The short answer is NO!
The long answer is that some dogs enjoy the company of other dogs, but even those dogs do not enjoy the company of all other dogs. They may greet special friends, but ignore others completely.
Naturally, most dogs grow less interested in the company of other dogs with age. A good example of this are our Pariah dogs. They may pair up from time to time with one or more dogs for basic survival such as scavenging for food or to ward off dogs who wander into their territory. However, they do not need each other for mental or physical enrichment in any way.
Unfortunately in cities, shortage of dog-friendly open spaces and narrow footpaths, force dogs to engage with other pets or stray dogs while out on walks. Dog-friendly parks and other such environments violate the key point a dog needs to be comfortable: The lack of an escape route, whether he is on a leash or off. S/he is not given the choice of avoiding or leaving and returning of his/her own volition.
Where does this happen the most?
- Popular walking/running paths
- Dog parks
- Dog events, fairs and festivals
- Dog parties
These situations are further aggravated when we think our dogs need to “socialise” with other dogs or have dog friends. However, this completely disregards what both dogs want or are trying to communicate; and whether the other pet parent is comfortable with this interaction.
So what’s socialisation?
Fact it, dogs do not need to socialise with other dogs beyond the age of 12 weeks. After that, they need to be “socialised” in the human’s world, i.e. getting comfortable with a variety of people, smells, sounds, places. And this socialisation has to be done before the age of 5.5 months.
It’s easy to misunderstand a dog’s body language. A frivolous behavior such as a play bow does not mean s/he wants to play with the other dog; it actually says, “Hey, I mean no harm. Let’s not escalate this.”
A dog who shows an over-the-top reaction to another dog is often too charged up to think clearly. So an extroverted, jumpy puppy might immediately be snapped at by an adult dog.
Also, some dogs do not have a bond of communication with their human, which comes from obedience training. So even if s/he is saying, “I don’t like that big dog looming over me”, the parent may not get it. In places where too many dogs are forced to interact with each other, this broken link of communication can put the dog in danger.
Dogs who interact with other dogs too frequently and for long periods, on walks, at play dates or in the park, become over interested in other dogs. They find them more fun, and do not turn to their parents for enjoyment. Every dog who pulls her parents across the road to meet a dog, has been taught to ‘Say Hello’ to every dog on the road as a puppy, regardless of whether the other dog likes it or not.
Over time, this interest grows into frustration when we tell the dog to walk with us, without pulling on the leash. But the dog wants to meet every single one, and when we don’t let him, or if the other dog does not welcome the interaction, the aggression begins to build.
In one study, dogs separated from familiar kennel mates were less stressed than dogs separated from a familiar human caretaker. Studies of dog shelters also suggest that human companionship improves the dog’s welfare.
Truth is, your dog wants to play, travel, communicate with and show affection to YOU; not another dog. S/he does not need the company of other dogs to have a fulfilling and happy life. If you show affection, and give mental and physical exercise to your pet, your dog will not miss a thing!
Janhavi is a dog trainer and behaviourist who works with pet parents to help them communicate and bond with their dogs through training and fun games! She firmly believes A Trained Dog = A Happy Dog = A Happy Home