Socializing Your Dog Within your Apartment Building
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
You and your dog interacting with other dog owners is one of the activities people look forward to the most when living in a pet friendly building. And rightfully so! But there is a right way and a wrong way to introduce your dog to their neighbors, so they also become friends.
First Meetings (Did someone say butt sniffing?)
When introducing a newly acquired dog or new resident dog to potential buddies, you want to be cautious. Only introduce your pup to dogs you already know to be friendly, or precede the greeting by asking the dog’s handler if their dog would like to make friends. Then, approach slowly. Allowing your dog to rush up to other dogs’ faces or vice versa is a behavior considered rude by our canine companions, and this can cause angry reactions that may result in snarls or even scuffles. To a dog, the most polite greeting is a slow, sideways, butt-first hello with a lot of sniffing! This is the behavior that should be encouraged, so help guide your dog away from the other dog’s face and towards its behind initially. Letting the dogs jump on each other or look at each other directly in the face are behaviors you want them to avoid.
Things to Avoid
As said with first greetings, you should never allow your dog to rush up to another dog, especially if they don’t know them! This can be especially dangerous if your dog is on a retractable leash or no leash, as you cannot quickly pull them back if a conflict arises.
Even if your dog knows other dogs from the park, walking on the street or the lobby is different and there are certain things you want to still be cautious about. Certain constricting locations such as the elevator or narrow hallways may make a dog feel more tense and not want to interact with others. Some may also be territorial, and while they are happy to play with doggy friends in the lobby or park, they may not be pleased if that friend comes into their apartment. In general, remember to approach every new situation with caution to make sure both dogs are comfortable. You should always respect every dog’s personal space bubble, and teach your dog to do the same!
The most important part of monitoring your dog’s interactions with other pups is reading their body language and responding appropriately. Look for these signs to gauge the situation when introducing your dog to potential friends:
Relaxed, Comfortable Dog: A dog who is enjoying meeting and playing with another will typically have an open mouth with a possibly lolling tongue, wiggly and loose body language, and a tail wagging low or in a circle, accompanied by bouncy movements.
Stressed, Uncomfortable Dog: Dogs who are uncomfortable around other dogs may have a tucked tail and be backing away, licking their lips, or yawning nervously.
Aggressive or Unsocial Dog: Those who are looking to start a scuffle or just don’t want to be bothered may hard stare at the other dog’s face, have a high and stiff (or slow wagging) tail, and tense posture.
If your dog or the other exhibits body language that communicates discomfort, you should politely stop the dog/dog interaction and remove your pup from the situation. Respecting the dogs’ comfort levels will not only prevent possible conflicts, but teach your dog that they can depend on you to keep them out of scary or bad situations (and/or not allow them to start any!)
Accept How Social Your Dog Wants to Be
Many people have a vision of their pups happily frolicking in the local dog park, enjoying
group walks with their neighbors, and happily wagging their tails when they see other dogs they know. This may be your dog! It also may not. When they hit maturity (between 1-3 years old) most dogs become “selective”, meaning they aren’t interested in becoming friends with every or even most dogs they meet. This is normal. After all, you don’t want to be friends with everyone you meet either!
Accept the fact that your dog may only want to be friends with a few dogs. Your dog may not want to be friends with the dogs of people you are also friends with. Your dog could even decide they don’t want any canine friends, but prefer the company of people. Some breeds are more social and welcoming of new dogs than others, and certain positive or negative experiences can encourage or sour a dog to furry friends. All of this is okay, and your dog’s preference for social interactions is no reflection on you as an owner, but rather their individual personalities.
Enjoying Social Interactions with Your Dog
After teaching your dog manners, and learning more about polite (and impolite!) canine behavior, you can learn to avoid negative social experiences and look forward to fun times with your neighbors and their dogs—on walks together, at the park, and maybe just hanging out in the common areas!