Can One Dog Be a Bad Influence on Others?

By Adrienne Farricelli

If Rover has never lifted his leg before and now is showering every plant he sees after hanging out with Roscoe, you may be wondering if dogs misbehave because of other dogs. Dogs do seem to adopt some habits they see from other dogs and may add them to their repertoire of learned behaviors. This is a form of "social learning."

Misbehaving at the Sight of Other Dogs

Technically, many dogs do actually misbehave because of other dogs, which you can witness quite often. How many times has Rover pulled on the leash because he's eager to meet that puppy walking on the other side of the sidewalk? In this case, the sight of the other dog is creating excitement and eagerness to go meet and greet the fellow. In some cases, the agitation and frustration can be so great, your dog may develop a behavioral problem known as barrier frustration, triggering a lunging, snarling and barking display, according to certified applied animal behaviorist Kathy Sdao. However, it's not correct to think that the other dog was a "bad influence," in that Rover learned their bad behavior from them.

Misbehaving Due to Social Facilitation

Social facilitation takes place when the presence of another dog causes an increase in the intensity of your dog's normal behavior, explains Pat Miller, owner and trainer of Peaceable Paws. A vast array of examples of this takes place in the canine world. If your dog hears another dog howl, most likely he will feel compelled to join the chorus. Should Rover see another dog chase a cat (and he's naturally fond of giving chase himself) he will probably take part in the action as well. When two dogs are put together, their regular behaviors are more amplified than when a dog is performing alone.

Misbehaving Due to Local Enhancement

Local enhancement takes place when a dog engaging in a particular behavior attracts another dog, who casually stumbles upon the same behavior either through luck, happenstance or social facilitation, certified applied animal behaviorist Pamela Reid explains in her book, "Excel-Erated Learning." So if Roscoe is happily digging to bury a treasured bone and Rover walks by, Rover may decide to copy the behavior -- and he may continue to do so even once Roscoe has left the premises. In other words, a dog can learn a certain behavior (like digging or chewing) from another dog, and this behavior may stick.

Can Behavior Issues Be "Solved" by Another Dog?

Some dog owners adopt a second dog in hopes of fixing their resident dog's behavioral problems. In this case, much caution is needed as it is not unheard of owners ending up with double the trouble. If you adopt one dog to help another cope better with separation anxiety or in hopes he engages less in destructive behaviors, you may end up with the "rotten apple syndrome," which translates into more barking and increased destructive behaviors -- the problems having been adopted by the new canine. Because of this, Pat Miller says dog trainers and behaviorists caution against the practice of adding a second dog for the purpose of solving behavior problems.

By Adrienne Farricelli

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About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.