Behavior & Training
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Does Your Dog Need a BFF?


Human children and wild animals get to choose their best friends; sadly, most dogs do not. We may try to choose for them, but dogs’ preferences for other dogs are highly idiosyncratic and often difficult to predict. Instead, we can attempt to expose our dogs to many other dogs when they are young, and if we pay careful attention, we will notice which ones they like best. When such preferences are mutual, opportunities for prolonged canine friendships arise, and we should make the most of them. Who knows— we might make some new friends along the way, too.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 60: Jun/Jul/Aug 2010

Barbara Smuts, PhD holds an undergraduate degree in anthropology and a doctorate in behavioral biology from Stanford Medical School. A professor of psychology, she teaches courses in animal behavior at the University of Michigan. She has studied social behavior in several wild animals, including olive baboons and chimpanzees (East Africa) and bottlenose dolphins (coastal Western Australia). More recently, she has been studying social relationships among domestic dogs and is working on a book on this subject.

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Submitted by CollieMom01 | February 21 2011 |

Our older Collie was 2 1/2 years old when we decided to get another dog for our household. We picked a easy going male Collie pup from a reputable breeder and the two of them have been best friends ever since. What's really noticeable, however, is how much having a brave little brother has brought out our older dog's "dogness". As an only dog, he was always very affectionate and liked meeting new people but he was a bit reserved, quiet, and frankly, a bit anxious. Willing to do whatever was asked,we successfully trained for his Good Citizen test, but it was clear he really didn't enjoy venturing outside of his limited comfort zone. Doc, our pup who's a little over a year old now, is just the opposite--always ready for anything, LOVES new things, new people, and new experiences. He's just not afraid of much of anything and his joy at life makes everyone else happy--including Wyatt, our older dog. Now, with a little support from his younger brother, Wyatt seems much happier and much less anxious. He still is more reserved and well mannered that Doc, but it's clear that they love being together. It was the right decision to introduce a second dog into our home--for many reasons. But the best one might just be that it has allowed Wyatt to relax a bit and enjoy life a little more.

Submitted by MuddyCountryDogs | February 23 2011 |

I have 3 dogs who get along wonderfully. But my 2 year old Hound mix, Zip, is best friends with a 3 year old German Shepherd mix owned by a friend. We take them on weekly hikes and the pure joy on both dogs' faces as they race through the woods, sniff stuff together, and splash in creeks makes my day. The wrestle and body slam each other until they are both exhausted.

Whenever I ask Zip where his friend is, he perks up his ears and races from window to window looking for him and even knows what car his doggie buddy arrives at the park in!

The great thing is Zip is more confident meeting other dogs on the trails when his friend is by his side. His life is greatly enriched by having a best friend and there's no way to describe the relationship between them as anything but the best of friends.

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