Loyal, friendly, and strong enough to carry crates and fend off burglars, dogs are truly incredible. Domesticated for 20,000–40,000 years, today, they are the most popular pets in the US. And if you put enough time and energy into training and exercising a doggo, it will quickly turn into your best friend.
But the dog will still need canine buds to live a full-fledged, happy life. So, how do you find the right playmates for it? Well, you can always go to a park or a pet-friendly cafe. Daycares and shelters are also great choices. There’s even an app for pet parents! Let’s look at all the options and pick the ones that suit you best.
It All Starts With Early Socialization
How do you ensure a pup grows into a socially active, friendly canine? You do that through early socialization, of course, along with obedience training. And the sooner you start, the better because younger dogs (8–20 weeks of age) respond better to training and learn quicker. Exposing it to a fellow doggo at a young age will often lead to a beautiful friendship.
Or, at the very least, the pup will learn how to act in different scenarios. In contrast, a puppy that has never been exposed to strangers (dogs, other pets, and humans) could turn into a standoffish, aggressive adult. So, make sure to introduce the dog to new faces every day and let others pet it. With that, see that it’s safe, comfortable, and gets enough treats.
The 12 Tips for Finding a New Friends for Your Dog
1. Go to Parks and Beaches
Where do most dogs like to hang out? That’s right: Open areas where they can run around, meet other dogs, and have fun. So, if your doggo is up for it, plan a trip to the closest beach or park. If you’re lucky, the two of you will get to meet new friends (both human and canine). A quick note: don’t expect too much from the first visit. Instead, make sure the dog is having fun.
It’s ok for the furry bud to be a bit nervous, but if it’s anxious and scared of the overwhelming number of faces, take it back home. You can always try again a day or two later but forcing the dog to stick around will do more harm than good. Also, to avoid it becoming fearful or aggressive, don’t be afraid to interrupt a slightly dangerous interaction.
2. Try Your Luck at Dog-Friendly Joints
While most cafes, restaurants, and diners have a strict no-dog policy for the indoors, quite a few joints welcome dogs in the outdoor areas. These spots are perfect for having something to drink, getting cozy with the dog, and (potentially) meeting other human-dog couples. Let the canines get to know each other while you chat with the owner(s).
But never let the pet out of sight! While some outdoor dining areas do allow removing the leash, you still need to serve as a supervisor to avoid accidents. Again, have a pack of treats handy and reward your animal companion for socialization. Don’t scold it for doing something wrong; instead, use commands to stop inappropriate behavior.
3. Get Together With Fellow Dog Owners
As a dog parent, you probably have a friend or two that shares your passion. Or it could be a neighbor that you rarely talk to. Well, this is your chance to make an official introduction. As long as the doggo is open, friendly, and ready to socialize, this can work. Also, pick a neutral territory, like a park, so that the canines don’t engage in “turf wars”.
4. Approach Strangers on the Street
Yes, it’s that simple: on your next walk, jog, or hike with the pet, politely approach other dog owners and start a conversation. If they allow it, tell your doggo to respectfully interact with that other pooch. Chances are that your new friends take the same routes for their routine walks/runs and will be happy to share them with you.
5. What About Dog Shows or Competitions?
Is your pet good at doing tricks? Does it deliver a great performance at various competitions? Then you might be able to find its best new friend at a dog show. Even if there aren’t any events like that in your area, it’s worth driving to the nearest town that holds such a show. The reason: there will be lots of talented, well-trained, and disciplined canines there.
And those kinds of dogs can be the perfect buds for your dog. And with a little bit of luck, you’ll get to make new acquaintances as well. Don’t be pushy, but don’t be afraid to approach pet parents, either. As for the canine interactions, let them start naturally, as that’s the best way for dogs to socialize.
6. Look for Friends at the Local Daycare
If you’re always busy at work and don’t have enough time to spend with the dog, a local daycare is probably the best option for you. First, the staff there will take care of your fluffy buddy. More importantly, it will serve as the perfect environment for the dog to make new friends. Another great thing about these facilities: they monitor every single canine member closely.
So, they will gladly provide a full report on your dog’s behavior, favorite exercises, activities, and which pets it likes to hang out with. As a bonus, you’ll have an opportunity to get to know the parents of those pets and start your own friendship(s). On average, doggy daycare costs $30–$50 per day: it’s a fair price if you only need to drop the doggo off occasionally.
