October 9, 2020
Introduce on neutral territory.
It’s best to let dogs become familiar with each other on neutral territory: outdoors. Each dog should be walked separately on a leash, and each walker should have a bag of high-value treats or food broken into small pieces. At first, walk the dogs at a distance of 30′ or more, where they can see each other but are not too provoked by each other’s presence. If the dogs are not showing any negative behaviors, reward them with treats.
Pay attention to each dog’s body language.
Watch carefully for body postures that indicate a defensive or wary response, including hair standing up on the dog’s back, teeth baring, growling, a stiff-legged gait or a prolonged stare. If you see such postures, either when the dogs are at a distance or near each other, immediately and calmly interrupt the interaction by interesting the dog in something else. If the dogs seem relaxed and comfortable, you can shorten the distance between them. Again, offer treats to the dogs any time they look relaxed. Reward more for looking at you than the other dog though, so you still maintain the intergrity of teaching focus to your puppy outside of this.
Let the dogs determine the pace of the introduction.
It’s possible that the dogs will just want to play with each other by the middle of the walk. It’s also possible that it will take more time before the dogs are comfortable enough to walk side by side. The most important thing is to take this introduction slowly. The more patient you are, the better your chance of success. Do not force the dogs to interact.
Once the dogs are able to view each other at a close proximity, allow one dog to walk behind the other, and then switch. If the dogs remain comfortable, allow them to walk side by side, but do not allow leash greetings which can cause leash-reactivity and aggression.
Letting them Play!
Finally, bring the puppies into the yard and walk them as you did above, including rewards for being relxed. When they are calm and not trying to get to each other, clip them both off-leash at the same exact time. While that can be very difficult to do because unclipping the leash means less control, it is FAR MORE DANGEROUS to allow them to greet on leash! The leash itself can cause more problems than it’s worth.
REMOVED TREATS FROM THE PICTURE ONCE THE DOGS ARE PLAYING. This is to prevent resource guarding of the treats. Additionally, all humans should remain in motion, to prevent resource guarding of the human (often wrongly seen as “protectiveness”) or over-shyness with a puppy trying to hide under an owner’s feet. Do NOT “comfort” the puppy for shyness, as that will only verify that there’s something to be concerned about. Instead, keeping walking and saying nothing at all will encourage the puppy to play or, if it’s bad enough, separate them.
If one or both dogs show any signs of stress or agitation, separate them and proceed more slowly with the introduction. You may even need to try a different day so they have a chance to reset.
Should you worry about separating them in the event of a fight, a 2’x3′ board to put between the puppies can be an asset, as well as a garden hose with water. It is better to be safe than sorry by having these things present, however, with proper introductions they shouldn’t be necessary.