Introducing hounds to each other or other dogs can be a tricky process, but it is important to do it correctly to ensure a safe and positive experience for all involved.
Step One: Communication and safety is key
The key is to take it slow. To begin, it is best to have a discussion with the other hound’s handler about their hound. What does their hound dislike when greeting other dogs? Come up with a plan to ensure you are both on the same page. Ensure your hound is wearing a muzzle, just to be on the safe side. If your hound is greeting another hound, you can also ask for the other to wear a muzzle in the beginning.
Step Two: Assess before you progress
Before allowing the hounds to approach, have both dogs on lead at a comfortable distance away from each other. Assess their body language to gauge how they are feeling about being present with the other hound. Is your hound relaxed? Tense? Excitable? Avoidant?
If you recognise that your hound is feeling uncomfortable, be a voice for them. Ask the other handler to hold off approaching, and work on providing your hound with a positive experience at a short distance by giving them some treats. Not all hounds want to approach, or want to be approached, and this is completely OK!
Step Three: Follow the Leader
If both dogs seem comfortable and relaxed, and both handlers are comfortable to proceed (it is always good to ask!) we then move on to the first stage of greeting. We want to avoid nose-to-nose greetings at this stage. In the doggy world, this can be considered a little rude and intimidating for some. To avoid this, we always recommend greeting nose-to-bum first. And to encourage this, we can have one hound walk ahead of the other, and have the other hound “follow the leader”. Allow the following hound to approach the leading hounds rear end, count to three out loud while they sniff. Once you reach “three”, the following hound and handler stop, while the leader hound and handler continues walking to create some space.
A three second sniff is enough time for them to get a sense of each other’s scent and body language, without overwhelming the hound they are sniffing.
Continue to take turns with “follow the leader” so both hounds take turns at sniffing. Make sure to take breaks with some distance to allow them to decompress. Keep an eye on your hounds body language throughout the process – are they happy to approach for a greeting or are they being avoidant? Do they stiffen up or show any other signs of discomfort when the other hound approaches them?
Take your time in the greeting phase, do not feel the need to continue greeting if your hound is uncomfortable. By reading their body language, acting accordingly and making it a positive experience, they will continue to develop confidence and communication with other hounds overtime.
Step Four: Go for a bonding walk
After your hound receives all the information they need (they do this by sniffing bums), you may notice they will relax and not be so excited by their new acquaintance. This is a good time to start your walk, which is a great way for hounds to bond with other hounds and dogs.
Step Five: Working towards off-lead
Having dogs off lead together is a step that some people look forward to achieving. This can take time. We recommend taking it slow and having several introductions between hounds or other dogs before taking the next step of going off lead together.
When the time is right, it is best to practice being off lead first. Take your hounds into a small yard together, practice a safe greeting as discussed above, and then keep your hounds on lead but allow them to explore the yard more freely. This will allow you to safely assess if they are ready to go off-lead. Assess which dog is the calmest, or the least interested in the other. This is who you want to take off-lead first. Before you do this, please make sure everyone is happy and ready to proceed with having the first dog off-lead. If all goes well with the first one, then trial the second dog off-lead
- When greeting, it may be normal for you hounds to walk around in circles trying to sniff the other hound. This is good behaviour in the canine world, however we need to avoid having leads tangled. This can cause hounds to become too close too quickly with each other, and lose the ability to move away if they need to. This can cause tension. It is best for the handlers to move with their hound, you may look like a silly person walking around in circles following your hound around as they greet and explore, but it allows your hound to greet appropriately without getting tangled.
- Try to avoid tension on the lead. This can be tricky as we want to make sure our hounds are safe and not being too full-on for the hounds they are greeting, but tension and the feeling of being held back can cause frustration. This is not a good mindset for a hound to be in when greeting another dog. We need to work on finding the ‘sweet spot’ between safety and freedom.
- If your hound is a little excitable or pulls when greeting others, they may benefit from working on their greeting manners by practicing being calm from a distance. Give your hound a treat for looking at the dog at a distance and when they look away. Gradually decrease the distance – we call this the engage / disengage game.
Slow introductions are important. They give your hound time to get comfortable, establish a positive relationship and build communication over time. Be sure to read our blog about multi-dog households for some more useful tools to set your hound up for success.