7. Animals Shelters Can Work as Well
This option only suits folks that have some free time on their hands. Most shelters, rescue centers, and other animal-oriented organizations are always in need of help. So, if you’re up to it, you can volunteer to feed, exercise, and take care of a dog from the shelter for a day or two. Just take it on your next morning stroll with your doggo, and who knows, maybe the two will “hit it off” and become best buds!
8. Pet Sitting Might Get You There
The concept here is very similar, but this time around, you’ll be offering your pet-sitting services to friends, relatives, neighbors, and other folks that are willing to trust their dogs with you. Bring the pooch home and introduce it to your dog. If everything goes well, it will turn into the new favorite playmate for your furry companion.
And, when you ask that friend/family member to look after your dog once, the two pets will already know each other. However, you should only do that if you’re 100% sure your boy/girl is a socially active, cheerful, and affectionate canine citizen that won’t be aggressive toward that other pet.
9. Take an Obedience Class With the Pooch
Even the most properly raised and eager-to-please dog could learn a thing or two from obedience training. So, find a class that suits your bud’s age, size, and level, and hop right in. The biggest advantage of this option is that you’ll join a group of dogs and pet parents that you have lots in common with. Ask around at veterinary clinics and pet stores about the best local classes.
Or check out the AKC obedience training clubs in your area. Agility training and boot camps should be on your radar as well.
10. What About Breed or Specialty Clubs?
If you think that your pet will do great with dogs of the same breed, do consider joining a specialty club in your area. As the name suggests, these clubs are solely focused on one breed. The best thing about these clubs is their exclusivity. By narrowing the circle, they allow dog parents with similar tastes to get together, learn something from each other, and become friends.
11. Give Dog Groups a Chance
Meetup groups are very similar to specialty clubs, but they’re not always focused on a single breed. Plus, these groups are a bit more laid-back and relaxed and include lots of outdoor activities. And you won’t have a hard time finding one: there are hundreds, if not thousands of dog groups on Facebook and other social media outlets.
12. Use a Social App
Just like humans, dogs have their own dating/meetup apps. Some of these apps are available for free, while others come with a reasonable monthly fee. You can use them to find dog-friendly spots on the map, learn about upcoming shows, and, of course, find friendly dogs and pet parents in the area.
What Does a Perfect Dog Friend Look Like? Breaking It Down
- The size comes first. Toy pooches can be great friends with giant dogs, especially if they were raised together. However, we’d still recommend looking for a dog that’s of the same height and weight as your bud. That’s because, in the heat of the moment, the bigger dog might end up (accidentally) hurting the little guy.
- Age matters as well. Pups think, act, and interact differently compared to adults. Also, a senior dog won’t be able to keep up with a younger canine. But, if you manage to find a perfect match, both dogs will get tired at roughly the same moment. Otherwise, the playtime might get stressful for one of the dogs.
- Check the temperament. Some dogs are more aggressive than others and like to assert dominance. That’s a very bad playmate! What you should look for is a friendly, gentle, and curious dog that will be happy to just get to know and play with your pet instead of trying to show “who’s the boss”.
- What about the play style? Is your doggo a fan of physical contact? Or maybe it prefers to run around, jump in excitement, and show its affection that way? The answer will determine what the right friend for your pet looks like. Wrestlers and chasers don’t usually get along well.
- Keep your eyes on the pet. Dogs interact with their owners through body language. So, watch the bud closely: if it’s a bit anxious, nervous, growling, panting, or whining, end the interaction quickly. Other signs include a tucked-in tail, lip licking, head turning, and hiding. Some dogs might even bite when stressed!
Dogs are curious, social creatures that like to make friends with their own kind and have fun. However, even the most open-hearted, inquisitive pooch might need a gentle nudge in the right direction. Thankfully, we, as pet parents, have quite a few options on our hands. Dedicated parks, beaches, dog shows, and shelters are a great place to start.
Or you can socialize directly with fellow dog owners, join various groups and specialty clubs, and even use a digital app or two for that. But make sure the dogs match your four-legged bud’s age, size, character, and play style. With proper socialization and supervision, it shouldn’t be hard to find the perfect new friends for the doggo!