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How to Tell if Dogs Like Each Other: Recognizing Friendly Dog Interactions - PawSafe

How to Tell if Dogs Like Each Other: Recognizing Friendly Dog Interactions

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how to tell if dogs like each other

Understanding if dogs like each other involves observing their interactions and interpreting their body language. Dogs communicate their feelings towards each other through a variety of signals like tail wagging, play bows, and facial expressions. When dogs enjoy each other’s company, they often exhibit relaxed postures, gently wag their tails, and engage in mutual play. Just like humans seek companionship, dogs also desire positive relationships with other canines. Their social nature drives them to form bonds, and these connections can be seen through their behavior towards one another.

It’s important to remember that, although we cannot directly know what dogs feel, research into canine behavior provides insights into their emotional lives. Dogs are sensitive to social cues and can respond to the emotions of both humans and other dogs, adapting their behavior accordingly. A dog’s response to another’s facial expressions or vocalizations is a window into their world of emotions. Observing how your dog interacts with others, noting changes in their behavior in different situations, and comparing how they respond to various dogs can help you assess their social preferences and determine if a positive relationship is forming.

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When observing dogs, it’s important to notice body language. If dogs like each other, they may have a relaxed posture, with loose tails and ears. This is a sign of comfort and happiness in canine interaction. However, please remember that a dog’s body language can be misleading. For example, dogs wagging their tails at each other does not always mean they like each other.

Playful behavior often involves a lot of movement. Dogs will usually take turns chasing each other, and it’s not uncommon to see them play-bowing — front legs stretched forward, rear ends up in the air. These actions suggest they’re having a good time. However, it’s crucial to recognize play growling from aggression. Play growling is common and usually not a sign of hostility.

Look for signs of mutual respect. Dogs that like each other respect personal space and take cues from one another. They’ll pause when the other isn’t responsive to continue playing and stop if one shows signs of discomfort. Understanding these signals can lead to safer interactions.

Consider their facial expressions. A relaxed mouth and soft eyes typically indicate that a dog feels comfortable. Conversely, a tense mouth or hard stare might mean a dog is not enjoying the interaction.

Finally, shared activities are a good indicator. Dogs that enjoy each other’s company may engage in mutual sniffing, side-by-side walking, or sharing toys without conflict.

Recognizing these behaviors is key to fostering positive canine relationships. If you’re unsure why dogs might not be warming up to each other, reflecting on your approach could give insight into improving their encounters. You may also want to see this article on why dogs may not like you.

Domestication has influenced dog behavior and social development significantly. Modern dogs have evolved from their ancestors, adapting to live with humans and alongside other domesticated dogs. This evolution has shaped their ability to form social bonds. For instance, some breeds may be more socially adept due to the effects of domestication, which makes them more likely to get along well with other dogs. Observing your dog’s approach to meeting new canines can offer clues about their comfort level and whether they’re likely to develop a friendly rapport.

Understanding Dog Behavior Between Dogs When They Like Each Other

red dogs and white that are happy and like each other

To understand if dogs like each other, observing their interactions and recognizing certain behaviors is crucial.

Body Language

Dogs communicate volumes through their body language. A relaxed stance with a wagging tail usually indicates a comfortable and happy dog. Conversely, if you notice a dog with a stiff body, ears pinned back, and teeth showing, this could signal aggression or fear. Look for a play bow as a clear sign of friendly intentions, where one dog lowers its front legs and raises its back end, inviting the other to play.

However, rough play can sometimes escalate into fighting, much the same way when kids play. So, keep a close eye on your dogs when they play. Another thing to watch out for is “gaining height”. This is when one dog is constantly trying to hold themselves over another dog. This could be a paw, standing over the other dog, or pushing their head over the dog. 

Signs dogs are uncomfortable or nervous around each other include:

  • Whale eyes (why you can see the whites of a dog’s eye);
  • Lip or nose licking;
  • Stiff body or stiff tail (it may be wagging rapidly at the end);
  • Tucked tails;
  • Raised hackles;
  • Pinned back ears;
  • Appearing disinterested, such as turning their head or sniffing the ground (displacement behavior); and
  • Yawning.

