By their nature, dogs are a highly social species – they have a natural instinct to live in harmonious groups. However some dogs may find this more difficult than others, potentially experiencing signs of anxiety when they are around other dogs.
Whether it’s seeing other dogs in the park or living with another four legged friend at home, it’s important that your pooch is calm and comfortable when encountering other dogs.
“Although dogs can naturally be very sociable animals, this may not be the case for all. Some dogs can love being around others playing and running around, however some may find this more difficult and become nervous.
“An instance when this issue may become apparent is when you are introducing another dog into your home. This can be an exciting time for the family, welcoming a new canine companion in to the house, but for the new addition it can be nerve-wracking.
“There are a number of tips you can follow however, to ensure the introduction goes without hiccups:
- Before the big move in day take both dogs for a walk, and if things go well bring them back to the garden allowing the new dog off the lead to explore first before letting the resident dog off the lead.
- Try to avoid leaving “valuable” items, such as bones and chews, around the house for the first few weeks, and feed the dogs in separate rooms to begin with
- Don’t tell either dog off if things appear tense, try to distract them calmly to diffuse the situation
- Watch your dogs. Learn how they communicate using visual signals, so that you can start to “read” what they are “saying” to each other. If one dog is showing signs of anxiety look out to see if the other dog is backing off, or continuing to play
- Relaxed interactions between both dogs should appear more equal, with both dogs taking turns to chase or wrestle each other
- It’s important to remember that if your dog doesn’t naturally enjoy playing or interacting with other dogs and instead avoids them when out and about, think carefully before bringing a new dog into your home. Not all dogs benefit from having a “friend” and it may cause stress.
“Problematic behaviour in dogs when they encounter an unfamiliar dog can be very common, and can make walks extremely difficult for the owner. However, there are some top tips to keep in mind to help you if your dog does react:
- Don’t overwhelm them – Many people believe that they need to make their dog “face its fear” or “socialise” with other dogs, however this isn’t the case. Every time your dog reacts to another dog the behaviour becomes more well-established and rather than improving, the reaction is likely to worsen.
- Find your dog’s threshold – You should aim to only encounter other dogs at a distance at which your dog remains calm. This may be the other side of the road, or the other side of a field, each dog’s threshold will be different
- Make positive associations – Once you’ve found the distance at which your dog doesn’t react, you can reward the unreactive behaviour with treats or extra fuss. They are then more likely to remain calm next time.
- Stay on your toes – Be alert for signs that your dog may be uncomfortable, don’t wait until they are lunging/barking at other dogs, move away at the earliest signs your dog is worried
- Remain calm – Although it can be frustrating/embarrassing to have a dog that lunges and barks, it’s important that you don’t get angry and tell them off. This will just confirm to your dog that other dogs are bad news.
“If you do remain concerned about your dog’s behaviour and think that they may be experiencing anxiety you should contact your vet or a Qualified Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB) for advice.”