Saturdays at PetSmart are often crazy for me and my pack of fellow volunteers who man our Mostly Mutts adoption event. We are often packed in the store with several other rescues and a plethora of people and their dogs. Sometimes, people are not the best at reading their own dogs body language, never mind another dog in a crate or a pen looking for a furever home. I am constantly having to gently (and then sometimes more urgently) remind people to not let their dogs “meet” another snout to snout as this is seen as an aggressive act. It does boggle my brain that dog owners don’t know this but not everyone is a dog trainer, foster guardian and wanna-be animal behaviorist like me! I usually make a joke of it and tell the offending human that if they want to meet a certain dog, let’s take the dog out for a walk and do some “Muttworking!”
As soon as I say muttworking, a look of confusion comes over their face. Dogs can communicate through smell and they meet fellow dogs simply by smelling each other’s…butt! It’s like a doggie business card. After a quick sniff of the rump, there may be some recognition that, “Oh, dude – you peed on the big rock in front of the store!” Dog to dog introductions should be started on neutral ground and a walk is a great way to initiate the meeting. Start by having the humans in the middle and the dogs flanking the outside and just walk. The dogs will be curious about each other and you may have a hard time keeping them apart, especially if you have an extremely nosey or friendly pup. They really don’t understand why another dog may not be that friendly so it is better to error on the cautious side then have a disastrous first meeting. You want the dogs to have some curiosity about each other. If one dog is totally ignoring the other, has hackles and does not want to make contact, don’t push it. You may love the coloring or look of the dog but if your existing companion is not interested, they have veto power. If you get to the point in the walk where the dogs are now wanting to engage each other for a good butt sniff, let them! From there, you may see some other signs that they like each other like a play bow. Watch the natural position of the dogs’ ears and make sure they are sitting natural, not pinned back. There should be no growling, no hackles, just some friendly playful energy. When I bring a new foster dog into the Litt Palace of Puppy Love, we play by these rules. Viola, Phoebe, Bailey, Sophie and Oscar (my long-time foster) are used to dogs coming in and out of the house but we still want the introductions to be made the right way. Bailey, in particular, is not a great lover of the fosters so with her, we want to maintain a tolerance. It is, after all, her palace first.