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Setting Up Dog-On-Dog Interactions with P.L.A.N

It's a common misconception that dogs need canine friends in order to thrive. Especially with the often misplaced association of dogs being "pack animals", some pet guardians are led to believe that their dogs simply cannot be happy without puppy friends.

Contrary to this belief, many dogs don’t need canine friends to be happy. In fact, many dogs are quite happy to be the solo dog in the home, as long as their physical and emotional needs are met.

However, if your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, incorporating these interactions into their lives is extremely beneficial.

Here’s how to set your dogs up for success using the P.L.A.N acronym!

P: Plan with Play Styles in mind

When setting out to have a canine play date, try keeping play styles in mind. While some dogs manage to get along with the majority of other canines, some can be extremely particular and dog-selective. Anticipating potential barriers ahead of time is a huge help when setting up your dogs for success.

Think: Is there an age difference? Is one dog extremely high-energy?  Does one dog tend to resource guard?

All of these attributes can affect the potential play date, so thinking about these factors ahead of time can help you plan accordingly. For example, if one dog is prone to resource-guarding their toys, skip bringing toys during these meet-ups. It sounds like a very small step to take, but it can have a very large impact.

L: Learn Body Language Cues

Knowing positive and negative body language cues (especially in multi-dog scenarios) is incredibly important. Not only can it give you peace of mind, but it also helps you ensure that the interactions stay positive. By knowing body language cues, you can break up play when appropriate, ensure that positive play is being reciprocated, and step in for breaks as needed.

For example, learning about whale eye, the difference between positive body language vs. non-positive body language, and even learning about shaking-it-off was very helpful when I first started learning the basics.

A: Always Be Present

It’s important to be present physically and emotionally for these meet-ups. Especially when dogs are new to each other, being present (physically) during these scenarios helps us nurture and guide positive introductions. In an emergency scenario, being present allows us to intervene as needed. After all, even with the most social dogs, we must remember that our canine companions are animals and that anything can happen.

Additionally, being present emotionally can help us “read the room” and pick up on any important cues throughout the play session. If we as pet guardians are open to learning more about our dogs, being present and witnessing their behaviors out in the open is extremely helpful. When actively trying to find a match for our dog's needs, being aware of how our dogs interact is a pivotal piece of the puzzle.

Tip: One of the biggest offenders when it comes to taking up our time and attention is our phone. Do yourself a huge favor and try keeping your phone zipped up in your bag during these interactions!

N: Never Force  An Interaction

Even if you have a scenario where dogs are familiar with one another, never force an interaction.  We all have our off days, and so do our dogs (and that’s okay!). Always allow your dogs to have a sense of agency* on whether or not they want to participate in these exchanges.

Keep in mind: Forcing your dogs to interact with other dogs doesn't just mean physically, but also emotionally. An example is using food to coerce an extremely anxious dog to come near another. While rewards and positive engagement are highly beneficial in many scenarios, allowing your dog to choose if they want to engage with another dog (without coercion) is always best.

What Is Agency?

Providing your dog with agency is essentially providing your dog with a sense of choice, which is extremely beneficial for their well-being. When providing agency, the goal is to provide choices that don’t compromise safety.


Looking to have a happier, healthier dog? I've put together some of our favourite resources for you in one place - my first book!

Filled with canine enrichment activities and tips and tricks, I hope you love reading it just as much as I loved writing it.

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73 views4 comments


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6 days ago

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