Does Your Dog Get Along with Other Dogs?

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Many dog owners one day realize their pet no longer seems interested in being with other canines. Their formerly social dog has grown standoffish when other dogs are around.

What happened?

Socialization is a Lifelong Pursuit

J.C. Burcham, a DVM with a special interest in animal behavior, thinks this widely reported phenomenon could be the result of a lack of ongoing socialization.

According to Dr. Burcham:

Being polite and friendly takes practice!

Perhaps your dog got along great with other dogs when he was younger—you took him with you on errands, visited the dog park regularly, and had play time with your friends’ dogs.

But then, as time went by, life became more complicated in a way we never quite have the foresight to see, and you were no longer able to take your dog with you everywhere and socialize him all the time.

Dr. Burcham believes even dogs well-socialized as puppies, if not given regular opportunities to interact dog-to-dog as adults, can lose their ability to mix comfortably with others of their species.

Some pets are naturally skilled at dog-to-dog dealings, but many others need regular practice through activities that provide the chance to socialize with unfamiliar people and pets.

Is the Dog Park the Best Place for Your Pooch?

If your dog seems to have lost the knack for being around other canines, there are lots of things you can do to help him regain his social skills.

But before I get into that, I want to caution you not to assume just because your pet doesn’t do well at the dog park, he’s anti-social or unfriendly toward all other canines. According to Kathy Diamond Davis, author and trainer, writing for Veterinary

It is actually more “normal” for a mature dog to NOT be able to “play nice” with strange dogs in a dog park than it is for the dog to be able to do it! Dogs in the wild are not “social” in the sense of making friends with every dog they meet. This is a human idea, and currently a big fad among people with dogs. It’s causing a lot of serious problems.

I encourage you not to use your pet’s behavior at the dog park as a gauge of his sociability.

Adult canines aren’t wired to mix and mingle with large groups of strange dogs, so think of socialization in terms of exposure to other dogs and people through directed activities.

Tips for Keeping Your Adult Dog Well Socialized

  • Obedience classes provide an environment where all the dogs are kept under control. This can be very helpful if your pet seems wary around other dogs. Organized classes give him the opportunity to be around other pups, but from a slight distance.
  • If you have friends with dogs, arrange play dates with one (carefully selected) dog at a time. Put your dog and his doggy friend in a safe, enclosed area and let them get to know each other. This is another low pressure social situation in which your pup can hone his skills without being overwhelmed by too many dogs, or an overly dominant dog.
  • Get involved in dog agility competitions. These events provide a great opportunity for your dog to be around other dogs and people while getting lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
  • If agility isn’t appealing, there are lots of other activities that might be, including flying disc, dock jumping/dock diving, flyball, herding, hunt and field trials and musical freestyle. is a good resource for exploring organized exercise and socialization possibilities for your dog.
  • A really fabulous socialization activity you can share with your pet, depending on his temperament and personality, is training to be a therapeutic visitation dog.
  • Another possible option for socialization and exercise is to enroll your pet in a doggy daycare program one or two days a week. The facility you choose should have a knowledgeable staff, separate play areas for dogs of different sizes, and supervised playgroups. Extensive temperament tests should be performed on all dogs to evaluate their behavior in the daycare environment. Introduction to the pack should be gradual for all new dogs.  A word of caution about doggy daycare facilities … most require at least yearly re-vaccinations for rabies, distemper, parvo and bordetella. This isn’t the vaccine protocol I recommend for your pet.
  • Last but not least, never underestimate the socialization value of regular daily walks with your dog. You both get fresh air, stress-relieving and perhaps even heart-thumping exercise, and opportunities to encounter old and new two- and four-legged friends.

6 thoughts on “Does Your Dog Get Along with Other Dogs?”

  1. There are also some breed differences that can account for dogs not caring for other dogs once they reach the age of social maturity. For example, Boxers and Dobermans are sometimes noted for same sex aggressive behavior. Terriers have somewhat of a reputation for feistiness, especially between females. It does pay to investigate your chosen breed’s propensities for dog to dog aggression (preferably before you purchase or adopt your dog) and not have unrealistic expectations. There are also breeds that are generally disposed to play nicely with others for a long time, notably the retriever breeds. But, of course, all of this is heavily dependent upon proper and ongoing socialization. The AVSAB has a position statement on puppy socialization that I wish all people would read before they get a dog! The window of opportunity is so small, and if a dog misses proper social interactions during puppy hood the handicap can last for a lifetime. The best thing you can do for your puppy is to take it to a really good puppy class with a knowledgeable trainer. You can find one at the Pet Professional Guild web site.

  2. I went by the Dr. Ian Dunbar book and socialized my then pup all of the time from 8 weeks on. And despite his great play behaviour when young, he’s unpredictable now. Taking him to a dog park is a nightmare as he’s also a resource guarder and if someone brings a ball, heaven-forbid, it all goes south. So it’s ongoing management now. I try to prevent unwanted behaviour from being rehearsed, so this also means he only gets selectively socialized now – paradox? Maybe, but I don’t know what else to do and the trainer I’ve worked with in my area has gone quiet when I ask her for more angles.

    He’s awesome with his pals… those dogs he’s known and loves. But with others, though I’ve figured out a relatively workable system, he’s managed. And I’ve become the body language analyzer, and can’t for the life of me work out if it’s ears, tail height, etc. It’s not gender or breed specific, so ???

    I’ll be hitting up a Suzanne Clothier clinic in Sept, but am also open to other suggestions from qualified people. Oh puppy dogs!


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