My boyfriend just adopted a dog and we’re eager to introduce his dog to my dog. We were wondering if it’s better to introduce the two dogs on leash or off leash?
Making New Friends in The Heights
Dear Making New Friends,
While it might seem like the best and safest way to introduce two dogs to one another would be while they’re both on-leash, interestingly enough, dog experts recommend against this. Here are the reasons why and how experts recommend going about this first meeting, sans leashes.
Leashes Inhibit Dogs’ Natural Posturing
When dogs are on-leash, they are unable to turn their bodies in ways that exhibit peaceful communication with other dogs. Being on-leash often forces dogs to look straight ahead and into the eyes of another dog.
In the dog world, this direct eye contact is seen as an aggressive act and can muddy the waters of dominance, resulting in undue aggression.
Leashes Put Strain on the Neck and Throat
When a dog is pulling on a leash, this tightening around the neck and throat can cause pain and add stress on an already stressful situation. This discomfort can cause a dog to react in an inappropriate way during an introduction. And, as we all know, you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression–even in the dog world.
Leashes Keep Dogs From Retreating
Often, introducing two dogs can be a slow process. It might take a few tries for both animals to feel comfortable and confident enough with one another to properly explore each other. It’s not uncommon for one dog to retreat in the middle of an introduction if he or she doesn’t feel comfortable. When a dog is on-leash, retreat isn’t always a viable option, so a dog might act out in place of peacefully retreating from the meeting.
So, How Do You Facilitate An Off-Leash Meeting?
Experts recommend finding neutral territory to introduce the dogs off leash. A fully fenced dog park is a good start because it is likely that neither dog will feel that it is their territory. Ideally, get to the dog park early before too many other dogs show up and let the two dogs meet on their own without the “help” of their humans and without the interference of other dogs. With some patience and time, hopefully your dogs will learn to enjoy each other’s company as much as their owners enjoy one another.
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