Therapy dogs have to have passed a fairly rigorous test in order to get their certification and this means, among other things, they are social beings with a good sense of self. Still, the idea of meeting an unknown dog for the first time can be a bit worrisome if you don’t know the signs of acceptance. One of the safest ways for two dogs to meet is in a neutral environment. This usually means that both are on lead with handlers who understand canine body language. It is important to allow only enough slack in the leash for the two dogs to get nose to nose.
Watch your own and the other dog carefully. See if each is willing to meet the other. If their tails are slowly wagging, the heads are held high and the ears are erect even if there is a bit of stiffness in the bodies, this is usually a sign of curiosity. If one of them slightly dips their front and the wag of the tail increases, the ears relax and the body goes into a ‘play bow’ position, it is an invitation for a more personal inspection. Muzzle kisses may be offered, the tail dropped and the belly shown by one to the other. This is a submissive invitation of friendliness.
At this point you may carefully allow for sniffing of the sides and rear by the less submissive dog. When both dogs ‘play bow’ it is probably safe to allow them to interact either on loose leads or off lead if you are in a place where it is safe to do so.
A sign of possible aggression is starring between two dogs and is often considered not only impolite but a challenge, as well. If one dog is looking in the general direction of the other or even has his head turned away and is looking from the corner of his eye it is much more polite.
At the same time staring between two dogs is often considered not only bad manners but a challenge, as well. If one dog is looking in the general direction of the other or even has his head turned away and is looking from the corner of his eye it is much more polite.
Perhaps the easiest way to remember how to comfortably and properly introduce your dog is to ask yourself if you would like to have a stranger rush up to you, grab your hand and begin to talk into your face.
If your dog has a tendency to run at other dogs, stare, and hold his tail stiffly erect, keep him on his leash until you know the other dogs in the area accept his posture. These are indicators of a dominant dog and if there are others who feel dominant, too, it could lead to problems. One of my pet peeves is to be out walking with my dog on lead and meet someone whose dog rushes straight at mine with the other person saying, “Don’t worry. He’s friendly.”
I have news for you; that is not the way to have two dogs meet. Very often aggression is escalated if a dog is on lead and is rushed by another dog. If your dog has a tendency to do this have control enough that, even if off lead, he will come to you when he is called. It is just good manners.
Everyone appreciates a little distance, a ‘comfort zone’ from others. Dogs appreciate the same consideration.