Dog-Dog Sociability

In our private behavior practice, we often get calls for adolescent dogs who no longer get along with other dogs as well as they did as puppies. This usually takes their owners by surprise, and is often very upsetting. “He was always great at the dog park, I don’t understand why he’s suddenly being so bad!” The answer is oftentimes, “he’s completely normal.”

Wait, shouldn’t all dogs want to play with one another? Well, not necessarily.

Our society believes that every dog should want to play with every other dog they meet, but frankly, this isn’t realistic or normal. Consider this: we would consider it normal behavior for a 4-year-old child to want to go the park and play in the sandbox with the other children. What would you think if a 40-year-old man was doing the same thing?

Adult dogs are adults, not babies, and as adults their interactions with other dogs will change. Puppies and adolescent dogs should be quite social. They enjoy playing and meeting new friends. This is normal for their stage of development. Many adolescent dogs really enjoy going to the dog park and doggy daycare. Adult dogs are different. While some adults may continue to enjoy these activities their entire life, others may be horrified at the prospect of wading into a pack of obnoxious adolescent pups and being asked to play.

So, what IS normal? First and foremost, dogs are individuals. A dog’s sociability with other dogs will change based on their age, breed, sexual status, genetic tendencies, early socialization, and recent experiences. Let’s go through what a normal dog’s sociability will look like as he matures, provided his owner sets him up for success by only introducing him to other well-socialized dogs and giving him frequent opportunities to interact with them off-leash.

As a puppy, the dog will probably be quite social with almost all other dogs and enjoy playing. Other dogs will put up with pretty rude behavior on the puppy’s part, because they’ll understand that he’s just a baby. Once he reaches adolescence at about 5-6 months, that will change. Other dogs will begin correcting him for rude behavior and he will start to learn about polite doggy society, including personal space and boundaries. He will still be quite playful, and may especially enjoy rowdy play with other adolescents. His social skills won’t be very “polished” yet.

As he continues to mature, he will become more polite around other dogs and may become less boisterously playful with dogs he doesn’t know well. He’ll likely have a group of doggy friends he really enjoys, but may not instantly play with every new dog he meets. He’s more likely to want to just “hang out” with his doggy friends, sniffing stuff together and meandering around as a group, without as much excited play. He may ignore unfamiliar dogs or greet them politely with a sniff.

In future posts, we’ll explore the normal classifications of dog-dog sociability, as well as good and bad ways to socialize your dog to others, the best way to introduce two unfamiliar dogs, and what to do if your dog doesn’t like other dogs.

In the meantime, what does your dog think of other dogs? Does he enjoy playing with unfamiliar dogs, or does it take him awhile to make new canine friends? Has his sociability level changed with maturity or due to positive or negative experiences? What do you do to set him up for success? Please comment below, I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

3 responses to “Dog-Dog Sociability

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  2. I adopted an 2 year and 11 month old American bulldog from Animal control in February. There was only one adoption counsler at the facility. She was seemingly this dogs only chance at getting out of this kill shelter alive. She gave him a terrible report claiming he came in as a puppy and was returned twice.

    His most recent owners had him for just under a year and claimed that they “tried everything”, but that he was just a terror. They claimed he repeatedly busted out of his crate and destroyed everything in site, from laptops to furniture. They supposedly moved into a house with a fenced in backyard, but he would dig his way out.

    I couldn’t leave the little prince their b/c I knew with this kind of review he would never make it out. It is clear that the dog has had no training to speak of and was likely left in a crate for hours at a time. The poor guy was likely so pent up by the time he was let out of his crate that he became destructive. He is now like a three year old puppy, with no manners, only with 70 lbs of muscle and jaw pressure.

    He is still very mouthy with us when he wants attention. I desperately need tips on how to break him of jumping on me everytime I enter the room or biting on my clothes/arms. I can tell that he is not trying to inflict pain, but he’s not aware of his strength. We’ve recently discovered that he really dislikes the broom. I’m guessing that he was previously swatted with the broom, b/c if the broom is in site anytime he is exhibiting bad behavior, he immediately stops and hunches down. He’s a counter surfer and a garbage meddler… basically he can’t be left unattended, unless he’s in his now doggy proofed room.

    My significant other works from home, so he is rarely left by himself, but he will incessantly bark a good portion of the time if he isn’t permitted to be in the same room as you. He gets walked more than any dog I know throughout the day. At night we take him to the gated park at the school, play with him, and ware him out. The exercise definitely helps with his restless behavior.

    He gets along with out smaller dog fabulously outside and seems to respect his boundaries. Our little guy is a little touchy bc he was previously paralysed (prior to getting big boy) and fears being stepped on. In the house we keep them separated bc the little ones anxiety goes off the charts in close quarters.

    Walks were going very smoothly the first couple of weeks of having Marley. He picked up on sit and stay and heal rather quickly. Marley never seemed to be bothered by the presence of other dogs on walks at the beginning. I think after he settled in he began to pick up on bad behavior from Smurph. Smurph barks incessantly anytime he sees another dog, unless he gets to go up and greet them. If he is permitted to do so he immediately stops the obnoxious high pitched squeal. Marley appears to emulating this behavior now… with our without Smurph on the walk. It started after the weather got nicer an the next door neighbor started tethering her two land in the front lawn. They are harmless, but they sound and appear to be vicious…. yanking at the end of their leashes which reach just short of the sidewalk. They do this whether a dog or a person is passing, regardless of whether they’ve met them several times. Marley has started flipping out yanking at the end of his leash everytime we pass them. It’s impossible to avoid them, bc our door is right next to their yard. He looks at sounds terrifying. Within a couple of days of him picking up this behavior he was charged at by a neighbors dog who lets her dog off leash frequently. Fortunately she was able to call her dog off just a few feet from Marleys face. I was able to redirect Marley and we headed down another street. No sooner that I got him to calm down and let go of the anxiety a dog charged out of his house though the unlatched door and preceded to charge across the street and attack Marley. Marley defended himself, neither dog was wounded, but it was terrifying. The dog must’ve decided he bit off more than he could chew and retreated to his house. Marley continues to bark at him like a crazy person and appeared to be begging him to come back for another round. After I was able to redirect him, he just continued on his way wagging his tail as if this was a perfectly acceptable greeting and perhaps even enjoyable.

    I really need to get him into socialization classes, but am to terrified to bring him around other dogs. I can depend on the fact that at least 5 of my neighbors are irresponsible dog owners so every walk consists of dodging and fearing that a loose dog is going to approach us at any given time. It’s a lot of stress and anxiety for all of us. Please help. I wish Ceaser Milan lived in our state! I need a well trained professional, with well trained dogs to come out and teach us the ropes.

  3. Sounds like Marley is picking up on your anxiety when you walk, Which makes his behavior worse, I would find a better place to walk for now and try to remain calm ( bring treats and reward his calm behavior). Once you get him back in check seeking a friend who has a stable dog to socialize with will help. Stinks that other owners allow their dogs to run free, It can be a bad situation for all involved. Good luck.

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