaching each other before you are ready).

5) INCREASE DIFFICULTY: Decrease distance between the dogs slowly. Allow, but do not ask, them to move closer together. Give them veto power to say “no thanks”. At the end of each sessions, practice a few minutes at a greater distance to facilitate calm happy feelings. At the next session, start at slightly greater than your ending distance from the last session.

7) GREETING: During actual greetings (Only proceed to greetings when they are ready–make sure you have good relaxed body language before allowing a greeting), use a chain link fence or other see through barrier for safety. Allow dogs to sniff for 3 seconds. Keep leashes loose. Call dogs away from each other after 3 seconds.

7) REPEAT: Repeat above as many times as it takes for dogs to feel comfortable near each other. If dogs are not comfortable near each other after about a dozen actual greetings, call in a professional.

8) NEW DOGS: repeat the procedure starting out at a large distance for each new dog you introduce. As your dog gets more experienced and more trusting of you, his “initial distance” will likely be smaller.