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Inquisitive Canine: Finding Good Match When Adopting ‘Playmate’

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Dear Poncho:

I am a 4½-year-old Great Dane male (intact). My human wants to rescue another Great Dane for me to have as something called a “playmate.” I must confess that other large dogs annoy me and I just want to bark at them. However, I really, really love people — I always get good attention — and I really, really love to play (almost as much as I love napping).

I have a little friend, Maggie, who I love dearly, and we get along quite well (maybe she is this “playmate” thing?). Do you have any pointers that I can pass along to my human to help her decide whether we should rescue another Dane? And, if we do, how should we arrange for the introduction? I want my human to get off on the best paw possible.

May your nose always meet with interesting smells and your water dish be full, cold and fresh!

— Chenpo McCarty

Dear Chenpo:

Hey there, Chenpo. Thanks for taking the time to write in asking for suggestions on how to help your human mom make responsible dog guardian decisions. Also, thanks for including the picture of yourself. It’s nice to put a face with the question.

You’ve brought up two areas of concern. First, deciding whether to adopt, and secondly, how best to arrange bringing another dog into the household. My mom is a certified professional dog trainer and has helped many clients and dog guardians make this life-changing decision, including understanding the important factors to consider before and after you adopt.

Below you will find my canine perspective and tips for helping with the “how to arrange an introduction” part of your question. My mom will cover the “what to consider before you adopt” part on our Inquisitive Canine blog.

It’s important that us dogs are able to have some “say” in who we want to be friends with, and not be forced into something that we just tolerate. When a dog makes friends with other dogs, it’s his or her decision, like you did with your friend Maggie.

Just because we’re all dogs doesn’t mean we all want to be friends, right? Sure, many of us dogs enjoy saying “hello,” sniffing out both ends to get the info we need, reading each other’s body language, then deciding if we want to take it further, but my mom and I agree that, like humans, dogs should form relationships with one another following the same standards: Allow the dogs to set the pace of how friendly they want to become (like you did with Maggie) and how fast they want to form a relationship, if at all.

Chenpo McCarty, a Great Dane
Here are a few dog training tips that can help create a successful meeting between you and anyone who might be a potential playmate:

» Have your human scout it out first. After deciding on where to look for a potential friend for you, have your human go and meet the other dogs first. Have her pre-screen the dogs. She knows your personality, so she would be a good one to judge if it might be a good match. Plus, going on her own may help reduce any stress she might have with worrying about you at the same time.

» Get out there and mingle. After your mom has done some pre-screening, it would be ideal for you to meet these potential playmates. If and when you meet another dog whose company you enjoy, and vice versa, then that would certainly be a great dog to consider bringing home.

» Location, location, location. Shelters can be stressful. Lots of noises and smells that humans can’t hear or smell can sometimes cause undo stress for us pooches. Some shelters have official meeting areas that are outdoors or in a more neutral area. If not, then have your human ask if you can meet in a more neutral area, vs. the kennel or lobby.

» First impressions are key. Your human should allow you and the other dog to set the pace on meeting. Keeping all canines on a leash can help keep everyone safe (in case one of you doesn’t like the other and things get heated up). However, you and I know that leashes get in our way sometimes, so ask your human to please keep all leashes loose. This way, you and the other dog can communicate with each other while helping prevent miscommunication.

» Make it fun for everyone. While at the shelter, ask if you can all go for a walk together. If the shelter staff is swamped and can’t go, ask if there is a volunteer who can. Or maybe your human has a friend she can bring to help out. If there is a safe area that allows off leash play, it would be good to allow you and the other dog the opportunity to see if you enjoy playing together.

» Reward for nice behaviors. Having the humans reward you and the other dog with petting, praise and treats is also a nice way to set up a successful meeting. This tells you which behaviors they want more of, which is key for successful dog training. Plus, you’re more likely to associate other dogs with good times — then maybe you will find other dogs less annoying.

» Keep in mind your history of get-togethers. You mention you’re not too partial to large dogs. Did you have a bad experience? Is it with all large dogs? Or is it more specific, like with large Great Danes, or large red dogs with white paws? You also mention you’re good friends with Maggie. How did that happen? Is it because she is “little”? Is it because you always have good times together? Your human might want to re-enact that event. Whatever steps occurred that helped you develop this friendship worked, so have your human repeat those steps again.

» Don’t force relationships. If you or the other dog decides it just wasn’t meant to be, then your mom might want to look around for another prospect. Yes, she can certainly train each of you to like the other dog, but it will take time, patience, consistency and management. There are many of us shelter dogs out there who are looking for our forever home. It might be simpler to invest the time looking for an ideal match vs. taking the same amount of time (or more) training each of you to like the other.

» Know when to go to Plan B. If your human has made attempts in finding you a playmate, but you have indicated to her that you’d prefer for it to be a single-doggy household, then maybe setting up more playdates with Maggie and any other friends you make would be the better option. Again, this goes back to not forcing you into a relationship you don’t want to have.

» Know what you are: a dog with his knick-knacks. It has been documented that dogs with his “jewels” are sometimes picked on by other male dogs more often than those who don’t have them. Or, if there are two intact males, there is an increased risk of altercations, so your human should be aware of this. Inviting a female (even a spayed one) into the household also can cause a different set of behavioral issues. Nothing is for sure, but your mom does need to be aware.

With time, patience and having a clear picture in her mind of what your mom wants, and what is best for you, you might just end up with a new roommate, and even a BFF. Either way, it’s nice that she is taking the time to consider your feelings. She is one inquisitive guardian, and I appreciate that.

Mom and I are all about rescues, so please thank your dog guardian for considering helping out a less fortunate pooch. Whether it be a Great Dane or smaller dog, we know that if you and your human do decide to adopt another dog, he or she will be very thankful they have ended up in what sounds like one awesome forever home.

For expert advice on what to consider before adopting a dog, click here to check out our dog training tips blog.

Thanks for the good wishes, Chenpo. May you always have a toy to squeak and be rewarded for all good behaviors.

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, contact us with your dog behavior advice question.

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