Harley and Meeko; Inseparable buddies.
Does my dog have to get on with every other dog?
The short answer: No
Dogs are known for their sociable and friendly nature, but not all of our four-legged friends exhibit the same degree of social enthusiasm. Just like humans, dogs have unique personalities and preferences when it comes to their social interactions. Some dogs thrive in the company of other dogs, while others may seem less interested or even prefer the company of their human companions. This article explores the dynamics of dog-to-dog interactions and discusses whether it's a problem if your dog doesn't want to be friends with other dogs.
Individual Variations in Dogs
Much like people, dogs have their own distinct personalities and temperaments. These differences can manifest in their social behavior as well. Some dogs are naturally outgoing, sociable, and always up for a play-date at the park. On the other hand, there are dogs that are more introverted and reserved, displaying a preference for human company. These variations are entirely normal and can be influenced by factors like genetics, early socialization experiences, age and health, energy levels, individual personalities, past experiences whether positive or negative and their specific breed traits.
Breeds like Springer Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers are widely known for their friendly and affectionate personalities. They’ve been specifically breed for their good-natured temperaments. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t dogs of these breeds that dislike other dogs, and that’s completely OK.
In fact, you’ll find there is a lot of stigma around certain breeds in the media today, such as Pit Bulls's (an umbrella term for many dog breeds with certain characteristics), Shar Pei’s and larger dog breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Akita's. These dogs have all been bred to work for specific purposes over thousand of years because they're all extremely intelligent dogs. These include: herding, baiting, guarding and fighting! Working dogs have a lot of energy, and in the modern home they cant exhibit their natural behaviors that they've been bred to do. Dogs that are mentally or physically under-stimulated usually result in unwanted behaviors such as: destructive or naughty behaviors around the house, lunging, barking and resource guarding. Once given the mental and physical stimulation they need, these breeds can be well trained, loyal companions.
Harley enjoying a cuddle in bed. Look at that beautiful face <3
I've meet many dogs of these breeds who are absolutely wonderful and safe to be around! They've always had responsible owners who know their dogs intimately and work with them positively.
Always use an ethical breeder who breeds for temperament and health (when not rescuing). When given to a responsible handler, who socializes them correctly and uses appropriate training methods; these dogs can become friendly family members that are amazing cuddle bugs, that have also been well socialized with other people and dogs! Never underestimate the role of nurture and positive reinforcement.
Understanding Your Dog's History
Past experiences play a significant role in shaping your dog's social preferences. A dog that had negative encounters or even isolated from other dogs early in life may become more wary, anxious or fearful around them. It's essential to consider your dog's history and any potential traumas or events when assessing their social behavior. Patience and understanding can go a long way in helping them feel more at ease around other dogs, if that's a goal you have in mind.
Working on Socialization
If you desire to help your dog become more comfortable around other dogs, you can embark on a journey of controlled socialization. Positive, gradual interactions with well-behaved dogs, preferably under the guidance of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist, can help your dog build confidence and potentially develop positive relationships with their canine peers.
Asking Oreo to offer up her favorite tricks while other dogs walk by at a distance.
When working with dogs who have fear reactivity towards other dogs (or people), it’s important to work with a positive reinforcement behaviorist. Using punishment and aversive methods will make the long-term issue worse and even cause your dog to lose trust in you and even fear you. Hoping your dog will just ‘get over it’ will only cause the issue to worsen and flooding your dog (forcing them into situations) will exacerbate the issues. Punishment may cause the dog to stop in the moment, but that energy will always be redirected into a different situation or behavior because it hasn’t taught the dog any skills to handle the situation appropriately. Infact, anything in that environemnt can be associated with that punishment, meaning your dog now not only reacts to dogs but also the people with the dog and the baby stroller behind them!
The point is, your dog doesn't necessarily understand what is being associated with the punishment and now has additional issues that have been created.
Counter conditioning with positive reinforcement always starts at a distance with the dog on a controlled lead, where your dog can see its trigger. Pairing the trigger with praise, treats or toys will tell your dog that every time they see that scary thing, good things happen. With enough consistency and repetitions your dog will be able to disengage themselves and see it as a ‘non-event’. Please speak to a behaviorist before trying these methods, as every dog has individual traits. A personalized plan should be made to help your dog build confidence and overcome their fears.
When It's Not a Problem
If your dog shows a lack of interest in other dogs and prefers solitude or human companionship, it's generally not a cause for concern. As long as your dog is content and not displaying reactive or fearful behavior around other dogs, it's perfectly fine for them to have their own unique social preferences. Just like people, some dogs are more selective about their social interactions and may not seek out the company of other dogs. If your dog prefers your company, even better! This will make it super easy for you to build a fun relationship with them on walks! Use that time to engage with your dog, play games, teach them tricks and play training games. Recall, heel, fetch and even advanced games like emergency stop! Walks just became a lot more fun and easier for you and your pup.
Playing games and training Oreo in the park at a distance from other dogs.
In conclusion, whether your dog wants to be friends with other dogs or not is not inherently a problem. Understanding and respecting your dog's unique social preferences is essential for their well-being. While some dogs are naturally more social with their canine counterparts, others may prefer solitude or the company of humans. As a responsible dog owner, your role is to ensure your dog is happy, comfortable, and safe in their social interactions. If you wish to change their social behavior, patience and professional guidance can help your dog become more at ease around other dogs. Ultimately, what matters most is the well-being and happiness of your furry friend, regardless of their social inclinations.
Until next time NBN Crew!