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Introducing your Puppy to other Dogs

Picture of puppy in the sun

So, you got a puppy?  Being a puppy parent is an exciting and challenging time filled with love, adventure and mess. If it is time to take your bundle of joy out to meet the big dogs, you‘ll need to think of a few things before doing so. Here are some handy tips to get you and your pup started.

When Can Puppy Meet other Dogs?

Most vets agree that the best age for socializing is from about 7 to 16 weeks. At this stage of your little one’s life, she is ready to be social and learn doggy etiquette when out and about. While many vets insist on keeping your puppy isolated until her vaccinations have been completed, waiting too long means missing the best developmental window for socialization. The best bet is to compromise a little and allow your puppy to meet a few dogs. If the vaccination status of the other dog is unknown, it’s best not to mix until 10 days or so after the second vaccination. Dogs that you do know, who have been vaccinated, are the best choice. At the age of 12 to six weeks she needs constant socialization. This will help her to develop good social skills and be well-rounded member of canine (and human) society.

Back to School

Going to puppy training classes with your baby pooch can really help when it comes to introducing them to other dogs. You could enquire about a puppy’s class or a class where puppies are welcome. You’ll get to meet other dog owners too, with the added bonus of a watchful eye and professional help from your trainer. There might even be a ‘puppy pre-school’ in your area where every precaution is taken to ensure easy-going socialization in hygienic conditions, minimizing the risks to your puppy’s health, while getting important playtime in with new-found canine friends. Puppy preschools are specifically designed for dogs eight to sixteen weeks of age.  At pre-school, your puppy will also learn to inhibit his bite – an essential skill to acquire before heading out in public!

Keep your cool

It’s vital to stay calm yourself. Little Rover will pick up on any anxiety you may have and could reflect this. Bring the tone of your voice down, low and calm, and offer treats for good interactions with other dogs. Exercise caution with bigger, unknown dogs and never leave your puppy unattended while meeting a new dog. Same-sex dogs are more likely to have issues, so getting to know the opposite sex first may help to avoid problems. Good meet and greet etiquette requires a good sniff of the rear. Face to face sniffing could mean things are not going so well. Be on the lookout for signs suggesting aggressive behavior form both your puppy and other dogs. Get your dog out of the situation immediately if this happens – without panicking yourself.

Body language

Get to know canine body language. Once you understand the different signs, you will be more able to understand both your puppy and the other dogs you come into contact with.  Dog parks are an excellent place to meet a range of dogs. Of course, this means a range of personality types, too. Do check out the other dogs; don’t let your puppy get bullied. Dogs communicate mainly through body posturing. Understanding when play is getting too rough or when your puppy is feeling uncomfortable is useful.  Spotting aggressive behaviors is easy if you know the signs. Circling,  tails  held above heads, faces pulled tight with strange expressions, walking around on toes, and tail language can all be signs that things are about to kick off.  If you see any of these signs, proceed with care and keep your puppy safe.

Daily Exposure

Exposing your tail-wagger to other dogs and people is an essential part of their socialization. Daily walks are a great way to entertain your puppy and help them form bonds. If you have friends with dogs, you could organize a puppy playdate in the park or at home. It’s up to you to set the tone, and being with friends that you know will ensure that everyone is feeling comfortable and create a friendly atmosphere to encourage bonding. Daily practice goes a long way to ensuring that your tyke is comfortable with others.

Better Safe than Sorry

Be careful of big and older dogs that could be intimidating. Know the signs of discomfort in your pup and be ready to step in with a reassuring word or pat. It is better not to let your puppy jump all over the other dog, no matter how excited she is. Always determine the mood of the situation and react accordingly.  Don’t force them, either, and take him to areas where there are non–threatening dogs. Both dogs should be on a lead for first contact. Free playing together can come later, with dogs that you know and get along with. Negative experiences can be traumatizing for your little one, so take care to keep things positive and go slowly

If things don’t gel with another dog, don’t worry about it. You don’t hit it off with everyone you meet, and neither will your dog. She will soon find her crowd and get along better with some dogs than others.

Introducing your puppy to other dogs is essential for their development and can lead to new friendships for both you and your dog. Confidence will be built with each successful interaction and pave the way for a healthy, happy hound!

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