Do Dogs Really Need Friends?

Like their owners, dogs are social creatures, pack animals and insightful to emotions. These qualities are some of the reasons they make such good friends to humankind. The same qualities play a role in a dog’s need for friends.

We should not expect our pups to want to socialize with every dog, and a dog friend should not be a substitute for his human friend. Your dog will still trust and respect you as his pack leader, but including time to socialize and play with fellow hounds has its benefits for Fido and his human.

Dog Friends Build Social Skills

Socializing a dog early is essential to his behavior and training in the years to come. Every breed and dog will gain something a little different out of dog-dog socialization, too. A small dog will learn to not be overly timid, a breed that could easily become aggressive-protective can learn to ‘play nice’ and gentle.

Our dogs live in a people world full of strange sights, sounds and expectations. Just like we socialize our dogs to walking on a leash and the sound of the garbage truck, he will also only learn to play well and act appropriately around other canines by practicing. If you do not plan to take your dog out in public and around other pets then maybe he doesn’t necessarily need to learn this skill, but won’t it be all the better if he masters the dog-dog social interaction?

While it is good to socialize your dog with various breeds, making friends is best when the dogs have a similar play style and interests. For example, both dogs enjoy running, wrestling and chasing balls.

Dog Friends Promote Exercise

Rarely do two dogs get together for a play date and spend the entire time lounging on the porch (though I am sure some do). Typically, dogs will run, roll, play tug-a-war and all manner of exercise. You could certainly take your dog for a jog, or throw the ball in the backyard to get in his daily dose of exercise, but hanging out with the neighborhood pooch pals is another option that will promote a dog’s healthy exercise routine.

Moreover, like it or not, even with all your energy you cannot ‘play dog.’ You can get down, roll, and rub his belly, but you will not play in the same manner that your dog will play with another dog. Your two legs will not keep up with his four paws, and your wrestling skills while impressive probably do not involve your teeth. Besides, it isn’t the best idea to promote wrestling with a human for many breeds as this can encourage or lead to unacceptable rough housing.

Human-dog playtime is important and crucial even to your bond, but your pup gets another different type of friendly fun and bonding from playing with a fellow dog.

Dog Friends Introduce Us to Human Friends

Let us be honest, those play dates are not only for the pups. When our dogs have dog friends, we are also spending time with fellow dog owners. The social element that our pups enjoy extends to the human interaction, too. Since our dogs are in tune with our feelings and emotions, a happier human makes for a happier pup.

The author is a dedicated veterinarian, devoting her practice to the care of domestic animals. To further her influence, Susan Wright, DMV serves as a dog training collar expert and has authored books about dogs and their care.