The first meeting between two dogs often sets the direction of the relationship, so its important to get the basics right. The good thing is many dogs do like meeting other dogs. Keep in mind that a small percentage of dogs do not like meeting other dogs and can lead to a bad interaction. While most dogs are resilient enough to mend a bad introduction, its always better to be safe to avoid a lasting bitter feeling.
Understand your dog
The first thing to understand is that dogs have feelings. Once we accept that, we will learn to pay attention to their body language and the process of meeting. While most dogs are social animals, some dogs do not enjoy dog interaction. Be aware of their facial expressions, body posture and sounds they make. Take time to know your dog before letting him meet other dogs off leash. If we are not sure, set up scenarios e.g. using barriers/leash to test whether your dog likes other dogs. If your dog doesn’t like meeting other dogs, don’t force it.
Plan the space
The space of meeting should be bigger for sensitive dogs so that they can move away if stressed. Animals when faced with stressed or frightening scenarios, often activate a fight or flight response which is an automatic physiological response. Rule of thumb is to give your dog an escape route or be prepared to stop an over enthusiastic dog from being too foward.
Bring down the energy of the dog
Its a bad idea to let a pent up and frustrated dog meet other dogs. Learning to bring down the energy of your dog is the most useful management skill a dog owner should know. Some tips are to exhaust your dog physically and mentally, by going for a walk or swim before meeting.
Create trust in humans
Your dog should trust that you will give it good experiences. For your dog to trust you, it takes time and effort to build that trust. Take a course in positive dog training to get the basics of a dog-human relationship right. If your dog trusts you, there’s is higher chance of trusting the experiences you give him.
Don’t hurry the introduction
Plan dog interactions for to take place slowly, in stages if possible for sensitive dogs. This might mean to do it through barriers first in low excitement environment. At any point that the excitement is too high, be prepared to intervene to lower the excitement.
Bring the dogs for an enrichment walk or sniffing as a common activity can be a bonding experience. Dogs will learn not to focus on each other and practice being together while being engaged in an activity.