Unpopular dog: why does my dog have no friends?
Q: My dog is unpopular. When we go to the dog park, I feel she's the canine equivalent of the kid picked last for teams in gym class. What can I do to help her make friends? Allisa, Toronto, ON
A: Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a dog-mom! I feel your pain. Let's consider why your canine cutie might be sitting it out on the sidelines.
First of all, has she played with other dogs before? If not, it may be that her body language is broadcasting, "Leave me alone, I'd rather not participate!" Other dogs are very good at picking up those signals. In that case, arranging play-dates with another friendly fido who won't overwhelm her would go a long way toward allowing her to eventually feel more comfortable in larger groups. You could also begin by visiting the park during off-peak hours when there is less likely to be a mob of unruly dogs.
Lastly, be aware that there are some dogs who would simply rather hang around near their people or play with toys than play with other dogs, and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as your dog enjoys being at the park, let her enjoy it in her own way. ■
Nicole Wilde holds a B.A. Degree with a heavy emphasis on psychology. She is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) who specializes in behaviour issues, and a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). Nicole is the author of six canine-related books including Help for Your Fearful Dog and So You Want to be a Dog Trainer.