My dog doesn’t seem to like playing with other dogs. Is that natural?
While play comes naturally to dogs, there are various reasons why some dogs don’t jump enthusiastically into the play fray. If your dog was not exposed to other dogs at a young age, he might simply be overwhelmed or afraid of them. Even if your dog was socialized with other pups early on, it could be that he only interacted with those whose play styles were similar to his.
Play styles actually vary quite a bit by breed. A labrador retriever, for example, will play very differently than a bichon frise (think bulldog in a china shop versus delicate flower), and it’s easy to see how one might get overwhelmed.
Another possibility is that your dog is simply more of a “people dog” than a “dog’s dog.” It’s not uncommon for a dog to prefer the company of humans to that of other dogs–and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you want to encourage your dog to play with other dogs, set up a play date with an appropriate canine partner. Choose a dog who will be friendly but not overwhelming. If all goes well, after a few play dates, find another potential buddy. In that way you can widen your dog’s circle of canine friends gradually and safely.
If playmates are not available through friends or neighbors, try a well-run doggie daycare. Ask the owners when the facility is apt to be less crowded, and schedule your first visit for that time of day. Explain to the daycare owners that your dog has had only limited play experience and ask for feedback. Meanwhile, you might be surprised how readily your dog ventures into the action once he sees you’re not around.