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Do Dogs Need to Play with Other Dogs? Vet-Approved Facts

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

chow chow dog standing on the grass

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

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If you have a single dog, you may have found yourself wondering if your dog needs canine companions. After all, we all know that it’s not good for most people to not have interaction with other humans, even if they spend all their time interacting with other intelligent animals, like dogs. It’s only a fair assumption that your dog would also need some canine interaction in much the same way you need human interaction. Here’s what you need to know about dogs and their relationships with other dogs.

Dogs do not have to play with other dogs, but it can be beneficial to their emotional health and well-being.



Do Dogs Need to Play with Other Dogs?

The surprising answer to this question is no, dogs don’t have a need to play with other dogs. However, that isn’t really a hard and fast rule for all dogs. Many dogs can greatly benefit from playing with other dogs. Playtime with other animals can help your dog learn social cues, as well as allow them to burn excess energy in a way that you likely can’t provide for them. Playing with other dogs can be a healthy thing for many dogs, but it isn’t a necessity. Most dogs’ needs can be met through spending time with their people.

beautiful Labrador dogs playing with a ball in a green meadow
Image Credit: Stanimir G.Stoev, Shutterstock

My Dog Doesn’t Like Other Dogs. Is This Normal?

It can be perfectly normal for dogs not to enjoy spending time with other dogs. Many factors can influence how your dog feels about other dogs, including previous experiences, socialization, training, and your dog’s individual personality and preferences. Some breeds may be less likely to tolerate other dogs than other breeds, but there are no guarantees one way or the other.

If your dog has always been a fan of other dogs and suddenly changes its tune after years of appropriate playtime with other dogs, then you should talk to your vet about potential medical or environmental causes for your dog’s sudden change of heart. If your dog is experiencing pain or stress, it may not have the patience, energy, or comfort level that playing with other dogs requires. If your dog has had a recent bad experience with other animals, they also may be more standoffish or overtly aggressive toward other dogs. Watch your dog’s behavior closely for changes.

What’s My Responsibility When My Dog Plays with Others?

Unfortunately, when interactions between dogs turn sour, it’s often the fault of humans who likely didn’t even realize a problem was brewing. It’s extremely important to become well-versed in healthy communication and interactions for dogs to have so you can keep a close eye out for discomfort or tension building. Some dogs have poor dog manners, which may lead to fights, while other dogs may not enjoy time spent with other dogs at all. This can lead to a dog tolerating an environment until it finally overwhelms them.

Human irresponsibility and lack of understanding of a dog’s emotions and actions can lead to dangerous situations for animals and humans alike. It’s the primary reason that dog parks can be such chaotic, unpredictable, and dangerous environments. Not only are dogs easily overwhelmed in these environments, but people don’t maintain a healthy level of control of these situations, so they can rapidly delve into dangerous territory.

kennel worker plays with dog
Image Credit: Jayme Burrows, Shutterstock



In Conclusion

It’s not essential to the health of your dog to have canine companions. It can be a benefit to your dog’s emotional wellbeing if they’ve been around other dogs their whole life and recently lost their companion. Some dogs just really enjoy the company of other dogs, and that’s perfectly healthy. It’s also perfectly healthy for your dog to not necessarily enjoy spending time with other dogs.

If you notice a sudden change in how your dog acts around other dogs, talk to your vet to rule out medical or emotional problems. In some instances, a behaviorist or experienced trainer may need to be brought in to help your dog socialize and adjust to being around other dogs again.

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Featured Image Credit: VKarlov, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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