On leash dog introductions
What is the best way to introduce two dogs? The best method is probably the scariest - off leash in an outdoor neutral location. Start with two (exercised) tired dogs. Let the dogs drag their leashes in case a quick intervention is required. Keep the initial interactions short (five seconds or so). Each handler should call his dog to come and praise/reward before releasing the dogs to interact again for another brief period of time.
On leash introductions can be tricky because often one owner “initiates” the meet and greet (without permission) by allowing their dog to drag them towards you while yelling “don’t worry, he’s friendly.” These impromptu introductions usually last too long and often involve tight leashes in a confined space. Leashes can easily get tangled and trying to pull the dogs apart can result in the interaction ending badly.
What can you do if you find yourself in a situation where an on-leash introduction is unavoidable?
Controlled recall on leash
One skill every dog needs to learn is a controlled recall on leash. As you are walking, call your dog’s name (to get his attention) and quickly back up four or five steps as you say your recall cue. (Come, here or let’s go are frequently used words for the recall.) Make this fast-paced and keep it fun. Praise and reward for coming; a sit is not required. The idea is that your dog immediately turns and moves towards you as you are backing away.
Practice this daily on your walks until it becomes second nature. Start teaching around no distractions at first and then slowly add distractions until your dog turns and follows you even when other dogs are close by.
Facilitating on leash introductions
If you find yourself in the midst of an unexpected on leash introduction, be assertive and try to control the situation by instructing the other dog owner what to do.
You might find yourself in the unenviable situation of having no choice but to drop the leash if the leashes get tangled to the point that endanger the dogs or humans. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to act quickly if required.
Walk or visit
Most dog owners love having a dog because it forces them to take walks and exercise. Many dog owners also find this to be a great opportunity to socialize their dog.
While this sounds like a great idea, be aware that if you stop and let your dog interact with every person and/or dog you meet, you are likely to end up with a dog who pulls on leash to greet every person and/or dog you encounter.
To keep this from happening, don’t stop but walk briskly past the person/dog. Ask your dog to make eye contact with you as you walk past by teaching the “watch me” cue. (Search YouTube for “watch me chewy” for tips on how to teach this cue.) If you decide you want to stop and chat, put your dog in a sit/stay and visit from a distance. You can then either continue walking or release your dog to say hello. Be sure to keep your dog guessing by being unpredictable. Sometimes your dog is released to visit, sometimes your dog is prompted to continue walking.