When it comes to dog-dog relationships, I think it’s a common expectation that all dogs should get along with other dogs. But we humans don’t like ALL other humans, right? We wouldn't tolerate rude behavior from strangers, so can we blame our dogs when they don’t tolerate rude behavior from a strange dog they just met?
I see a lot of different personalities and preferences in dogs staying at Jezzie's Place, and I wanted to write a little bit about the different types of “sociability” as it applies to dog-dog relationships.
A small number of dogs are dog-aggressive.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Dog-aggressive dogs are aggressive toward other dogs. There are often only a few very select dogs that he or she can be around, or no dogs at all. Sometimes dog-aggressive dogs can live with other dogs, but they often can’t, or it requires separation and extra precautions. They are sometimes reactive on-leash. And most importantly, dog-aggressive dogs need close supervision if around other dogs, AND careful management in everyday life (i.e. not letting your dog out loose in the un-fenced yard where it might run across the street to attack a dog on a walk).
A small number of dogs are truly dog-social.
A lot of people believe their dogs are “dog-social” because they can get along with other dogs. A truly dog-social dog genuinely enjoys the company of other dogs, is relaxed, forgiving, and super tolerant of most behaviors - even rude ones. Most puppies are dog-social. You see these social butterfly dogs at the dog park, off-leash on trails, out in public, and having a blast at doggie daycares.
The majority of dogs are dog-tolerant or dog-selective.
A dog-tolerant dog is usually non-reactive, indifferent, and uninterested, but still pretty friendly and relaxed. A dog-tolerant dog might not be interested in playing with other dogs and might not allow rude behaviors, but is content enough to just hang out.
A dog-selective dog may like some dogs but not others. Sometimes it depends on the personalities of the other dogs, but can even depend on the type, breed, gender, or size of another dog.
My two dogs swing between dog-tolerant and dog-selective.
For example, Phoebe has become increasingly dog-selective recently. She is totally fine and relaxed on-leash and can be around other dogs calmly with no reactivity, including in any public space. She will not tolerate dogs in her face, jumping on her, licking her, or dogs with high energy, and sometimes just doesn’t like a dog for seemingly no reason (that’s obvious to me anyway), but yet… She DOES tolerate all those behaviors from a 10 lb. dog that she likes.
Chester is super tolerant, mostly indifferent, and laid back when hanging out with other dogs (as long as there is no food involved!), and he’ll even let other dogs mount him. When he is on-leash around familiar dogs or when in a training, agility, or familiar environment, he’s usually okay. But when he is on-leash anywhere else and other dogs are off-leash around him (like when hiking), he becomes incredibly reactive.
I feel it’s important to note that your dog does not HAVE to socialize or play with other dogs if he or she does not want to.
There isn’t anything wrong with your dog if he or she does not like other dogs, or is selective about which dogs he or she tolerates.
At Jezzie’s Place, we don’t require dogs to be dog-social. In fact, it’s probably not the optimal place if you really want your dog to be playing with other dogs all day long. I would say that most of the dogs that have stayed at Jezzie’s Place so far are either not super interested in other dogs, not friendly with other dogs, or are dog-selective. Few have been truly dog-social, and are rarely staying at the same time. This can make having daily play groups challenging.
Dogs are matched up for play time or hang out time based on their personalities, energy levels, and size, and safety of all the dogs is my top priority. I will never force a dog into a situation he or she is uncomfortable with, or let the situation continue. I will never risk the safety of a dog for the sake of socializing. If there aren’t any good play matches, or your dog isn’t social at all, that’s perfectly fine! They still get plenty of outside time, couch time, play time with toys, brain games with treat puzzles, and one-on-one time with me.
Animal Humane Society article
Every Dog Behavior and Training dog selective social media post