When Dogs Meet Other Dogs: What Are They Saying To Each Other?
How can you tell if your puppy’s encounter with an unfamiliar dog will be a delight or a disaster? That depends on how the other dog acts and how your puppy responds.
Pet dogs, though domesticated, interact with each other according to pack protocol. The pack (the basic canine social unit) is structured around a hierarchy of dominance and subordinance (submission).
Every pack member is dominant to some and subordinate to others, with the exception of the alpha male (who is dominant to all) and the lowest-ranking pack member (who is subordinate to all). Social rank is communicated and enforced through body language – a complex combination of movements, posture and other physical signals.
When two dogs meet for the first time, the outcome depends on several factors:
1) Age: Most adult dogs tolerate puppies, but this isn’t always the case. If your puppy is approaching maturity and tries to out some dominant behaviors, an older dog may feel obligated to put your youngster in its place. However, puppies of similar ages usually get along well with each other, because puppies usually don’t attempt to dominate each other.
2) Sex: Adult dogs often have friendlier interactions with dogs of the opposite sex than those of the same sex. Because this characteristic is related to maturity, it doesn’t affect interactions involving young puppies
3) Location: Dogs naturally try to protect their own territory (their house and yard), so they often get along better when they meet on neutral ground, such as a park. This tactic doesn’t work, however, if either dog decides that a frequently visited public location is part of its territory. Most puppies, especially young ones, aren’t really territorial, but an adult dog may still regard your youngster as an intruder.
4) Owner Presence: And finally, some dogs are more amiable with one another when their owners aren’t around. This may be due to decreased feelings of jealousy or protectiveness. It may also be that socialization proceeds more smoothly without human interference.
A friendly dog will approach your puppy with a slightly crouched posture, low wagging tail, laid-back ears and a soft, indirect gaze. A not-so-friendly dog will approach standing tall, with its tail and ears erect. It’s gaze will be direct and staring; it may snarl or growl as it approaches.
Your puppy will probably respond to either of these dogs with submissive behavior, which is similar to that of the friendly dog, but more pronounced. Your puppy may even roll over on its back or urinate a bit -signs of complete submission. Even the most aggressive dog won’t attack another dog in this position.
The information shared on this site is for information only. It does not take the place of professional advice from your pet’s healthcare provider.