When dogs like each other, their whole bodies will be very relaxed. Their mouths will open and their tongues will loll out of their mouths. Ears and tails should be neutral and they should be very comfortable in close contact.

Play Behaviors

Play is a complex behavior where dogs willingly engage in mock fights or chase games, which establish trust and social bonds. This includes play biting without applying actual pressure and high-pitched, non-threatening barking. Repeated pauses during play, where the dogs check in with each other, can also show good-natured rapport.

The pauses in play are important. It means that the dogs are not getting overstimulated and the play is not getting too rough. They are taking the time to check in with each other and make sure they are both having a good time. When dogs get hyper excited or overstimulated during play, they can overwhelm their playmate and this can cause conflict or avoidance.

Verbal and Vocal Signals

Dogs utilize a range of sounds to express their emotions. Happy, excited barking or playful growling can be part of normal play, while longer, more drawn-out growls might be a sign of discomfort or anxiety. Paying attention to the pitch and frequency can give insights into their mood and relationship.

Temperament and Personality

Each dog has a unique temperament and personality, factors that influence how they interact. Some dogs may bond immediately due to compatible personalities, while others might require more time to build trust. Recognizing these traits can help you understand and predict interactions between dogs.

Grooming Behavior

When dogs like each other, they often engage in mutual grooming which is a sign of affection and trust. This can look like gentle licking or sniffing at each other’s ears and faces. It’s a care-giving behavior that can indicate a strong bond.

By observing these behaviors and signals, you can get a better understanding of the relationships between dogs. For more in-depth insights on these topics, consider exploring the book Canine Behavior.

Signs of Positive Interaction

Two dogs that like each other playing together

When you see dogs together, their body language can tell you a lot about how they feel about each other. Look for these key behaviors that signal a friendly and positive relationship.

Tail Wagging and Play Bows

Tail wagging is often a sign of happiness in dogs. If you see both dogs wagging their tails with a relaxed, swaying motion, it’s a good indication they’re enjoying each other’s company. A play bow — front legs stretched forward, rear end up — is a clear invitation to play and a sign that they’re ready for a friendly romp.

Sharing Toys and Treats

If dogs are sharing toys, this is usually a good sign they regard each other as friends. Playing tug-of-war or fetch together are positive signs of a shared bond. Similarly, when dogs eat together or share treats without showing aggression, you can bet they’re comfortable in each other’s presence.

Grooming and Snuggling

When dogs groom each other, it’s a form of social bonding. Gentle licking, especially around the face and ears, is indicative of a trusting relationship. Dogs that snuggle up together during rest are showing a significant level of trust and comfort with each other, reflecting a close bond.

Bonding Between Dogs

Understanding how dogs form bonds and the behaviors that signal a strong connection can help you support and nurture friendships between your canine companions.

Forming a Strong Bond

When you see dogs spending time together, it’s the beginning of what could develop into a strong bond. It’s not just about being in the same space; as with humans, building trust is essential for dogs. A dog’s trust in another is built through positive interactions over time. While there’s no set timeline for how long it takes for dogs to bond, consistent and enjoyable experiences together speed up the process.

Bonded Pair Behaviors

You can tell a bonded pair because they exhibit specific behaviors:

  • Play Together: Bonded dogs often play together, engaging in a mutual game of fetch or tug-of-war.
  • Relax Together: A quiet nap side by side, or one resting their head on the other, shows comfort in each other’s company.

Look out for these signs to know if the dogs enjoy each other’s company and have formed a friendship.

Factors Affecting Dog Bonds

Several factors could influence the bond between dogs:

  • Personality: Just like people, some dogs jive well from the get-go, while others may never become best friends.
  • Socialization: Dogs that are well-socialized tend to bond quicker, as they’re accustomed to interacting positively with other dogs.
  • Experience: Dogs with negative past experiences with other dogs may take longer to trust and bond.

Keep these factors in mind, and give your dogs the time and space they need to form bonds at their own pace.

Red Flags in Dog Interactions

When observing dogs interacting with one another, it’s important to recognize the signs that indicate all is not well. This can help prevent negative outcomes like fights or increased anxiety in dogs.

