Karen B. London
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Best Play Buddies
Is the pairing obvious or unexpected?
These Pharoah Hounds became best friends immediately

Sometimes a dog finds another dog who is the best play buddy ever, and no other dog will ever measure up. When it’s love at first sight—when the two dogs meet and hit it off immediately—it’s sometimes a challenge to understand what makes them the best of friends so quickly. I’ve seen it happen with dogs who seem like a good match and with dogs who nobody in a million years would ever think to pair up.

In the category of an obvious match, I remember two dogs of the same rare breed who met at dog camp and became inseparable. Both sets of guardians were really excited. (“You have a Pharoah Hound? I have a Pharoah Hound!”) Watching the two dogs play was really fascinating because they played so differently than most other dogs with a lot of intense running and chasing. They did some tug, but their play was predominantly high speed running and chasing. They were so fast they were blurry, and none of the other dogs at camp had even the slightest chance of keeping up. Neither of the Pharoah Hounds had previously experienced chase games with another dog who could keep up, which of course is part of what makes it so fun. It was amazing to see these dogs together because they were just so perfect for each other. It was beautiful to watch them play and to see the happiness of having such a well-matched play partner.

Another pair of dogs I know who became inseparable play buddies was definitely an odd couple. One was some kind of very large shepherd mix and the other was probably mostly Beagle and barely bigger than the other dog’s head. They were both playful dogs with large social circles, but if they were together, they paid no attention to any other dogs. Most of their play involved holding onto opposite ends of the same toy or stick and trotting around with it. They also followed each other, leaping around and sometimes sniffing at the same spots while they wagged their tails furiously, and then trotting off to a new place to sniff some more. They remained great friends throughout their lives, and our whole neighborhood was amused by what appeared to be an unlikely friendship.

Watching play buddies who adore each other, whether it’s dogs who are similar or those who are compatible for some other reason, is an incredible joy. If you’ve had a dog who found the perfect playmate, were they an obvious match or was their compatibility unexpected?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Linda Kurtz | January 5 2013 |

My lab, now gone, loved the golden retriever owned by a friend. They are both gone now, but my friend got another golden retriever just like the last one, big boned, light color and utterly charming. I got a rescued lab/border collie. My rescue now loves the golden retriever just like the first lab loved the first golden. He looks for him in his yard, jumps on him the minute he him. My rescue doesn't like most dogs, so this is unusual.

Submitted by margie reynolds | January 6 2013 |

I thought I had dodged the dog aggressive bullet with my pit bull Buck because for the first 3 years of his life he spent wooing other dogs hesitant to play with him. After 3 he got adament about being boss and when another dog refused to let him there was trouble. However since he was a pup we had a bunny that had always interacted with him and the older they both grew the better friends they became. Most times it was the bunny chasing Buck and then playing "keep away" as he aluded Buck from around the opposite side of a tree. When they were tired they'd both lay down in the shade together and rest.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 6 2013 |

To Karen London,

I read your "Best Play Buddies" article today. I loved it. It reminded me of the relationship created by our 2 year old mix mainly English Pointer and slight Beagle, Marigold and our 7 year English Pointer, Abbi who were both adopted by my sister and I when they were puppies from a shelter and a rescue. They play and behave just like the dogs in your article, "Best Play Buddies". I think the start of their relationship is due to Abbi's layed back attitude and Marigold's need to always be near someone. We feel Marigold's needs could be due to her Mom and litter having to keep warm since they were left abandoned outside in the cold to die in early spring.

Both Abbi and Marigold play in their own special ways just like the Pharoah Hounds in your article running around our backyard and house. Up until recently they both slept with my sister in her room until the bed started becoming a little too crowded. We decided to have Marigold sleep with me so my sister would receive more sleeptime. That worked. Whenever they get a chance our dogs now try to sleep together all curled up and touching each other. They do prefer if they are covered up even with me on my wingback chair and ottoman. Abbi then sleeps on the ottoman and Marigold mostly on my lap and touching Abbi as much as she can.

They used to eat out of the same bowl, splitting their food right down the middle to share until our vet told us that Marigold needed to start loosing weight by eating a different type of food. This is a little more difficult to perform with their friendship/habits since they now have 2 bowls located in two areas. Abbi now refuses to eat in her new protected location since Marigold will eat everything available since separated. In order to get Abbi to eat we were forced to try different ways to get her to eat her dry dog food. This included hand feeding piece by piece increasing the amount until she finished her meal left within bowl.

My sister and I visit her daughter and family now living in Iowa. They have a 7 year old 100 lb male Weimeraner, Cody. We bring the girls when we visit them and they bring Cody to our house. All three dogs get along extremely well. Once again Marigold is the center of friendship between all 3 dogs. She and Cody are inseparable going in and out, side by side through the patio door at the same time and then throughout the yard. When visiting Iowa Abbi does love their larger yard and increase in wildlife especially squirrels. She leaves Marigold and Cody to have their time to catch up on their friendship while she spends more time hunting. Marigold and Cody then start catching up in their own ways. Cody is so much taller Marigold so she loves to use him as a bridge passing many times from under him. They also play tug-a-war along with "whose has the antler, now" when inside. What a threesome. Abbi helps Cody when she sees Marigold needs to take a break.

Over a year ago Cody had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer in his left. He is not showing pain currently which is good for my niece's family incuding her 5 year old daughter. The cancer only has seemed to slow him down more lately. However, each time the dogs get together they seem to understand and they readjust to Cody each time still keeping their friendship alive.

I wonder and worry about Cody since this Weimaraner has been a fantastic human best friend. How are we going to explain to our own "best friends", dogs that their best dog friend has gone when we go to visit his home. Or will they already understand?

Submitted by Anonymous | January 10 2013 |

Just how individual dogs' likes and dislikes can be when choosing a playmate was driven home to us through the experience of fostering. Last summer we decided to try fostering for the first time, and were entrusted with a little border collie mix named "Kelsie" from a border collie rescue organization. We'd thought our own dog, an English Shepherd, might enjoy the companionship of a foster dog since he's always enjoyed having friends' dogs over, even for dog-sitting gigs lasting weeks at a time. But in this case it was a total mis-match.

Despite our best efforts, Kelsie's pushy play style intimidated our dog, and he refused to play with her. She, in turn made his life generally miserable. It was a difficult situation and we were eager to see our dog's unhappiness end, still, we couldn't let Kelsie go to just any home. We turned away several prospective adoptive families and the weeks dragged on until finally a family came along that sounded just right. They had a border collie male named Baxter, of the same age, size and build as our little foster girl. Their dog had recently lost a couple of doggie-siblings to old age, and missed having a partner to play "tug" with. We thought this family might be a match for Kelsie, so we gave them the thumbs-up. Then we held our fingers crossed as they drove for over eight hours from another state so we could introduce our potential siblings. To everyone's HUGE relief--after a brief period of adjustment and some initial "testiness" (literally, as in "testing of the waters") on both dogs' parts--the two dogs hit it off famously. In the space of just a couple of hours we all felt quite confident about sending Kelsie home with her new canine sibling, secure in the knowledge we'd found her a perfect match.

You can see the process unfold (in pictures and videos) in a short video I put together after adoption day, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BUoSFg9ysA&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

All reports from her adoptive family are that Kelsie and her new brother Baxter still enjoy each other's company enormously, play endlessly, and "tug" is still their favorite game.

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