If you're a dog owner who has recently brought a new companion into your home, or is considering doing so, you may have gotten caught up in the prospect of seeing your two canines curled up together on the couch or engaging in other adorable activities. Sometimes, however, our expectations don't always live up to reality, which can ring especially true in the case of dogs bonding with new friends. Dogs are known for being pack animals with social needs, but how do they bond with each other, and what does healthy dog bonding look like?
How dogs bond with humans
While every dog will have his own way of bonding with their one special human, most will usually engage in certain behaviors that signify that they're attached. One of the hallmarks of a bonded relationship includes eye contact that is willingly given and readily made. A dog looks to their person for reassurance and affection, and when his eyes lock with yours — be it during a walk, when meeting a new person or experience, or just throughout the day for seemingly no reason at all, a cycle of attachment is formed, especially if you reciprocate with eye contact, praise, or other forms of love.
A dog will also appear physically and mentally relaxed around someone they share a bond with, and may seek affection with a gentle lean into your leg, or a more outward display of excitement, like jumping up when you walk through the door or excitedly licking your face.
How dogs bond with other dogs
Dogs are social creatures and pack animals by design, which may lead some to believe that forming a bond with another canine companion comes naturally to them. However, that isn't always the case. Some dogs can be quite selective of who they wish to bond or share space with, and most will show common signs of bonding if they are happy with a mate.
Many dogs who feel comfortable in the company of another will exhibit playful behaviors, like assuming a "play bow" position, which is when their front end lays flat along the ground while their rear end sticks up in the air.
Exposing their belly is another sign of bonding, as it implicates trust, as does taking turns assuming more submissive positions while playing.
In the same way that a dog will show bonding with their owners, bonded canines will often appear relaxed around one another while still remaining happy to be in each other's company. To encourage bonding between canines, I Heart Dogs recommends first introducing them on neutral territory so that no one dog has the home court advantage. From there, you can teach them both to associate positive feelings with the experiences you embark upon, be it a joint hike through the woods, or just a leisurely evening at home complete with occasional pats on the head and belly rubs. While bonding between dogs is a shared experience, it's important to remember that individual canines do make up the pair, so keeping personal preferences, needs, and limitations is important when working with each dog within the unit.
Wild dogs bonding vs. domesticated dogs bonding
Psychology Today states that wolves do bond with one another in their pack setting, although their idea of bonding isn't exactly the warm and fuzzy friendship we like to project onto them. Rather than develop affectionate bonds with one another, wolves more closely display what seems to be a shared interest in working toward or achieving a certain goal. By forming an alliance with other wolves in their pack, wolves are able to assure that everyone is as safe, protected, and well-fed as possible, personal preferences for personalities notwithstanding.
Domesticated dogs, on the other hand, have mostly been bred to display their more good-natured traits, and will often attempt to trust, or even just merely tolerate other canines.
Furthermore, a dog who is well socialized as a puppy or young adult will oftentimes be even more friendly and outgoing, especially if they have good experiences with other dogs. A socialized dog is generally less anxious in various settings, including busy streets, around loud noises, and when approached by new people.