Dog to Dog
Social interaction with other dogs can be beneficial. First, ensure that the two dogs are likely to get along based on your animal assessments using SAFER and/or other assessment tools and experiences.
Consider the following before introducing dogs for play:
- Gender — Intact or spayed/neutered
- Prior experiences
- Emotional states
- Play styles and preferences
In order to provide safe dog introductions within the animal centre, you need to have knowledge of canine body language, signalling and defensive handling before allowing dogs to engage in play. In addition, you need to know when and how to intervene if two dogs get into a disagreement. The following information has been adapted from the ASPCApro website:
Dogs communicate with one another and with us using their own elegant, non-verbal language. They use facial expressions, ear and tail positions and overall body posture to signal their intentions. Breaking body language down one body part at a time can be helpful in building your observation and interpretation skills. It is vitally important to consider the whole body and the context though, in order to truly understand what a dog is communicating.
Introducing Dogs to One Another:
- Have the dogs meet in a neutral area
- Keep leashes on and loose until comfortable with each other
- Start with parallel walks, gradually getting closer to each other
- Take frequent breaks
Playing or Fighting?
Here are some signs to look for when determining when to intervene. Again, it is vitally important to consider the whole body and the context in which the behaviour is occurring.
Common signs of play behaviour include:
- Eyes squinty or almond shaped
- Body loose and wiggly
- Play bow
- Elbow bends
- Tail neutral (parallel to spine) to low (below spine)
- Long, sweeping tail wag
- Play mouthing or play biting
- Grooming behaviours such as nibbling or play flea-biting
Common signs of conflict include:
- One dog chasing another with no role reversal
- Bared teeth, ears forward, offensive pucker
- Head or tail remain high and stiff
- Body is stiff, not loose and wiggly
- Hackles are raised
- Repeated mounting attempts
- Hard eye or whale eye
- Escape, avoidance, or hiding behaviours
For additional information and a more detailed description of each piece of body language, see ASPCA’s Body Language.
If you’re not sure whether both dogs are playing, try leading the more excited dog away, and see if the other dog follows playfully.
When dogs fight, prioritizing your own safety is best for both you and the dogs.
- Yell, scream at or hit the dogs
- Pick up the dogs
- Grab collars
- Put your body in between the dogs
- Put your hand near a dog’s mouth
- Use appropriate safety tools and devices
- Remain calm and use normal speaking voice