Unpopular dog: why does my dog have no friends?

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Unpopular dog: why does my dog have no friends?
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Ask Nicole Wilde

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.

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Comments (4)

My dog does not care to be near other dogs, we go to the dog park she always runs to the exit door, yet she loves walks we can meet up with another dog, one sniff and she walking. Im not sure how to make her socialable. She is 11 yrs old, but has always been like this. If another dog is bothering her and sniffing to much she shows her teeth and makes noise, but will never actually bite, its like she is putting them in their place, and yes they do stop.
Thu, 05/03/2012 - 16:26
My dog is similar. She is not super comfortable around dogs that she doesn't know, but she's cordial. As a puppy she played a lot. Now a year later she'd rather play fetch with the humans than wrestle with other dogs. There are a few exceptions, but even with dogs that are her "friends", when she's at the park she just wants to play fetch. She's a working dog and loves to work. :)
Fri, 10/25/2013 - 08:25
I agree with Nicole. My dog is the same way and I think it's also because he's a lot smarter than most dogs.
Fri, 07/12/2013 - 08:09
I think people need to realize that not all dogs are going to be super happy off-leash dogs and to just accept that it's okay if your dog doesn't enjoy the park. Just like people, some of us are super social and others not. If your dog isn't enjoying the park and getting picked on then either go at times where there are few other dogs or just stick to on leash and back yard. We try to force our dogs to enjoy what we think they should enjoy and not accepting what they're sometimes clearly telling us. You cannot force a dog to "make friends" as much as you can a person.
Wed, 08/07/2013 - 11:32

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