Normal Dog Sociability Levels

Just like people, dogs have many different levels of tolerance for other dogs. Most puppies and adolescents (up to about 12-18 months for most breeds) will enjoy most of the other dogs they meet. It is normal for adult dogs to be less interested in meeting and playing with new dogs. Just as we no longer play with new friends on the swings at the park, adult dogs may no longer want to meet a new bunch of rowdy dogs at the dog park. Most adult dogs prefer to hang out with other dogs they already know and like.

Normal dog sociability levels change as a dog matures.

Below are the common levels of dog tolerance:
Dog Social: This is a dog who truly enjoys the company of other dogs. These dogs generally get along with all other dogs and can tolerate even very rude behavior. This group includes most puppies and a small percentage of socially mature dogs. While society seems to expect all dogs to be dog social their entire life, remember that this trait is on the lower end of the normal bell curve spectrum.

Dog Tolerant: These dogs are typically non-reactive on leash and may or may not “love” other dogs, but will be either friendly or indifferent to other dogs off-leash. They can typically tolerate some rude behavior from other dogs and can be described as having a long fuse. They show relaxed, appropriate, easy-going body language around others. The majority of adult dogs are either dog tolerant or dog selective.

Dog Selective: These dogs can succeed with certain other dogs, but may be more selective or picky. They may dislike certain ‘types’ of dogs or styles of dog play. These dogs may be easily offended by rude behavior. They typically like to dictate the rules during play and may require extra supervision from their owners when interacting with other dogs. Again, this is a common trait with adult dogs, and a dog who is dog selective is in no way abnormal. In fact, both of my dogs are dog selective.

Dog Aggressive: May have a very limited number of dog friends; sometimes, no dog friends. These dogs may have a very short fuse during play and may be reactive to other dogs on leash. They need heavy supervision and a strong leader who sets them up for success.

These traits are as normal as they are manageable. Setting your dog up for positive dog interactions can help her to become more tolerant of other dogs. By the same token, one frightening experience could set her back and make her more selective. Set your dog up for success by choosing appropriate play partners for her and introducing both dogs carefully.

In future posts, we’ll discuss the best ways to socialize your dog to other dogs, how to introduce two unfamiliar dogs, and common socialization pitfalls to avoid.

In the meantime, which of these characteristics best fits your dog? Has your dog become more or less social with other dogs over time, and how do you set her up for success with unfamiliar dogs? Please comment below!

9 responses to “Normal Dog Sociability Levels

  1. Although my older BC (Arie) likes to play, there is a time and place, and near agility, herding, or other structured activity is NOT it!

  2. Love this. I have a dog selective dog and she takes some management, but I know her well enough on how to handle intros, and when she’s never going to integrate with another dog. I’m just very blessed she is fine with my pack and very seperated play.

  3. Nice post. I’m wondering the source of the graph or the information on the graph?

  4. Mardi – The text for post was taken from BADRAP’s website.

  5. I’m not such a fan of the labels. Dogs’ behavior changes in different situations. At least in rescue, we do not make blanket statements and must educate each person regarding a dog’s personality, which cannot be summed up by one of the labels written in this post.

  6. I have a very dog aggressive, three-legged pittie. I love her to death, but we have to be VERY careful and she simply cannot be around other dogs. She gets so aggressive on leash that she will bite me. :( I got her after she was involved in a dog fight, and I was led to believe that she was the “victim”. I am now fairly certain that she was equally culpable, if not the aggressor.

  7. My 7 y/o herding dog is a rescue and she would fall somewhere between dog selective and dog aggressive on this graph.

    We avoid unfamiliar dogs entirely because I can’t be sure their handlers will, well, HANDLE the situation. She has limitations (don’t we all!), and I don’t need to take the time and put her through rediscovering them with each well-meaning dog walker. Before I let her meet another dog, both dog and handler need to pass my sniff-test. :)

    We’ve been working on introducing her successfully to neutral/calm dogs with a trainer, she has made steady progress on realizing that her options go beyond confrontation.

  8. Pingback: When Your Dog is a Bully | Dr. Ruth Roberts

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