Civilized Dogs

Dogs' Best Friends are Often not Dogs

Friday, June 12, 2020

Happy Together

“You’d think we’d have it figured out by now,” said my husband. The “it” he was referring to was world peace. After thousands of years coexisting on our small planet, the human species continues to be rife in warfare, dictators, poverty, racism and political dissonance. “Civilization” indeed! Yet.. we expect our dogs to get along with each other, instantly, unconditionally, even if they are meeting for the first time. We may think something is wrong with them if they don’t make fast friends, if there's a growl or worse. Perhaps, in a strange twist on anthropomorphism, we hope that our dogs can achieve something we humans have failed to do ourselves.

Happy dogs playing is a beautiful thing to witness. They share respect, understanding, and joy; it's a reciprocal giving and taking. Dog friendships can be long lasting and enhance our dogs’ overall well-being. When we introduce young puppies to a variety of dogs of all ages and attitudes, we help them navigate the subtleties of canine language, to hear and be heard without needing to resort to aggression; this information sets them up nicely for future interactions. After our dogs have matured into adolescence, they often become more selective about what dogs they are interested in befriending (sound familiar? Think middle school!).

“50-60% of adult dogs are not interested in making new dog friends.” Several hundred professional dog trainers attending a lecture made this estimate at a dog training conference I attended. It was an informal survey but very telling. It means that, if they could speak, most adult dogs would say they have no interest in establishing or expanding their circle of doggie friends.

The bottom line is this: it’s okay. It’s okay if our adult dogs don’t like other dogs and aren’t appropriate for the dog park. We needn’t pressure them to love all other dogs or pressure ourselves into thinking we need to fix them.

This lack of friendliness can, however, get challenging and cause issues.

Potential problems: when to seek training help


If a dog becomes reactive to the mere presence of another dog and this reactivity affects day-to-day living for the dog and/or his humans OR for the target of his ire, it’s time to work with a trainer. There are many things we can do to mitigate this reactivity, and the sooner you address it, the better. Perhaps loving other dogs isn’t a realistic goal, but being able to relax in the presence of other dogs and walk by them on the sidewalk can be.

Adding another dog

If you are considering adding a new dog to the house, you will need to do it carefully. It isn’t impossible for your dog-unfriendly dog to have peaceful relations with specific other dogs, but you will have the role of peace broker and need to know how to do it so your chances of success are as high as possible. Contact a positive trainer.

Aerobic exercise

Finding an appropriate place for our dog-unfriendly dogs to get aerobic exercise can be a challenge. Taking them to the dog park is not an option, so we have to get creative. There are many classes that are appropriate for them, and there are fun, physical training games you can play at home. Positive training also offers good mental exercise that can go a long way!

If you have a dog-unfriendly dog, you have a lot of company, but don't despair; there are many other things your dog can excel at that are equally satisfying and not about being Mr. Popular with the other dogs.