Dogcharmer: Meet and greet

Set the stage before two dogs meet and you’ll be more successful.

Stella and Louie are French bulldogs learning to get along with other dogs. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Dear Tom,

How best do we introduce our daughter’s new pup into our home when we already have two adult French bulldogs, Stella (10), and Louie (3), one of whom (Louie) defaults to an aggressive posture when we are out and about on walks? We previously tried to introduce our dog to another family member’s dog which resulted in our dog attacking and injuring the other. What is the best strategy to make this work? Thank you!

Cooperstown residents

Dear Cooperstown residents,

First, let me start by telling you that dogs are almost always more aggressive on leash than off leash. And it’s not so much because the dog is protecting the two-legged on the other end of the leash, but rather because the dog feels supported by the leash connection. It’s like the little kid feeling real tough with his big brother standing right behind him. So it doesn’t matter if a dog is uncomfortable meeting new dogs or he’s just a tough ruffian, he will feel empowered with his big brother (the leash connection) behind him.

What not to do when meeting other dogs on the street is to tighten the leash and communicate anxiety through your voice. If you and Louie see another leashed dog approaching from a half a block away and then you say Louie’s name with anger or anxiety as you tighten the leash, Louie will relate your angst to the advancing dog, and you’ve effectively exacerbated the possible aggression. What to do as the six legs are drawing near is call out and ask, “Is your dog friendly?” All the while you are giving treats and talking happily to Louie as if he’s about to meet a new friend, hopefully creating a positive association with the impending meeting. If the response to the “dog friendly” question has the slightest hesitation, pass and cross the street.

As for meeting your daughter’s new pup, I’d suggest the “meet” to take place in a large fenced in area, not on your property, with the pup already there to avoid Louie’s feeling territorial about the space, and the moment you enter, drop the leash and walk away from Louie at a 90-degree angle so he knows he’s on his own, not connected to you anymore. The fact that he’s meeting a puppy also makes it less likely that he’d be aggressive. But nonetheless, just to be really safe, attach the leash to a collar instead of a harness because Bulldogs tend to “not let go” when they bite, and picking up the leash to pull on the collar will cut off his air causing him to open his mouth.

Postscript: The owners followed my advice and the “meet” went fine.

Dog Charmer Tom

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