Training Your Puppy to Meet and Greet Others

A well-socialized puppy makes many friends. Meeting and greeting other dogs, puppies, and people tops her list of priorities. You’ll need to teach your puppy impulse control, or she may dart headlong into traffic or rush an unfriendly candidate.

Gaining control when encountering other dogs

Before you rush up to every dog you see, stop and ask yourself whether the dog is friendly and the people are open to greeting. If you think they are, get control of your puppy to ensure the interaction goes smoothly. Do not approach dogs who are barking, jumping, or out of control.

Before approaching a well-mannered dog, gain control of the situation by following these steps:

  1. If your puppy acts excited, bring her “Back” and encourage her to “Wait.”

  2. Ask the person to wait until your puppy has calmed down to approach you.

  3. After you have your puppy under control, you can permit a greeting by saying “Okay, go play.”

  4. When playtime is over, instruct your puppy to “Follow” and move on.

  5. Use rewards and praise to encourage her to leave the other dog and focus on you.

    Keep working on it. Getting your puppy in control around new dogs can take a while.

Enjoying puppy play dates

If your friend or neighbor has a dog-friendly dog or another puppy and you want to get the dogs together to play, try to organize a first meeting at a neutral location such as an empty playground or field (doing so prevents territorial reactions). When possible, give both dogs freedom to interact on a long line, because choking up on a short leash can prompt containment aggression.

When they first meet, you may see some rough interaction in the form of play or you may witness dominance displays such as growling, mouthing, and mounting. Don’t freak out or choke up on your lead. This behavior is natural, and your interference often prompts a fight.

Stay calm but observe closely. The dogs must determine a hierarchy. After that’s accomplished, they’ll play and have fun on their own. If you’re certain a fight has begun, separate them with the leashes. Don’t handle fighting dogs.

If you’re approached by an off-lead dog, don’t hesitate, don’t look at the dog, and don’t let your puppy look at the dog. Just walk quickly away from the area. Discourage any confrontational attempts your puppy makes. Both of you should avoid eye contact. An off-lead dog defends his territory. However, if you leave without confrontation, he’ll stop the chase.

Introducing your pup to people

Meeting people doesn’t have to be a hair-raising experience. If your puppy is good on the leash, knows her directions, and is friendly, you have what you need to introduce your pooch to strangers.

Before you venture into the social scene, read over the following disclosures:

  • If your puppy is aggressive: If your puppy is having aggression problems, the only person you should introduce your puppy to for now is a trainer or behaviorist with a specialty in aggression rehabilitation. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

  • If your puppy is nervous: If you notice your puppy getting nervous or tense around unfamiliar people, join a class or work under private supervision. Don’t push the issue alone.

  • If you’re insecure: If you don’t believe that you have what it takes to train your puppy, you won’t. Hire some extra help if you need the support.

When debuting your puppy, follow these key rules:

  • Make sure your puppy is familiar and comfortable with the setting before you attempt to introduce her to anyone.

  • Always keep your human feet ahead of doggie paws. Gently tug her back if she forgets, realigning her if she attempts to scoot forward.

  • Tell admirers “We’re in training.” Hopefully, they will respect your efforts and contain their own excitement.

  • Stay more focused on your puppy than the admirer. Tug your puppy back into position if she attempts to break.

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