Social Roles and Relationships in Dogs

CAAB Chat about friendship, jealousy, grief, and bullying
By Karen B. London PhD, March 2014, Updated June 2021

CAAB Chats is a program featuring monthly discussions among CAABs (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists) about topics that matter to people who love animals. A few years ago, along with my friend and colleagure Camille Ward, PhD, I took part in a CAAB Chat on Social Roles and Relationships in Dogs, a conversation about friendship, grief, jealousy, status, bullying, gratitude, and more. (If interested, you can listen to the replay for a fee.)

There are so many questions about social roles and relationships in dogs, and this chat touched on just a few of those we find particularly interesting.

•How do friendships develop among dogs?

•Do dogs have preferences for their play partners? What contributes to those preferences?


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•How do relationships among dogs, and between dogs and people go wrong?

•Why do we seem to have so many dogs who assume a “bullying” role with other dogs?

•How are the relationships dogs form with each other similar to those they form with people?  How are they different?

•Can dogs feel gratitude?

•What do dogs experience when another dog they’ve lived with dies?  Do they feel grief?

These “chats” are informal by design, so they have the potential to go in unanticipated directions, which is part of the fun. Additionally, listeners are asked to submit questions, and that can also result in interesting conversations.

Those with the CAAB certification have scientific and research backgrounds, and many of us have worked with animals with serious behavior problems. We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, reading and talking about animal behavior (not to mention a lot of time with animals themselves!). We love chatting about our work, which is a labor of love for all of us. If you share that interest, I encourage you to check out the chats, both current and past. 

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Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life