Recently, Shiba Shake blog posted an article entitled "Do Dogs Need Other Dogs?" which posed an interesting question about dogs and their needs. The article suggested that dogs need people, need socialisation, need companionship and need our protection. That can involve other dogs, but doesn't need to. The article summarises itself as:
I think that general socialization, including dog-to-dog socialization (i.e. helping our dog be comfortable in the presence of other dogs), is important for usand our dogs. It will allow us greater flexibility and enrich our time together. I think that just like people, different dogs have different temperaments and social preferences. Some dogs are more dog-social, some dogs are more dog-tolerant, some dogs prefer the company of people, and some dogs prefer their own company. Social preferences and tolerances may also change based on mood, past experiences, health, and more. I think all of my dogs would prioritize steak, above most other things, most of the time. People with food probably comes next, and then other dogs. I think that my trainer’s “steak statement” is mostly accurate, i.e., it is probably true for many dogs, most of the time. This does not mean that my dogs do not enjoy interacting with other dogs, only that they prefer a juicy steak more! I think that our dogs really need their people, but they do not really need the company of other dogs. Many dogs live perfectly happy lives, being an only child in the family.
I think a lot of these statements are true. For instance, Frankie would be totally happy being an only child. He is currently lying in front of the oven, far away from from the rest of us, while Bolo and Ishka have taken the prime spots in front of the couch. When the others are playing on the deck, Frankie sits to the side and watches. He prefers to sleep separate, even if it means sleeping on the floor, rather than on a bed.
Bolo, on the other hand, hates being alone. He and Czar sleep curled up together most of the time. If they nap in the pen during the day, Bolo will squeeze himself into whatever space is left between Czar and the wall. Bolo screams and screams if he is left alone, and can't be appeased by bones - we've never tried steak. I'm not sure if that would work. He can be appeased by human company, and I guess that agrees with the Shiba Shake suggestion.
However, I'm intrigued by the fact that the Shiba Shake article's suggestion that all dog breeds are the same, especially since they are discussing Siberian huskies and Shiba Inu. Both of these breeds are known for being independent. Would people agree if they were used to living with Weimaraner or a Collie? They tend to be described as loyal, responsive and social, rather than independent.
Overall, humans have bred dogs to become better companions to us. Pack dynamics have changed to allow humans to become more integral to the pack. As we increasingly keep one or two dogs at a time, alone in their respective backyards, and socialised only with human supervision and interference, are we going to continue to change them until they don't form bonds with each other at all?