The aim of this study was to explore spontaneous social interactions between dyads of unfamiliar adult dogs. Although intraspecific encounters are frequent events in the life of pet dogs, the factors that might influence encounters, such as sex, dyad composition, reproductive status, age, and state of cohabitation (keeping the dogs singly or in groups), remained unexplored.
In this study, we assigned unfamiliar, non-aggressive dogs to three types of dyads defined by sex and size. We observed their unrestrained, spontaneous behaviors in an unfamiliar dog park, where only the two dogs, the owners, and experimenter were present.
We found that the dogs, on average, spent only 17% of the time (less than 1 min) in proximity. Sex, dyad composition, reproductive status, and age influenced different aspects of the interactions in dyads. Female dogs were more likely to initiate the first contact in their dyad but later approached the partner less frequently, were less likely to move apart, and displayed less scent marking. Following and moving apart were more frequent in male–male interactions. Neutered dogs spent more time following the other dog and sniffed other dogs more frequently. The time companion dogs spent in proximity and number of approaches decreased with age.
The study provides guidance for dog owners about the outcomes of intraspecific encounters based on the dog’s age, sex, and reproductive status, as well as the sex of the interacting partner.