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Your dog may be your best friend, but are you theirs? They greet you with warmth, sincerity and excitement every time they see you. And you wouldn't trade them for the world; they're a member of your family. So, it's possible you've wondered if dogs have friends.
There's truth to the old adage that dogs are man's best friend. And maybe your dog is a charismatic type of pooch who likes to greet and sniff humans and fellow dogs alike on your daily walks. You know your dog likes companionship, but do dogs have best friends in the same way that people do?
Do Dogs Have Friends?
The question of whether dogs have friends (or if they're just friendly creatures) is often a topic of debate. But while we don't have conclusive scientific data on the subject, there are myriad observations and anecdotes suggesting that yes, dogs have friends. For example, in an article for Psychology Today, Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., quotes researchers Robert Seyfarth and the late Dorothy Cheney, "Convergent evidence from many species reveals the evolutionary origins of human friendship ... Not all friendships, however, depend on kinship; many are formed between unrelated individuals."
For certain species to survive, dogs included, living in packs is critical. It benefits these animals to derive positive feelings from those in their pack so they are motivated to stay together. Functionally speaking, that's friendship. Evidence of friendship is more easily observed in certain dogs. Chihuahuas, for example, are famous for their loyalty, which often extends to one person above all others. These dogs will follow their chosen friend like a shadow, seeking their attention and company wherever possible. German shepherds also tend to bond to their families. Some dogs will extend their social circles and be friendlier to strangers than others; even still, these dogs form lasting attachments.
Whereas dogs are most likely to have a special, symbiotic, time-tested friendship with humans, there are plenty of instances where dogs closely bond with other animals. Sometimes, these are dogs; other times, the relationship is interspecific. Dogs and cats sharing a home, for example, can become close, even cuddling together or cleaning each other. Some dogs are known to look out for their fellow canines in times of trouble, according to Psychology Today.
Should I Adopt a Second Pet?
According to Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, head of the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic, "Because dogs are highly social creatures, getting another dog is the right thing to do ... I believe that dogs in general are happier with other dogs." Sharing a life with another dog or pet can often provide mental and physical stimulation and companionship that aids your pets' quality of life.
That said, for various reasons, some dogs don't do well living in homes with other pets. Before deciding to adopt a second pet, it's important that you take the time to introduce potential new family members to your dog and allow them to get acquainted. Otherwise, you could contribute to your canine's stress.
If your dog tends to get along with other dogs, but having a second pet isn't feasible for you, consider creating opportunities for them to meet other dogs and people at dog parks or doggy day care. These social experiences can do wonders for some dogs.
What If My Dog Isn't Acting Like a Friend?
Negative changes in a dog's behavior are often clues that something isn't working for your pet. Sudden antisocial tendencies could indicate that your dog is feeling ill or in pain. In some cases, this behavior can be a sign of jealousy or anxiety. And just as with humans, dogs' behaviors can change with age.
If you notice that your once-friendly dog is less cuddly or playful than before, a good first step is to head to your local veterinarian for a check-up. Pay attention to your pet to see if there are any other signs of ailment, such as limping, reduced appetite or loose stool. These signs are helpful for your vet in diagnosing health issues. And if everything checks out, it might be time to meet with a behaviorist who can help you understand your dog's behavior.
Also, consider any changes that you've made to your household. Did you move recently? Your dog might still feel anxious from living in a new home. What about a new roommate or new baby in the house? Changes like this can cause your dog to feel like their no longer the center of attention and become withdrawn or display undesirable behaviors. Have you been gone away on an extended vacation? There are a number of reasons why your dog might not be acting like your BFF beyond just health concerns. If your veterinarian gives your dog a clean bill of health, consider any major changes that have been made. In these situations, getting back to "normal" or reassuring them that you're still there for them might be what they need to get back to being their normal, friendly self.
So, do dogs have best friends? Yes, it's very possible that they do. And often, that best friend is you! Be sure to continually build your bond with your dog by taking walks, playing and otherwise establishing consistent routines that incorporate activities your pooch enjoys.
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Instagram @ErinOllila or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.