Variety is the spice of life and that could just be the essence of why some dogs don’t get along. There are different breeds of dogs, different shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments. Not every dog is going to be excited to meet every other dog that crosses their path. Dogs have a wide spectrum of information to take in as they assess the approaching canine counterpart they meet. They are checking a mental list of sight and sound. Their canine memories are clocking up past encounters with similar dogs and then there is the wonderful attention to detail called body language. Once your dog has done a mini-profile on these characteristics he will be ready to decide if the new dog in his vision is to be a friend of a foe.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs are social creatures. They were raised in packs originally and were used to being with other dogs but that did not mean that they would necessarily get on with all kinds of dogs. There can be many good reasons why a dog will not embrace another dog as its ‘long lost’ friend. There may be certain anti-social behaviors a dog remembers and will associate with a breed or color or size of another dog. Dogs do recognize their own breed and generally will be happy to meet their same breed. They are familiar with that breed’s shape and size and any distinguishing features. In the natural pack environment, an alpha dog will often have to challenge other dogs for their place in the pack order. If your dog is an alpha type of dog, other dogs may want to avoid any perceived conflict with your dog. Gender plays an important part in making friends. Two male dogs may meet and are protecting territory or trying to be more dominant. Two females may also not want to compete.
Dogs are very reliant on their senses and can detect things they don’t like about other dogs from a fair distance away. They may not like the smell of the other dog as it gets closer. Your dog may have an adversity to Poodle shapes or skinny dogs and will not be happy to meet and greet those types of dogs. There are lots of sensory detectors out there and your dog may remember being challenged by a white dog or a fluffy dog and then that memory will permeate all dogs similar to that type. Dogs are also very aware of body language. They have submissive messages they give out through the way they hold their heads or turn their necks. Tails have a big part to play in body language and as dogs approach each other these signals are being shared to let your dog know if he can wag his tail and be friendly or not. Then there is your own body language and the emotional message you may send out as another dog approaches. If you are fearful or anxious then your dog will feel the same and making friends will be difficult. Your dog will be busy protecting you and worrying about the other dog on the scene. If you are going to go out and about with your dog it is important to be aware that he may not want to get along with every other hound out there.
Encouraging the Behavior
Knowing your dog well is essential if you want to socialize and get involved with other dogs. Good socializing starts early with puppy classes. Going to ‘puppy school’ with your pup is a worthwhile investment in good canine social behavior. It’s a good idea to start on neutral territory so that neither dog is going to be defensive. There are some breeds of dogs that are not as outgoing as others and perhaps you just have a dog that is not so keen to mix with other dogs. Some breeds of dogs have a natural fighting disposition so watch their behavior among other dogs. If you are afraid that your dog is too aggressive and need some help with behavior modification, then getting assistance from an animal behaviorist will be the best way to help you and the dog. The way you handle situations is a big part of going out and meeting other dogs. Learn to read your dog’s body language and act naturally with friends and their dogs. When you go out walking with your dog, make sure your dog knows you are in control and that will give your dog some confidence as if you are in control then he does not have to be. The role of protecting you falls away.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Dogs have personalities and can be the over exuberant type or the rather slow and quiet type. Watch your dog and think about their personality. Generally, dogs want to please you and want to have fun with or without other dogs. Running freely in the park will probably allow some inhibitions to fall away as everyone rushes around enjoying themselves. They say there is nothing quite so friendly as a wet dog. Dogs that like the water will enjoy having water play in common and then coming along and shaking out in front of their owners. If you have the time to take your dog out to experience different play scenarios and join a like minded group your dog will be more open to mixing with others and more confident about making friends although there is no guarantee of this.
Despite all your efforts to socialize your dogs with every dog in the neighborhood, the reality may just be that your dog is not the social kind. Dogs do not always like every dog they meet. The reasons are plain to see. Not every dog is overly friendly, and dogs do have a long checklist of criteria for making friends. Dogs can be as different as people in their relationships. Did you ever wonder how the Scotty dog felt as it met the Great Dane? Terrified would be the answer and a fine example of how different dogs don’t always make firm friends.