Updated: May 3
It’s fairly standard to assume that not all people will get along with each other. Some people clash, perhaps because they have different personalities, different interests, different moral standards, or different motivations, but that’s part of human life.
Yet when our dogs don’t get along with every single dog, we suddenly think there’s something wrong with them, or worse, we quickly label them as ‘aggressive’. We can be so quick to assume the worst with our dogs, one negative reaction can tip us straight into thinking our dog has an issue.
If we were to picture ourselves in some of the situations we put our dogs in, we would soon have a better appreciation of why they behave in the way they do. If you were put into a room with 20 other people and expected to greet them all, make polite conversation and interact happily for several hours, would you really enjoy it? If you had to do this every day, would you snap at some point?
For dogs in daycare or busy walking locations, this can be a daily occurrence. Even if you were having to meet-and-greet several new people every time you left the house, at some point you’d meet a few who you didn’t get along with or some who you would rather not say hello to.
Thinking how you would feel in some of these situations might give you a better idea of why not all dogs get along. Just like people, some love to meet loads of new friends, they thrive off busy social situations, while others find this stressful and tiring, or would rather stick with known friends.
It’s more widely accepted now that dogs will range on a scale between being ‘super dog social’ to ‘aggressive’, with very few dogs being on either end of the extremes. Most dogs will sit somewhere in between the extremes,
Puppies do tend to start life on the ‘super dog social’ end of the spectrum, but this changes as they mature and it can be hard for us to understand why our puppy who once loved absolutely everyone, is now less keen to meet all the other dogs. People often start to worry when their puppy stops showing so much interest in dogs, thinking it’s almost rude and offensive if they don’t engage in play with another dog. But actually, this is perfectly normal and often very polite dog behaviour.
Dog tolerance levels will change with age and experience, but there will also be genetic influences which no amount of socialisation, training or experience will be able to make a significant impact on. This is why not every dog will necessarily be friendly with all dogs or display perfect social skills.
This is where most puppies start. They enjoy other dogs and seek out interactions. They will tolerate, or even encourage, rude behaviours from other dogs (like humping, being barged around or barked at to provoke play)
With maturity, most dogs will move towards the ‘Dog Tolerant’ side of the scale, but some dogs will remain highly ‘Dog Social’, this is a rarity though despite it being a trait we tend to expect from our dogs