Do our dogs have best friends? The Pooch Pals experiment holiday cottages


Do our dogs have best friends? The Pooch Pals experiment

Courtney Kelly 06 June 2023

If you’re looking for some endorphin-boosting content, look no further – our latest Pooch Pals experiment will have you smiling from ear to ear …

Do you frequently joke that your doggy has a particular best friend that they always love to play with at the dog park? Well, it turns out you might be right! 

We wanted to find out if man’s best friends actually have furry friends of their own, and how you can spot their best friends when you’re out and about – as well as the dogs they don’t get along with!

We’ve teamed up with a dog behaviourist, Joe Nutkins of Dog Training Essex & Suffolk, to help us recognise the signs that your dog is enjoying the company of another, and we’ve also used a heart rate monitor to track the BPM of a dog when they’re around their best friends to find out if this differs from when they’re away from their best friend.

You can see the results from our study in action in the adorable video below:

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How to know if your dog has a best friend

Best friends, Jock and Max

Dogs are social creatures, just like us humans. They often have a best buddy or a special group of friends they love to hang out with on a doggy play date. These furry pals may reunite regularly or just a few times a year, but they always recognise each other and pick up right where they left off. What's fascinating is that dog friendships can form between pups of any shape or size, regardless of their age or breed. It's all about their personalities and how well they click.

Of course, not all dogs are destined to be besties. Some dogs have acquaintances they see often, and while they might not be close enough to cuddle or play, they still enjoy each other's company. As responsible dog parents, we should respect our furry friends' individual preferences and not push them into friendships they're not comfortable with.

What is happening in a dog’s brain when they’re with their friends?

A pup deep in thought

When our furry friends get together with their doggy pals, it's like a party for their moods and emotions. Dogs have such positive associations with their regular playmates that just catching a glimpse of them can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in their brains, like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These happy feelings have a ripple effect on our pups, making them less stressed and more content. And, as we know, less stress can mean fewer physical issues, like tummy troubles or sleepless nights.

Now, meeting new people or dogs can be a bit of a different story. Depending on how they perceive the new arrival, our pups may go into fight or flight mode. Sometimes, dogs get excited when they see someone new, but if the person or dog looks or acts differently than what they're used to, our furry friends might feel a little uneasy and want to protect themselves. The fight or flight response, which also includes freezing and fooling around, is a quick way for dogs to react and stay safe. Running away is the flight response while barking, lunging or even charging towards the stranger are examples of the fight response.

Our research results

A beautiful setting for dog walking

As part of our experiment, we fitted three dogs with a PetPace heart rate monitor collar in advance of their meeting with their doggie best friend to find the average heart rate. We then closely monitored the dogs’ heart rates when they laid eyes on their best friend and greeted them to find out if there was a substantial increase in beats per minute.  

The average resting heart rate stood at 59.6 bpm but this rose to 129 bpm as they greeted their pooch pals – that’s an increase of 69 bpm (116%)!

Playful puppy behaviours to look out for

A playful pup with a ball in its mouth

Dogs have their unique ways of playing, and it can vary based on their size, personality and the dogs they play with. They may even adapt their playing style to suit the other pups they're hanging out with. When dogs meet up, they can greet each other in different ways, depending on the situation; for example, if they're in the comfort of their own home or out on a walk. Plus, if the other dog is shy or confident, it can also impact their interaction. 

Canine communication is a fascinating thing, and there's a constant exchange of signals between dogs, which includes facial expressions, body language, barks, and even how they position themselves around each other. Here are some signs to keep an eye out for:

Tail wagging

Jock and Max getting excited

This is a great visual indicator and can vary a little between breeds but mostly it will be a nice high-up tail with anything from a ‘shimmer’ to a full, fast wag!


Jock and Max waiting for a treat

Dogs comfortable with each other can show some stances that could easily be confused with worry or confrontation such as standing still while looking at each other, slowly moving in a slight circle together or pausing with a ‘yin/yang’ curve of the bodies.

Whilst playing, the dogs may also run next to each other with a relaxed and comfortable body.

Facial expressions

Bailey looking happy

A lot comes from the face, tail and sounds each dog makes. An open mouth with the tongue poking or hanging out is a good indicator that a dog is comfortable with their canine buddy. Looking straight ahead instead of side-on is a good sign, as well as whether the cheeks, the side of the nose and the forehead look soft without any tension lines in the skin or fur.


Jock and Max chasing one another

These will vary enormously from dog to dog as there are so many types of ear shapes and styles but there are some signals that are seen between dog friends such as the base of the ear lifting (this is not as easy to see in drop-eared dogs but it still happens) and also the ear being relaxed and floppy.


Best friends, Barney and Bailey

Sometimes dogs can use vocalisations in their play such as light-hearted barks, whines, moaning and even higher-pitched shrieks of joy! Some dogs will sound like they are mumbling, and some breed types may growl but this is a pleasant sound.

Key behaviours that show a dog is uncomfortable or unsure of another dog

A nervous and anxious dog looking away

Your dog won’t always be 100% comfortable with every other canine that crosses its path, and it can be really helpful to know when you might need to lead them out of any uncomfortable meetings. 

Here are the signs to look for if your dog is anxious or unsure of another dog:

  • Ears pinned back
  • Looking away
  • Turning head but looking and showing ‘whale eye’ (mostly the whites of the eye)
  • Lip licking
  • Tail tucked right under (if unusual for the dog)
  • awning
  • Scratching
  • Moving behind their owner away from the dog
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Panting
  • Backing away

If the other dog has come over to the unsure dog, you may also see the nervous dog licking the mouth of the other dog, moving a rear leg to allow the other dog to sniff them underneath or standing incredibly still to try to not initiate any interactions. Use your gut instincts to decide whether or not to let the interaction play out naturally or to lead your dog away. The best way to lead your dog away is to call their name and direct their attention towards you, encouraging them to walk away from the interaction.

Dog-friendly holidays in the UK

Encourage your dogs to socialise and make new friends by taking them on one of our dog-friendly holidays in the UK. Stay in a luxurious cottage with your furry friend and visit some of the most beautiful outdoor spots in the country together – and don’t forget to bring along their best friend if you know their owner well!

Enjoy stays from the sandy beaches of Cornwall to the challenging peaks of the Scottish Highlands with Canine Cottages.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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