Introducing Al to strange dogs -- on their turf, or on neutral territory?

I have an invitation to go hiking with 2 Belgian malinois.  Nice mellow dogs, Gwynnie's met them.  Al has not.

Al will occasionally attack another dog -- lunge, snap, press the attack, no blood drawn yet as far as I know --  without any provocation.  Usually it's a larger dog.  Can't say if it's always males.  Some invisible switch flips, and he turns from Dr. Jekyl into Mr. Hyde in an instant.  He'll life a lift first, but he hardly even growls a warning.  He doesn't know how to say "Back off!"

So I have to keep him on a close leash with a careful eye on him.

Would it be better to introduce him to them on neutral territory (at the trailhead), or at their home, on their turf? 

I was invited to drive to their house the night before and crash in the guest room in order to get an early start on a long hike (Al would sleep in his crate if we did this).   I was wondering whether this would be too overwhelming -- he's never met them, it would be their territory, he'd be immersed in their smells, etc.

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I would think going into their home might be overwhelming, but I suppose it depends on why he's attacking.  I few leashed walks together on truly neutral ground would be ideal, but it sounds like that might not be possible?  

Is the temperature suitable for Al sleeping crated in the car?  You could take a few walks together off their property and then crate him up inside the vehicle (after sundown, or in full shade, obviously).  Then he wouldn't have to be in their territory at all.

I agree with Beth. Livvy is a bit like that and I think it would overwhelm her.

Introducing dogs on neutral ground works best, generally speaking, but if he can become aggressive as you describe it's a tough call being invited as a guest.  I had a hiking group with various people and pack dogs who would alternate coming to our outings (10-13 mile hikes) depending on what else people had going on.  Not all the dogs were friendly to other dogs, but none were overly aggressive.  We just knew who could be put close to another dog and who had to keep a reasonable distance.  All were on leash at all times and the owners were all clear on general dog to dog safety issues and all could physically control their own dog.  Can you leave him in the car until you are ready to retire for the night and the other two dogs have been safely contained so you can bring Al in and put him in his crate for the night?  Then you can take him back out in the morning when the other dogs are again safely contained, so there are no issues to solve until you reach your  hiking destination and are on neutral ground.  At that time you can keep some distance and play it by ear.... If the dogs are all leashed it should not be a problem.

Livvy would be fine in the car overnight(provided the weather is ok). She LOVES her crate and the car.

I would not be comfortable leaving him in his crate in the car overnight.   Little is gained by going there the previous night, so I'll probably drive down there early in the morning.

The only time I have Al on-leash on a hike is when other people/dogs are in sight -- not all that often -- but this time, he may have to be roped-up the whole time.

I'm wondering how he'll behave with these dogs if he gets enough time to get to know them.  These two are mellow, but could really whup his butt, so I wonder if he the sense to be cool with them?

Al may go nuts if he is roped up and the Malinois are not, or worse Gwynnie is not.  Dogs tends to behave differently when on leash.  If the Malinois are mellow, you should try let him loose after the meeting them.

Austin is very similar in this regards, unless you know his body language you never know when he may try to send another dog out of the state.  He never growls or snarls.

I have watched some dvds of serious herding dogs and they don't seem to warn with a snarl or growl when confronted by a bull or rogue sheep.  It is all out attack.  This maybe why we see this more in corgis than labs.  A snarl may not be enough to keep a herd in check and keep them alive.

 Austin likes to hang out at the back of the pack when walking or hiking with other dogs. I think he likes to watch and know where every dog is and how they interact. I like the idea of introducing them on a walk/hike in neutral territory, no face to face meeting.  Just let them sniff each other out as they are moving along.  Seems like less opportunity for negative interaction when they are kept moving forward.

It is interesting though, the better treats that  another dog is being given by its owner the closer Austin allows the other dog to be to him without problems.  He knows how to suck up because he never knows when a treat could fall his way. He tends to gravitate to the dogs getting the best treats.  So you might have the owners of the other dogs carry treats and randomly toss a few to Al along the way. That makes the other dogs a good thing.

Malinois are pretty aloof and bright dogs.  I am sure they will be better at reading Al's body language than you are.  I have seen dogs come running up to Austin only to veer away within a few feet and I can't notice anything visible about Austin.  The more I watch him, though, the more I am able to read the little signs. (a slight turn of the head, a tensing of the eyes)

Dogs are projecting these signs way before we are able to detect them.

Austin tends to remain on leash when around new dogs, but sometimes gets let off after a few hikes with a known dog (the dogs that know when he needs some space).


I'd never thought of this as herding behavior -- messing with the cow's (or other dog's) mind, not telegraphing intentions -- the message being, "Stay away from me; I'm too crazy, mean and mercurial to mess with."

I've noted that this happens more at stop points, like summits, lunch breaks -- when I'm inattentive or distracted with other humans, when a new dog shows up.  He once scared one totally inoffensive dog so badly it peed.

My darling monster.  He's a son-of-a-bitch, now that I think of it...

John, I think we've talked before.Sid and Al are kindred spirits in this regard. I never knew what Kathy wrote about herding but it does make sense. Sid usually just needs one chance to snark at a big dog and then he's generally ok. It's like he needs to say his piece and then he's cool. It's ALWAYS bigger dogs and usually labs and retrievers. Oddly enough, he's met the occasional German Shepherd and he's been fine with them, no snarking involved. I try to speak calmly when introducing to a big dog and reward/praise when he behaves. Try not to tense up or he'll pick up on that. Easier said than done, right?

I don't know if Al will feel more stressed if he's used to being off leash and then suddenly he's leashed. I'd see how it goes. I'd be interested to hear how it went!

It's not ALWAYS a bigger dog, but usually.  Never, I think, a dog that could obviously make a snack out of him, like a GSD or a Malinois.  He has some discretion.  He may get a chance to hike with a couple of GSD, too.

Discretion?  What's that?   In Chewey's case the bigger the dog the more likely it is to happen...;-<   He seems particularly fond of going after Great Pyrenees, for example (lovely), so needless to say I give them a wide berth.

Fortunately there are usually signs (and it's a lot worse on-leash - definitely no on-leash greetings with bigger dogs for him).    Not knowing anything about his original history not sure if it's just because he was never properly socialized or what.

At any rate, good luck!  Let us know how it goes...

I find that my reactive doberman is fine after she has had a couple walks with a strange dog (no greeting) but she is very good when off leash so I don't know if that helps. Her problem is fear which probably isn't Al's problem. The herding comment actually sound interesting. I wonder if he would be better at their house so he gets used to their scent? Probably leaving a leash on him is the best action. His foot must be alot better to go on a hike. Have fun!


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