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How to Introduce Dogs to Each Other

A Visitor Arrives.

Maui's previous owner is visiting. He's taking one of his dogs with him. He's coming in two days. To get it out of the way, he is the kind of friend you make way for, he walks when he wants to walk but he blesses the path. He's coming in with lots of food, wants to stay for the night, and wants to take his dog with him. Thankfully, it's not the same small bully that tormented Maui before when he was a pup.

I'm somewhat optimistic about this meeting because Maui would likely remember my friend. I've seen enough videos of people meeting their dog after being gone for a long time. What worries me more is that other dog. I don't know what the breed is, but she's black and sleek. More importantly, the dog is female. I'm not sure if that will be better or not. 

Even my wife is worried, enough to suggest keeping Maui in the office the entire day and night and the other dog in the living room or even setting up the baby gates again. The visiting dog is well cared for, healthy, and vaccinated, but the true problem will be the interaction. I don't know if Maui will be aggressive, protective, or cowardly. I'd like it if he was cowardly about it, but I want a better experience for him. I am planning to take Maui to the park at some point and he will likely make contact with other dogs, so this little meeting in a controlled environment will be a great way to both get him used to seeing other dogs and get information on how he would act.

From what I've known before when I was trying to get Maui to be friends with the Three Lords of the Lawn, is that dogs are social animals, they literally evolved to become friends with others even outside their kind, especially us humans. It just so happened that the wolves that hung out with the weird furless creatures by the fire tend to survive better. 

Maui is already friends with the three cats outside. He plays with them but is reminded that Mars, the feistiest and most cunning of the three, loves to use his sharp claws when playing. He spent plenty of time exposed to their noise and smell that he likely concluded that they are not a threat. That, or some kind of Stockholm syndrome. 

Once the meeting happens, I have to keenly watch Maui's body language. There are easy-to-see cues like Maui's tail. Up for alert, wagging for excitement, lowered for suspicious, tucked for scared. 

As for the rest of the body cues, I don't know much yet, but from looking into articles and videos made by animal behaviorists and trainers, the top three social canine behavior that can go south fast are: 

  • Eye Contact
  • Nose Touch
  • Rough Play

So, these three things are what will potentially cause trouble. Two of these apply to cats, as maintaining eye contact is "disrespectful" for them and is a sign of a challenge. The polite way is to look away when eye contact happens. If Maui or the other dog "Zero", had too much eye contact, things can get hairy. 

The nose touch is also a tricky thing too. I see dogs do this before and apparently, a dog may suddenly bite the other if they don't like where the "conversation" is going. It's one of those things that normal people don't really see, or rather, smell. The theory behind the nose smelling is a dog trying to smell another dog's mouth to see if they ate anything recently, suggesting that the area has food. 

Rough plays happen a lot between dogs as I have seen with my neighbors. Back in my childhood days, that kind of rough play can easily turn into fights in the blink of an eye. We probably won't see it, but sometimes, one side gets annoyed or isn't really in a gaming mood, but the other dog wants to play roughly, either because they have too much energy, or they were conditioned that way, like owners playing rough with them. This was why Mars liked to play with claws and jumping because when he was a kitten, I played rough with him. He's a great hunter because of that though. 

Rough play or even play-fighting, however, is normal for dogs who already know each other well. 

Maui was oppressed during puppyhood. This could mean he would act cowardly towards other dogs or would show a more aggressive territorial behavior. He acted that way on his first week here until the cats eventually endeared themselves to him. The way I see it right now, he will have a harder time meeting other dogs. 

I have to learn what I can about canine body language. Worse comes to worst, Maui would be staying in his crate or stuck inside the office the entire day. I'll just place his food bowl in the office when that happens. 

Since I have the shock collar, I could use it to snip any signs of potential aggression before it happens. Maui already underwent basic obedience training, so it shouldn't be that hard to control him while he's meeting the new dog. My method here will be the same, command first, then shock, then if he performs the behavior right, he will be rewarded with a treat. My friend is also interested in the shock collar and is planning to use his time here in the house to also learn training. It helped that I sent videos of Maui being trained and Maui obeying commands like sit and stay. It would be cool to see if my training methods work on another dog. 

Soon enough, the time came. That morning, my friend arrived along with his big black dog Zero. Zero was around 7 months old and is much taller than Maui, but thinner. I asked what breed he was, but like Maui, she was a mixed breed and we both agreed that she was at least part greyhound. 

I quickly led Zero inside the house. The three cats were already very aware of Zero's presence and Mars is being more investigative than I would have wanted. Maui was locked inside his crate in the office for now and the strategy is to let Maui smell Zero's presence for an hour or two. We leashed Zero in the living room and opened the office. I quickly peered in to see Maui's body posture and sure enough, he was alert. Tail up and smelling the air around him. He seemed curious, which is normal. I praised him for not barking at all and gave him his favorite smelly liver treat. He responded well, wagging his tail when I praised him. 

After an hour, I asked my friend to take Zero to the office. The big slender dog seems to be more than eager to look around, not at all scared of Maui's presence. According to my friend, Zero has never met Maui even as a puppy, but Zero hangs out with other dogs in their house, so she might be more socially welcoming.

As soon as Zero came in, I observed Maui. He was alert, his body posture was stiff but so far he hasn't barked. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not, but I praised him, petted him, and gave him a treat for not barking. Zero was wagging her tail. She was curious about Maui. I wonder now if Zero can recognize Maui's smell like that of his mother's smell since Maui's mom is in the same house as Zero. Fun to think about. Incidentally, Maui may not be barking because he smells a very familiar scent, his previous owner.

My friend and I fired up our respective PC and laptop and enjoyed gaming for a few hours in the office. That way, I can keep close tabs on Maui and Zero. From the looks of it, Maui is aiming for a calm interaction due to his quiet but alert posture and Zero is aiming for more social interaction as she seems eager to get close to Maui. Alas, for Maui's sake, I have to give both of them some space and time.

After lunch, it's time for phase 2. I placed the shock collar on Maui, then placed a leash on him. He's wearing the harness so I don't choke him. It's time to get them closer. As my friend stated, it feels like we're trying to play matchmaker on those dogs. I wish he didn't state it because now it feels weird.

My friend held Zero and I help Maui. As I neared Zero, Maui was almost pulling. I had to say "Sit!" on Maui in order to keep him from pulling. He did sit especially when I produced the treat. When Zero went closer, they didn't look at each other which was a great thing. Instead, Zero was keener on going around Maui, knowing what was going to happen next, I "released" Maui from his stay so he could sit up. Soon enough, Zero went on to sniff Maui's behind.

Maui's tail suddenly tucked as soon as Zero neared. What was I expecting? Maui was a cowardly dog. At first, this seems good, but my all-too paranoid brain is thinking that Maui might display defensive aggression if Zero became too friendly. So this time, we found a way to keep them close but not enough for them to touch. We did this for about an hour and checked in on them every now and then. Soon enough, they seemed comfortable, with Zero napping. I did a calculated risk and untied the leashes loose.

Zero seems to have great social skills. He approached Maui with a lowered head and a lowered but wagging tail. According to my friend, this was a sign that she is appealing to Maui, trying not to look like the alpha animal, and instead, trying to approach him as least threateningly as possible. Maui was still shy, doing side-glances at Zero, but with no sign of aggressive behaviour. With this exchange, I get an idea of how this "body conversation" happens. Eventually, Maui "gave in" and took a whiff of Zero's behind, and almost immediately after that, everything seemed okay. Maui was wagging his tail at me, seemingly happy to have survived the ordeal and I hope he gained proper skills to show acceptable behavior to other dogs when we eventually go out with him. 

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