The social needs of dogs.

Company and social well-being are as essential to your dog’s quality of life as good food, fresh water and comfortable accommodation.

The following story illustrates this beautifully:

Text Example
I remember my elderly Aunt Alice who was a great animal lover. Most of her neighbours did not like her that much because she was far too eccentric in their eyes. But above all, one fine day she had had the temerity to call the police about a very specific case. For several nights she had heard her neighbour opposite’s dog howling incessantly on its own; she had felt obliged to take action because the animal’s distress was breaking her heart. The neighbourhood police officer, who was not bright enough to be a good cop, had gone to the neighbour in question, taken a few minutes to assess the situation and then returned sheepishly to my aunt to tell her that he had found nothing out of the ordinary: «Madam, the dog has food and drink and a roof over his head! He is fine.» That was it. All the dog needed was food, clean water and shelter. Apart from Aunt Alice, none of the neighbourhood was aware that the dog needed company and social stimulation in order to be happy.

Dogs are social beings.

Over time, man has transformed wild dogs into faithful companions. This development was only possible because, like humans, dogs are social creatures who depend on social ties for their health and well-being. Deprive them of these bonds and distress sets in.

Social distress is linked to three factors:
  • response to pain ("Ouch, that hurts!")
  • attachment to a place ("I want to go home!")
  • thermoregulation ("I’m cold, I need to snuggle up to Mum!").

These elements are linked to the need for contact and comfort offered by the female dog to her puppy and, later, by the owner to their adult dog. Admittedly, the social needs of some individuals are greater than others, but no dog can do without healthy companionship and social bonds, or the door is opened to mental and physical disorders.

Physical disorders may vary:
  • a weakened immune system, making the dog more susceptible to disease
  • isolation results in the dog taking less care of itself
  • it eats less and does not drink enough

Mental disorders are even more worrying:
  • whining: a dog that whines is a dog that is sending out a distress call for its owner to return
  • a mental decline that results in stereotypical behaviours: repetitive and pointless behaviours such as pacing excessively, chewing and licking for no reason.
  • when this distress becomes excessive, we speak of separation anxiety due to isolation and desertion  

How to recognise the signs of separation anxiety
  • excessive panting and drooling
  • significant vocalisation
  • Loss of appetite
  • destructive behaviour leading to self-harm in the event that the dog tries to escape

It is beyond dispute that depriving a dog of its essential social needs is just as serious as depriving it of its essential physical needs. Dogs are great communicators, just like humans. These two social species were made for each other! In our next episode on the social needs of dogs, we will give you the best advice for successful familiarisation and socialisation of your favourite pooch.

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