group of dogs getting acquainted

When One Dog Sniffs the Butt of Another Dog… aaand Doesn’t Like What He Smells

Sometimes one dog sniffs the butt of another dog and just doesn’t like what he smells. As new theories in animal cognition and emotion develop (theories from scholars such as Carl Safina author of “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Know”), many people, myself included, are coming to the conclusion that animals are not so different from us after all.

With that being said, it would be idealistic at best and ludicrous at worst to expect everyone to get along with every person they come across all the time. Differences in opinion, culture, class, gender, race, station and just plain circumstance can lead to disagreements among humans. Canine packs, though not quite as evolved as our human societies, still function within similar parameters. If you study or work among packs of dogs, or from what I understand, packs of many animals including sea mammals, chimps, apes, elephants and wolves, you will note that there are nuanced and complex inter-personal (or “inter-mammalian”) relationships at play. Certain dogs naturally gravitate towards one another and away from other con-specifics. This is not just anthropomorphism; this has now been scientifically proven.

Disagreements and power struggles do occur, even within dogs in the same family. The first time I sustained a dog bite that broke skin was while breaking up two Pekinese sisters (they had the same mother) that were owned by the same woman (who is also a friend). These two dogs were like “frick and frack” – where one went the other followed – but I’ve never seen two little dogs more viciously attack each other, over a squeaky toy no less, than these two. When I mentioned this to their owner she said that happens at least once a fortnight. Within minutes, they are back to being “besties”. This sort of reminds me of the fights my brother and I had as kids. Anthropomorphism? Or just an obvious and logical comparison?

When a dog fight arises, it is usually due to an issue regarding resources – humans, food, toys, or territory. When I see dogs fighting over toys I wish I could reason with them; I would let them know how silly it is to get to become overly attached to something as trivial and fleeting as a toy. I wonder if they think the same when they see their human companions argue about money. After all, both are valuable currencies in our respective societies.

Recently, however, I came across two dogs that sniffed each other’s butt, and didn’t’ like what they smelled; however, it had nothing to do with resources. And unfortunately, instead of ignoring each other, they both wanted to “engage”. These two dogs got along amicably with every other member of the Dingo’s pack. Neither had a tendency to resource guard or “bully”. This was just two dogs who didn’t like each other and were not getting over it.

As someone who has loved dogs all of my life, I want to see every dog not just live and survive but thrive. If a dog at Dingo’s is agitated or uncomfortable, I will take steps to ease or ameliorate that. For this particular case, I decided that the two dogs I mention above should not be allowed to interact – luckily we have means of separating with two play spaces outside and three separate play areas inside.  With time and some additional training, these two dogs may reach a copacetic state; however, that work is best handled outside of a daycare setting – with a large group of dogs – and with a private, personal trainer.  Since the dogs have been kept separate,  neither has had any issues with any other dog, though we continue to monitor them both closely.

Are you the owner of a dog who likes some dogs but not others?  If so, does there seem to be a consistent trigger like breed or size?  As we are continually striving to learn, we would love to hear from you!  Please share your questions and comments with us below.


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