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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Playdates for Dogs with Cancer

Updated: March 11th, 2020

Dogs are social animals just like us. And, our dogs can get lonely even with our company, especially if they’re the only dog in the house. Dr. Dressler covers this topic in chapter 15 of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, which talks about life quality and “brain chemistry modification” strategies as step five of Full Spectrum dog cancer care.

Dogs have playdates with each other is like us needing a coffee date with a good friend. Let’s have a play date to help ease their tension (and ours).

Why Dogs Need a Play Date

Most dogs have a natural instinct to interact with other dogs. If you have taken your dog to the dog park, you might have noticed she will pick a certain dog and he will be her buddy for the duration of her dog park time. Dr. Dressler feels so confident in playdates he wrote:

“Satisfying this need is not only a life quality booster, it may even be considered a cancer treatment.”

That’s quite a statement. And, it really tells us how important social interaction is to our dog’s mind and body.

Arranging a Playdate

Arranging play dates with other dogs is important. But, it’s also important to make sure you arrange a playdate with a dog who gets along well with your dog. Dr. Dressler gives the example of a slow-moving, deaf dog interacting with a hyper puppy. The slow-moving dog won’t be able to keep up with the hyper puppy, and the playdate will bring more tension instead of relaxation. We don’t want that to happen.

If your dog is still hyper and ready to play, then, yes, definitely find a playmate who is ready to go. But, if your dog is sluggish, an older friend or a friend who is a bit more relaxed is a better match.

And, keep in mind, even if you find a ‘match’ for your dog, and that match doesn’t work out. It’s not your fault. Dogs have certain qualities they look for in their friends, just like we do.

My Dog Doesn’t Like Playdates

Most dogs do like the company of other dogs, but your dog could be one of the few who would rather hang out at home and be cuddled by people. If this is the case, invite a few friends over who your dog already knows. Even human-dog play and interaction can be therapeutic to dogs, according to Dr. D.

Play Dates for Dogs: A Word from a Behaviorist

As a Canine Behaviorist, I recommend playdates to my clients all the time. Most dogs love the interaction as long as they’re compatible with the other dog. Playing with a dog your dog already knows is best. You know they get along well and they have learned one another’s boundaries already.

Scheduling a play date for your dog might sound silly. But, play dates help encourage your dog to exercise. And, it gives your dog a job to do. Dogs need to feel like they have a

Amber Drake’s Pup, Bear

purpose. And, interacting with other dogs is like a job, for pack animals. Social interaction is important for your dog’s mind. And, based on Dr. D’s writing, good for your dog with cancer too.


My dog, Bear, has playdates nearly every day. He loves spending time with me and my family. But, he enjoys time with his dog friends too. And, after his play dates, he’s more relaxed and attentive. That’s my Bear in the photo.

New Friend? Neutral Territory

If your dog doesn’t have any friends yet, but you want him to, in addition to following the guidelines we have covered so far, make sure you pick a neutral area for your dog to meet his new friend. Picking a neutral location lets both dogs get to know each other in an area they don’t feel territorial over. Usually, this is a park the dogs have never been to.

This is also where the understanding of your dog’s body language comes in. You know your dog best. If she starts to feel uncomfortable, or anxious, don’t feel bad for ending the play session. The dog she met just isn’t the one. And, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your dog or the other dog. All it means is they’re not compatible. And, that’s okay.

Share Your Experiences

We love to hear from you. If your dog has a friend she enjoys playing with, we would enjoy hearing about it. Feel free to share any pictures you have of your dog playing with his buddies.

And, if your dog has just recently met a friend he enjoys hanging out with, tell us about it.

We’ll be watching for your stories.

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