Your dog may be your best friend, but chances are you’ve got other “people” friends you like to spend time with doing things that don’t involve chasing tennis balls or sticks. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) And your dog may be the most well-adjusted thing on four legs, but have you ever thought that he might need some time with his own kind, too? We wanted to know, too, so we asked Dr. Tom Watson at Carolinas Veterinary Medical Hospital some questions about dogs, their friends, and socialization.
BRN: So, how important is it for dogs to have their own friends?
Dr. Watson: Before we domesticated dogs about 15,000 years ago, they lived, hunted, and survived by living and working in packs. Today, a dog’s pack my consist of its human family members only or other pets in the household. Dogs in general seem to thrive when allowed to socialize and play with other dogs. We see this everyday at our doggie day care and that dogs often develop “best friends”. However, there will always be those that prefer their human “pack members” to other dogs.
BRN: How soon should a dog owner introduce their dog to other dogs?
Dr. Watson: Allowing puppies to play with other puppies from birth is very important in their development of social skills. At Carolinas Veterinary Medical Hospital we will see puppies that have been bottle-fed and “raised by hand” that then grow up to be very nervous, shy, and uncomfortable in unfamiliar settings. They are more comfortable with their immediate family and are often socially challenged.
BRN: What can you do if your dog just isn’t friendly with other dogs?
Dr. Watson: Some dogs are just not going to do very well with other dogs. For whatever reason, some dogs are always going to be aggressive toward other dogs. A professional trainer will need to be consulted for this type of dog. Introducing dogs in a quiet controlled environment will help minimize the chance of a dogfight happening and owners should keep their dogs on-leash until the dogs are relaxed and comfortable with each other.
BRN: Do certain dogs just have more “friendly dispositions” than others?
Dr. Watson: A dog’s “personality” or temperament can be just like a person’s. And like people, some are just difficult to get along with. Two major factors determining a dog’s temperament are breed and how it was raised during the early stages of it’s life. Just like people, a dog’s “childhood” will have an impact on how that dog behaves as an adult.
BRN: Are dog parks good for dogs to meet up, play and make friends?
Dr. Watson: Dog parks are an excellent place for dogs to socialize and play with other dogs. Much like a playground with children, there will be scuffles, misunderstandings, and the occasional fight. Always keep in mind that even though your dog may be very well-mannered and social, someone else’s dog could be a “bully” and cause trouble. If your dog has never been to a dog park, start out when there are fewer dogs present and it will be less overwhelming and more fun for you and your dog.
BRN: Thanks, Dr. Watson! Well, how ‘bout it, readers and friends? Does your dog have his or her own playmates? And do you have any tips or tricks you’d share to help your dog become more friendly with his own kind? We’d love to hear them!