Signs of Aggression and Dominance

Aggressive Behaviors:

  • Growling: A low-pitched growl can be a clear warning from a dog.
  • Snarling and showing teeth: This is often a sign that a dog is ready to bite.
  • Stiff body postures: Dominance can appear as a dog making himself look bigger, with a stiff tail and raised hackles.

Dominance Display:

  • Mounting other dogs: Not always sexual, this can be about control.
  • Intrusive sniffing: Done excessively, it’s about asserting power.
  • Blocking pathways: A dominant dog may stand in another dog’s way intentionally.

Recognizing Stressful Situations

Stress Signs:

  • Pacing or shaking: This indicates discomfort and possibly fear.
  • Yawning and licking lips: Often misconstrued as tiredness or hunger, but can be stress signals.
  • Tucked tail and lowered body: Signs of submission or fear.

Environmental Triggers:

  • Overcrowding: Too many dogs in one place can lead to stress.
  • Loud noises: Can cause panic and anxious responses.
  • Resource guarding: Tensions rise if dogs feel their food or toys are threatened.

Dealing with Conflicts

Intervention Techniques:

  • Calm separation: If you notice ongoing tension, calmly separate the dogs.
  • Distract and redirect: Offer toys or treats to shift focus away from each other.
  • Know when to get help: If conflicts continue, consider seeking advice from a professional dog behaviorist.

Conflict Prevention:

  • Proper introductions: Allow dogs to meet in neutral territories.
  • Understand body language: Educate yourself on dog communication.
  • Consistent training: Set rules and boundaries for your dog to follow.

Influencing Factors on Dog Compatibility

When you’re trying to understand if dogs like each other, consider their individual characteristics and histories. Age, gender, breed, and past experiences play pivotal roles in shaping interactions.

The Role of Age and Gender

Age can greatly affect a dog’s energy levels and tolerance. Puppies are often energetic and curious, which can be overwhelming for older dogs who prefer a calmer environment. In terms of gender, a mix of male and female dogs often get along better, while two unneutered males or two unsprayed females may be prone to competition and conflict.

  • Puppy to Puppy: High energy, playful; may engage in play bowing.
  • Puppy to Older Dog: Respect can vary; older dogs might not reciprocate a puppy’s playfulness.
  • Male to Female: Often compatible, unless related to mating competitions.
  • Male to Male / Female to Female: May experience tension, especially if not neutered or spayed.

Breed-Specific Behavior Traits

Each dog breed carries inherent behavior tendencies that affect compatibility. Some breeds are naturally sociable and easygoing, while others may have a higher drive for dominance. For instance, herding dogs may try to herd other pets or children, which can cause friction with other dog breeds that value their independence.

  • Social Breeds: Enjoy company and play, less prone to aggression.
  • Independent Breeds: Might not engage as much; value personal space.

Impact of Previous Experiences

A dog’s experience and history influence their personality and temperament, which in turn affect interactions with other dogs. Dogs with negative experiences may be cautious or display fear, while positive socialization can lead to more friendly and confident behaviors.

  • Positive Experiences: Generally friendly and approachable; show play bowing as an invitation.
  • Negative Experiences: May be reserved, fearful, or display aggressive behaviors as defense mechanisms.

Keep these factors in mind as you observe the dogs in question, and remember that each dog is an individual beyond their breed and background.

Encouraging Friendly Play and Coexistence

When you have more than one dog, it’s important for them to get along. Setting the stage for friendly interaction involves a safe play environment, positive reinforcement, and careful introductions. With strategy and patience, coexistence is certainly achievable.

Creating a Safe Play Environment

To ensure safety for both dogs while they’re playing together, pick a neutral space free from distractions. Your dog park can be a great place as long as it’s not overcrowded, and both pets are comfortable there. Before they interact off-leash, make sure the area is enclosed and hazard-free.

  • Checklist for a Safe Play Environment:
    • Secure fencing all around
    • Remove dangerous objects or tools
    • Access to fresh water
    • Shade and resting areas
    • Close to your supervision spot

Using Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement transforms good behavior into a habit. This means rewarding your dogs when they play nicely or when they obey commands during playtime.

  • Examples of Positive Reinforcements:
    • Verbal praise like “Good dog!” when they share toys
    • Treats for calm and friendly behavior
    • Extra attention and petting after playing well together

Introduction and Supervision Strategies

Introducing two dogs should be a gradual process. Start with a leash introduction to assess their reactions safely. If they seem calm and curious, you can proceed to off-leash play in the controlled environment you’ve set up. Always stay close to intervene if necessary.

