How to Socialize Your Puppy with Adult Dogs

Iusing sibling rivalry in trainingn our first article we talked about socializing your puppy with other puppies and how to read some of the body language of your dogs.  It is equally important to socialize your puppy with adult dogs and while this is natural for homes with multiple dogs, those with only puppy need some details on how to safely introduce puppy to an adult.

First off, you should make yourself familiar with calming or displacement signals the dogs may display so you do not mistaken them for aggressive or fear responses. This kind of communication is important to the development of a healthy, happy puppy.  They will use these signals for the rest of their life in order to solve fear, aggression or to help calm one another and avoid physical confrontations.

You will see it in puppy to puppy introductions as they try to determine pecking order and in puppy to adult introductions they are highly important allowing dominant dogs to let frightened pups know that they mean no harm. Puppies will use the same signals to show they mean no harm to adult dogs in order to appease the “top dog” and avoid attack.

Once you know and understand these signals you may recognize them when your dog gives them to you.  A great example is when your dog acts guilty for an incorrect action.  He isn’t really guilty he is using appeasement and displacement signals trying to let you know he intends no harm in order to calm you and get you to stop yelling or acting aggressive toward him.

The most common calming signals include:  Averting the eyes, turning the head away, licking his lips, yawning, sniffing, lifting a front paw, freezing, moving very slowly, sitting with back to you or other dogs, laying down, crawling with tail wagging hard and approaching you or other dogs in a curved path with arc to body.

You may see some or all of these behaviors when introducing a puppy to other dogs.  You will want to be sure the other dog reads these signals and reciprocates with non-aggressive behaviors.  Your priority is to keep your puppy safe and happy especially when meeting larger, older dogs.

When you are ready to introduce your puppy to an older dog you want to be in a safe secure area and use an older dog that has a history of being kind to puppies.  If you have an older dog in your home that has not been around puppies you will need to take it very slow and be sure to remove the puppy at the hint of aggressive behavior by the older dog.  In most cases it is safest to take both dogs to a neutral location so the older dog does not feel the need to “protect” his home from the pint sized intruder.

You will start with both dogs on leash and allow them to investigate their new comrade and surroundings with as little interference from you as possible.  It is important to know you should NOT use retractable leashes during these introductions.  In fact, you should not use a leash longer than 6′ as you do not want them to get tangled or the dogs get too far away for quick intervention.  A really great way to start introductions is by allowing the dogs to sniff the ground where the other dog has been before bringing them together.  This allows them to get information about each other before they actually greet.

You will allow them to come together and sniff each other to continue to learn more about each other while keeping a close eye on them.  Your puppy should show submission to an older dog, but not be forced to do so by the older dog.  The best older dogs to use are ones that are willing to have the puppy be near after the initial greeting, allowing the puppy to follow along and continue learning.

This kind of healthy interaction is crucial to the rounding out of your puppies communication skills and helps them to be welcome in their community especially when you plan on competing with them in dog agility or other dog sports.  They wont have the same level of fear and apprehension as a poorly socialize dog.

Remember you want to start these interactions before the puppy is 16 weeks of age.  After this age they are not fully capable of learning canine language and it could actual have an adverse affect on them for the rest of their life.  Also remember to keep it positive and safe for your puppy as negative interactions at this age can have equally disastrous effects.