How Important is Dog-Dog Play?

dog playing soccerAt Flying Colors we often see dogs who are “dog reactive.” Basically, that’s a term to describe the dog who growls, barks, snarls, or makes other unfriendly overtures towards their fellow canines. During the evaluation, we try to understand the owner’s goals. Truthfully, that dog reactive pooch (let’s call him Max) may NEVER play nicely with other dogs. However, it IS a realistic goal to teach Max to stop acting out while on walks, riding in the car, or staring out the living room window.

Is it really such a big deal that Max will never play off leash with other dogs? I have to say NO. It’s true that if your dog happens to be friendly that doggie play dates, doggie daycare, and romps at the dog park can be great fun and fantastic exercise. But if Max is dog reactive (or maybe even dog aggressive), is his quality of life really impaired by his inability to play with other dogs? Obviously, he prefers the company of his humans. So walk him, play with him, and teach him tricks. You are capable of filling his social, mental, and physical needs without the aid of a dog pack.

The fact of the matter is some dogs are Dogs In Need Of Space (DINOS). They can be taught to be calm while in the vicinity of other dogs, as long as those other dogs do not invade the DINOS’ personal space. In fact, my dog Seeker was one such dog. I socialized the heck out of him as a puppy. Seeker loved his playtime at Happy Dogs Daycare and came to work with me every day. He was around 1.5 years old when he decided that he had no need for other dogs. Because of his training and socialization, he was NOT dog reactive. But he had no interest in dog-dog play. So, as a responsible owner I carefully considered the situations that I put Seeker into… and I continued to play, exercise, and train him daily. I dare say, he had a happy, fulfilled life.

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