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How Much Dog-To-Dog Socialisation Does Your Dog ACTUALLY Need?

How Much Dog-to-Dog Interactions Does Your Dog ACTUALLY Need? 

 

Something I see on a daily basis is people severely over estimating how much dog-to-dog interaction our dogs need with unknown dogs. 

 

I see this in 2 forms: people either make an effort to have their dog meet most new dogs they come across, or they feel incredibly guilty about not doing so. Both of which, are unnecessary and incorrect.

 

So, as someone that is well studied in and qualified to deal with dog behaviour, I thought I’d break it down and give you a better understanding and some clarity around this topic. Keep reading if you’re interested.

 

So, first and foremost, your dog for the most part doesn’t NEED to meet as many new dogs as you may think they do. Quite often, a lot of them don’t actually want to either. In my experience, this is mostly something that we project onto them because it makes US happy.

 

Although every dog is unique, yes, and this need DOES vary, today for ease of reading and to not get too bogged down, we’re going to talk in mostly general, but fair, terms.

 

Your dog, if they were living in the wild, would live a drastically different life (in a lot of ways) in terms of socialisation with their own kind compared to what they likely do now. In fact, I’ve observed this in first hand encounters either wild dogs countless times (Europe, Asia and Australia) as well in my studies.

 

Most wild dogs will choose to either live as a pack or as a lone individual (depending on what is best for their needs and survival). They RARELY if ever, seek contact with those outside of their group. One of the best examples I saw of this was in Sri Lanka, where two groups of dogs (5-15 in each group) lived either side of a small road and most of them had NEVER met the dogs from the other side. 

 

This is because your dog needs interaction with their own kind, sure, but this need is far smaller and easier to fulfil than most of us think. Your dog is very happy and in fact prefers contact with dogs they know and trust. Just like us, they find it far less stressful, easier and they get more meaningful interactions out of it.

 

Also like us, our dogs DO go through a heightened need for dog-to-dog contact during their adolescent phase of development (typically 7-8 months to 16-18 months). This need spikes in order for them to develop more complex social skills, establish social standing and find a mate. 

 

It’s much the same as us, how during our teens, many of us proudly have over 1,000 friends on our Facebook, many of which we don’t know, and we seek to make new friends and meet new people. Only for it all to slow down as we realise that life is far better with a small amount of people we trust than having countless amounts of ‘friends’ who provide a meaningless relationship to us for the most part. In this regard, our dogs are also no different.

 

So, what DOES your dog need? Your dog needs a small group of dogs that they see on a regular basis. They need to trust these dogs but also like spending time with them. They should have similar play styles, energy levels and complimenting temperaments. There’s no use forcing a friendship between your 6MO hyperactive Kelpie and your friends 15YO Maltese who just wants to nap. As you can see below with my own dog, Nelson, his friends are similar size, age and energy level to him.

 

This doesn’t mean that we COMPLETELY FORBID him from meeting new dogs. It just means if we walk past 20 dogs on our morning walk, sometimes we might stop and say hello to one, but often not at all. Again, not any different to us. If I stopped and tried to force a lengthy conversation or a friendly wrestle with everyone I happened to walk past in the street, I’d fast be seen as some sort of village idiot or socially ineptly person.

 

If you choose to not say hello to every dog you encounter, your dog WILL be fine, and will in time develop more natural social skills and associations with dogs on account for their more natural experience with them.

 

I’ve never seen a DOG REACTIVE wild dog, and I think we should take something from that. Natural experiences and environment foster natural behaviours. Unnatural experiences foster unnatural behaviours.

 

Get your dog some friends, skip the awkward meetings with strange dogs, and watch your dog calm right down and act more natural and neutral.

 

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! If you need help with your dogs social skills, don’t hesitate to reach out to us:

 

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Max O'Neill