Congratulations on thinking about adding a dog to your family! Dogs are one of the most popular furry family members. They make great pets and provide a lot of benefits to their owners! Understanding their general behaviour will help you decide whether a dog is the right pet for you, your family, and your lifestyle.

Dogs are social animals who are happy in many different environments as long as they’re with their family. This explains why dogs tend to follow their owners around. In addition, this explains why dogs who are very attached to their owners and spend most of their time with them can get anxious when left alone.

The specific situation in which dogs meet and their prior experiences can affect their reactions to meeting and interacting with other dogs. When two adult dogs first meet, they will have no idea how the other is most likely to react. This explains why both dogs may be nervous and on guard at first. As they spend more time together, they will learn how the other dog will most likely behave in different situations and change their own behaviour to respond to that.

How dogs behave towards people is a result of breed and personality differences, their previous experiences, and guidance from an owner. It is important that owners gently guide their dog about what is acceptable behaviour, making sure they are consistent and clear about expectations. Dogs like routine and stable habits. Therefore, they are happy when owners set limits. Providing a dog with what it needs will also help make sure the dog is happy in the home. For more information, please see our ‘budgeting for your pet’ and ‘things to consider’ pages.

Bradshaw, J.W.S, Blackwell, E.J., & Casey, R.A. (2009). Dominance in domestic dogs—useful construct or bad habit? Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 4, 135-144.

Davis, K.D. (2004). Alpha or leader? In The canine behaviour series. Retrieved from

Reisner, I. (2002). Ultimate causes: the evolutionary biology of aggression. In Horwitz, D.F., Mills, D.S., Heath, S. (Eds.), BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine (pp. 181-183). Quedgeley, UK: BSAVA. 

Shepherd, K. (2002). Dominance and resource-holding potential. In Horwitz, D.F., Mills, D.S., Heath, S. (Eds.), BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine (pp. 18). Quedgeley, UK: BSAVA.

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