Our female 4-month-old puppy toy poodle, Cutie, is soon to meet our daughter’s 4-year-old male Doberman, named Spoiler. My daughter says he’s friendly with other dogs. How would you suggest we introduce them?
Put the maligned reputation aside. I’ve had Dobermans for 30 years, both successful working search dogs as well as playful siblings to my three children.
Socializing a dog is really critical to the stable behavior of any dog, so traveling with her and introducing her to new dogs and new experiences is excellent. I often recount the story of the overwhelmed hound that moved with family from rural Alabama to midtown Manhattan. Hearing a siren for the first time while exposed to the bustle of NYC streets, and I was dealing with a seriously traumatized four-legged significant other. “Been there, done that, seen that, no big deal!” That’s my mantra for all dogs.
Prior to the visit, take a small cloth and rub it all over Cutie, then put it in a baggie and send it to your daughter, instructing her to let Spoiler smell it while receiving little pieces of chicken. Have your daughter do the same with Spoiler for Cutie. Dogs are all about scent, and this little trick may create a positive association for both dogs before they even meet!
As for the meet, do it in neutral territory, away from either home, to eliminate most of a possible territorial response. Dogs are generally more aggressive on-leash than off-leash, and contrary to what most people believe, it’s not because they’re protecting you. They actually feel supported by you with the leash attachment. It’s like the kid who feels a lot tougher with his big brother standing behind him.
In this case, both dogs are leashed, and you are all approaching each other, sounding very happy and joyous and positive. Both dogs will be totally aware of your vibes, and the positive attitudes will go a long way toward the relaxed and friendly meet. Lots of special treats should add to the positive associations.
When back at the house, have Cutie walk in first, and at this point, I’d suggest no toys on the floor. Stay positive and upbeat while you enjoy the family reunion.