Camille Ward, PhD, CAAB, has studied dogs-greeting-dogs behavior with some interesting observations. Dr. Ward videotaped dogs at a local dog park in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and recorded the data on a variety of behavioral nuances.
In her study, 52 dogs were taped, in 26 greetings. Each dog was only observed in a single greeting. Ward recorded whatever happened inside the dog park, while specifically avoiding those greetings when a dog first entered the park. (Not surprisingly, when a dog first arrived at the park, they were mobbed by other dogs). She chose to focus on pairs of dogs only (“dyads”), once they were further into the park area.
According to the article in Bark.com (by Karen B. London, PHD, 3/4/16): “One of the most interesting results from this study was how short the greetings were. When dogs are off leash and free to choose, they don’t hang around interacting for a long time. The greetings Ward observed were typically in the six to eight second range, which is very brief…greetings are naturally short—far shorter than the experts might have predicted! We should keep this in mind if we have dogs greet on leash and not allow the interaction to extend beyond that time frame unless the dogs progress into play”.
Furthermore, based on Ward’s study, only 6 of the 52 greetings (twelve percent) resulted in play.
While dog owners, especially those shopping for doggie day-care, might assume all-day play is common, it has been our experience at Doolittle’s Doghouse, that socialized dogs enjoy each other’s company, yet less likely to play all day. Well-socialized dogs will engage meaningful yet know when it’s time to relax and observe each other with comfortable awareness. This is especially important when the dogs have plenty of room to explore each other, and also retreat to a comfy couch or bed when they need to. The “party animals” that engage with greater zeal, tend to be much younger and more likely to engage actively and longer with dogs of similar breed and size. Of course, we aren’t a “pack ‘em in” facility, as we offer much smaller, intimate and carefully placed cage-free boarding. And yes, size matters, as Dr. Ward also observed that the larger dogs tended to initiate the greeting first. And, as in our experience, she noted that engagement between both dogs was more common if the dogs were of similar weight and size.
There are always exceptions of course. Dogs that are properly socialized, at an early age, and with other dogs of all sizes, develop the social confidence to interact with other breeds and weight differences. I raised a Havanese puppy with a 140-lb Leonberger. Nikki had no fear of big dogs whatsoever, as her big brother Max outweighed her by 120 lbs! And they played very well together.
Please let us know how your dog interacts with others….and call us for cage-free boarding with concierge concern as to the best home for your dog to park and bark while you are away.