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The Listen Dog Blog

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I'll be keeping it up-to-date with regular catch-ups on what I've been up to, plenty of original articles on obedience training and behavioural best practice, plus top tips and ideas you can work on at home with your own four-legged friend!


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How New Dogs Greet Each Other – And How Humans Can Mess it Up!

By listendogtraining, Dec 18 2016 02:53PM

When two dogs are meeting, their body language and greeting behaviours are so important in terms of whether they end up perceiving one another as a potential threat or a welcome playmate. Sometimes, when humans intervene in this initial greeting, these crucial body signals can be unwittingly interfered with, misread entirely by the other party, and lead to an unnecessary aggressive encounter, which could have otherwise been totally avoided!

For example, when a dog approaches another dog in his line of sight, he may become instantly excited to get over there and greet that dog, pronto! If he is on a lead, he might well start pulling energetically in a bid to reach the potential new playmate quickly. As a response to this, the owner will likely pull back on the lead to try and regain control of their excitable hound, creating a tension which their dog will strain against. Unfortunately, this straining posture inadvertently becomes a completely accidental display of some potentially aggressive looking body language. To the other dog, the dog straining on the lead will appear to be leaning forward (due to the tension on the lead) and likely staring at their potential playmate because they are so desperate to reach them despite their irritatingly reserved owner! The other dog however may instantly read this body language as threatening, and respond accordingly, which could quickly lead to a fight. Loose leads are an absolute must when it comes to greeting dogs out and about – if you can’t manage it, and you don’t know the other dog you are approaching, walk the other way.

Similarly, it must be noted by owners how important it is that their dogs are allowed to perform the correct social greeting behaviours when they do meet other dogs. Pheromones are one of the biggest contributors to non-verbal communications amongst dogs – which is why they are so obsessed with sniffing each other’s rear ends! If an owner were to interfere with this ritual and pull their dog away from another’s behind mid-sniff, their dog would be perceived by the other dog as behaving incredibly rudely – which again, could cause an attack.

The common act of sniffing one another’s rear ends when two dogs meet is like the equivalent of two people shaking hands – to not perform this behaviour is considered abnormal and a slight against the other dog. Bruce Fogle describes dogs as having ‘a veritable cornucopia of pheromones that activate or inhibit other dogs’ minds’; these pheromones are present in a dog’s saliva, faeces, urine, vaginal and preputial secretions, as well as their anal, perianal and dorsal tail glands, and provide a vast array of information to other dogs, including sexual status, social status, health information and more. In the same way that we might verbally introduce ourselves to a new person in order that they might learn some basic information about who we are, dogs learn this introductory factfile from the act of sniffing... and it is not to be interrupted!

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