A trained professional such as a dog behaviorist can help if you’re unsure about the process or if the dogs show signs of not getting along. They understand dog behavior and can give you tailored advice for your pets’ personalities.

  • Steps for Supervised Introduction:
    1. Leashed introduction outside the play area;
    2. Observe their body language; look for relaxed tail wags and play bows;
    3. Gradually introduce off-leash interaction if they’re comfortable; and
    4. Remain alert and ready to step in or separate them if tensions rise.

With these strategies, you’ll give both your dogs the chance to be social animals who can communicate well and enjoy each other’s company in a safe, positive, and supervised setting.

Health and Well-Being Considerations

When checking if dogs like each other, it’s crucial to observe their overall health and behavior during interactions. Consider if they’re getting enough exercise, any possible injuries, and signs of stress or anxiety.

The Importance of Regular Exercise

Exercise is key to your dog’s physical and mental health, especially when they’re socializing with other dogs. Ensuring your dogs have plenty of playtime together can help gauge their compatibility; happy dogs often enjoy engaging play. Watch for healthy play behaviors such as:

  • Play bows;
  • Bouncy, exaggerated movements; and
  • Taking turns chasing each other.

But, too little exercise or too rough play can lead to issues. If one dog is not as active, it could signal a problem.

Monitoring for Injuries and Health Issues

Even dogs that get along might accidentally hurt each other during play. Regularly check your dogs for any injuries:

  • Look for cuts, limping, or changes in posture.
  • Notice any unwillingness to play, as it may indicate pain or discomfort.

Timely identification and treatment of injuries ensure that playtime remains a safe and healthy activity for dogs who like each other.

Mental Health and Anxiety in Dogs

Just like us, dogs can feel anxiety and stress, which can affect how they interact. Spotting signs of anxiety early can help prevent stressful situations that might seem like dislike. Signs your dog is stressed can include:

  • Excessive pacing or panting;
  • Avoidance or hiding; and
  • Aggression or excessive barking.

Support healthy mental well-being by creating a calm environment and consider consulting a vet if anxiety issues persist. Your attention to their mental health is just as important as their physical health when assessing their relationships with other dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Understanding your dog’s social behavior is key. These questions help you observe and interpret how they interact with their furry friends.

What are the signs that dogs are enjoying playtime together?

You’ll notice loose, wiggly body movements when dogs enjoy playing. They may also have open mouths that look like smiling and take turns chasing each other.

How can you distinguish between dogs playing and dogs fighting?

Playful dogs exhibit a “play bow” and may growl softly, while fighting dogs have stiff bodies, intense stares, and louder, more aggressive growling.

What steps can you take to help two dogs become friends?

Introduce dogs in neutral territory, keep initial interactions short, and positively reinforce calm behavior. Patience and gradual exposure can build a good relationship.

What behaviors indicate that a dog doesn’t get along with another dog?

A dog that is not friendly may consistently avoid another dog, or may show signs of aggression like raised hackles, baring teeth, or prolonged growling.

How can you tell if a dog has formed a strong bond with another dog?

A strong bond is evident when dogs seek out each other’s company, engage in mutual grooming, and display relaxed body language around each other.

What are some tips to understand if your dog is sociable with other canines?

Observe your dog’s reactions to seeing other dogs from a distance before close interactions. Sociable dogs usually approach with wagging tails and an eagerness to engage.

Final Thoughts

When you’re trying to figure out if dogs like each other, watch their body language closely. Look for:

  • Playful behavior;
  • Relaxed, wagging tails;
  • A general ease around each other;

Remember, each dog is unique, just like you. They show their feelings in different ways. If growls or snaps occur, don’t panic. Sometimes dogs just set boundaries. But, if the tension escalates, it’s time to intervene.

Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Supervise interactions, especially in the beginning.
  2. Introduce dogs in neutral territory like a park.
  3. Look for signs of a happy dog friendship, like sleeping or eating peacefully together.

And most importantly, be patient. Just like making new friends takes you some time, it’s the same for dogs.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.