A few days ago, fellow trainer Mary Graham, posted an article by trainer Chad Culp on her Facebook page. I promptly shared a link to it on my business Facebook page. The article is titled Letting Dogs Meet: The Three Second Rule, and I think it is a terrific guideline for how to do an appropriate meet and greet for dogs who don’t know one another.*
The basic concept here is to have a short introduction that allows dogs to meet, without escalating into an unpleasant foray. Even a dog who is very easy going and “loves other dogs” will encounter canines that he is uncomfortable with, is not interested in meeting, or who are socially inept. This is where a 3 second meet and greet will allow you to decide if this is a dog with whom you and your pooch are comfortable.
He mentions that if you meet “a dog out in the world and you don’t feel comfortable with having your dog meet him, that’s ok.” I couldn’t agree more. Trust your gut, and politely excuse yourself from the situation before the rendezvous becomes a skirmish. (Tell the other person that you are in training mode and need to keep focused.)
He lists 10 bulleted points for the 3 Second rule and one that immediately caught my eye was:
Keep your eyes peeled and be fully present. (Don’t be texting while a dog meeting is taking place.) (Emphasis mine.)
If you want to keep you and your dog safe and happy, you have to pay attention to what is happening right then and know what your dog’s body language is telling you about his current comfort level. If your dog starts to stiffen, press his ears back, tuck his tail, or try to move away from the new dog, do not proceed with the meet and greet as he is telling you, in no uncertain terms, that this is not a good idea.**
He further adds:
Know your dog. If your dog has a history of biting or aggression, your situation is beyond the scope of this blog. Consult a dog training professional to help your dog with his particular needs.
Absolutely. Whether this has been a long standing problem or a recent development, if your dog is irritable with other canines, then don’t force an interaction when he is clearly not in the mood, frightened, or testy. This will exaccerbate, not solve the problem. Find a positive reinforcement trainer, behaviorist, or vet who can help you develop or enhance your dog’s social skills.
*Mr. Culp also points out that this is good standard procedure even for dogs who do know one another. Why? Because it gives owners a chance to evaluate how their dogs are feeling at that particular moment and whether or not this is a good day for a play date.
**I have written a lot about stress signals and dog body language. For a refresher on what your dog is telling you see: Stress Signals
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