With over 200 breeds now recognised by the Kennel Club, as well as the undocumented amount of mixed breeds, our local parks and streets have become a real melting pot of dog breeds.
We see patterns in popularity; The Cockapoo and Frenchie seeming to be the Top Dog of 2018/19, then the ever present stalwarts; the Labradors, Spaniels and Terriers. However take a snapshot of your local park at any one time and you’ll be surprised how many breeds are present.
So what does this mean for our dogs?
Well it means that we ask a lot of them every day when we take them outside to socialise.
Dogs read each other’s body language, they suss each other out based on communication that you may not even be aware of. It is based initially on their appearance and movements. In today’s parks our dogs are required to competently read the body language of dogs with a vast range of appearances; different sizes, tails lengths and carriages, fur lengths, face shapes, playstyles, greeting styles etc. Add into the mix that through artificial selection we have interfered with our dogs’ natural ability to communicate. Dock a dog’s tail and they lose a communication device. Shorten their muzzle and their face is harder to read.
The social butterflies in our parks don’t have much problem adapting to this. They have more than likely had a great start in life, born of two confident parents, a reputable breeder who had socialised them well, a savvy owner who had carried this on. A relatively clean slate of life experiences leading to the bombproof, optimistic dog who thinks everyone is a potential friend. He can also read when someone isn’t keen on being his friend, and he’s cool with that too. I’ve certainly met a few of these dogs but the majority in my experience are a lot more selective.
My own dog started life with us when she was 1 year old and she had no clue as to how to get on with dogs. Her innate ability to read dogs was obviously hampered by a sketchy upbringing for her first year. Years later and she’s manageable (well she’s amazing, but then I am biased) but she has her preferred dogs. Dita for some reason cannot resist the lure of a male, Bichon Frise. Just a glance at their fluffy white butts gets her all excited - if they are also intact then it’s Christmas time for her. However, in walks a German Shepherd and dark Dita emerges!
I see it a bit like people; I don’t like every single person in the world, instead I have preferred personality types based on my own life experiences and interests. I have people that on first glance I can say yea we’ll probably get on, others who I’ll judge as not my kind of person. As a fairly well socialised person I can handle myself well in life but there will be people that trigger me and I may not be super polite all the time, (don't use your indicators when you are driving and we are no longer friends! #roadrage).
Our dogs are the same; based on their own experiences they’ll judge other dogs, they’ll have preferences based on dogs who play well with them, move like them or have similar vibe, energy etc. They’ll hold grudges perhaps against breeds that they’ve had bad experiences of in the past.
We just need to do our best when they are young to help them be optimistic about the world but accept that they are all individuals and if they’d rather avoid a dog or indeed a person then they need you to back them up and move them out of a situation.
Let’s appreciate how skilled our dogs are for the most part at getting along, don’t panic if they don’t like everyone and get professional help if they are really struggling to cope. They all deal with A LOT of requirements from us and being awesomely friendly to everyone shouldn’t have be one of them….IMO!