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When Your Dog Is Socially Awkward (And So Are You)

Ruby is socially awkward and so am I. You would think this would be a perfect combination and sometimes it is, until it is not.

The problem is we are not always on the same page when it comes to our social anxiety. When Ruby is feeling like she can greet other dogs with a wag, I am usually in a ‘cross the street because I can’t handle small talk’ mood. Likewise, when I am feeling normal, willing and able to engage in conversation, Ruby gets all jumpy and reactive. When one is up, the other is down. We are like a self-esteem seesaw gone wrong.

It's not you, it's me: Life with a socially awkward dog

It’s Not You, It’s My Dog: Life With A Socially Awkward Dog

Ruby has issues with bikers, joggers, and occasionally plumbers. She’s afraid of our backyard, anything that squeaks, and the kitchen cabinets because they might unexpectedly open and gobble her up. She’s also unsure and awkward around other dogs. Not all dogs, just some dogs. It’s like she doesn’t know how to be a normal dog (in the same way I don’t always know how to carry on normal conversation). She sniffs them in the wrong place and the other dog is like “oh no she didn’t.” The other dog then starts barking, maybe even growling, which sets off other dogs in the area and suddenly, we are in the middle of Bark War Three.

“He never acts like this,” the other dog person almost always says, even though the same thing happened two weeks earlier.

It’s not you, it’s us,” I say, backing away slowly.

Similar weirdness happens if I’m not feeling social and someone tries to talk to me. I usually say something stupid or walk into a tree, and then say something even more stupid like “I didn’t see that tree coming.” And the other person is like “the tree didn’t move, you walked into it and now you have bark on your forehead.”

There’s really no coming back from either of these situations. It’s best to brush the bark off your forehead and move on.

Tips for your socially awkward dog (and socially awkward people, too)

Tips For the Socially Awkward Dog (and Her Equally Socially Awkward Human)

1. Know your dog’s triggers and your own. Ruby is normal 75% of the time (for me it is more like 65%). As previously mentioned when Ruby’s having an off day bikers, joggers and sometimes plumbers drive her a little crazy. For me it is lack of sleep, food, coffee or sunlight.

2. Map out several walks with escape routes in case one or both of you just can’t muster up the energy for small talk or normal doggie interaction. Whether it is cutting though an alley, ducking behind a garage, or crawling on all fours through a thorn bush, have outs available. Being normal is hard.

3. Memorize the locations where awkward encounters have occurred and avoid those spots for at least three weeks. The hope is that the people or dogs involved will forgot that your dog was the one who crapped in the middle of the road (because sometimes she can’t handle grass) and caused a traffic jam.

4. Become a fast crosser. Be prepared to cross the street, room, or world at a moment’s notice. Do it fast so other dogs/people don’t realize you are avoiding them.

Help I have a socially awkward dog and I am socially awkward

5. Practice the wave from across the street (like Miss America only not). “Sorry, can’t chat now because we are on opposite sides of the street.”

6. Wear headphones. It really doesn’t matter if they work or not. Just make sure they are plugged into some kind of listening device otherwise you will give yourself away.

7. Walk in off hours. Avoid walking during doggie rush hour. After 10 when everyone has had their morning walk and/or left for work or school is prime walking time for socially awkward pups and peeps.

Feel free to share (or not share – no social pressure from us) your own socially awkward tales in the comments. You can stay up-to-date on our journey to be normal (as well as a whole bunch of cuteness and feel-good, inspiring rescue and adoption stories) by subscribing to our email list.

7 Tips for Socially Awkward Dogs and Their Equally socially Awkward People


  1. Mama and da DB Boyz
    October 2, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    LOL…I totally get this! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Bouncing Bertie
    October 2, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    Bertie is not socially awkward (although he is not particularly playful with other dogs or humans) and strangely, with him in tow, neither am I. But without the dog as a prop, it is another matter…Cheers, Gail.

  3. Molly the AireGirl
    October 2, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    An excellent post! Very few of us are perfect in every way.

  4. Mark Muller
    October 2, 2017 / 4:23 pm

    with plumbers? that's interesting Ruby ;o) I HATE bikers too, but apart from people on two wheels I like it to chat with the pups while the mama chats with the people… mostly about dog-things… we know the name of all pups around us but not the name of the people on the other side of the leash ;O)))

  5. Yamini MacLean
    October 2, 2017 / 4:47 pm

    Hari OMI tend to have the opposite problem, and so did angel Jade; gregarious par excellence and what we had to remember is that not efurrybuddy wanted to 'share'!!! Nice post. YAM xx

  6. The Swiss Cats
    October 2, 2017 / 7:03 pm

    Great tips ! Purrs

  7. Brian
    October 2, 2017 / 7:06 pm

    Sometimes I can be just plain awkward!

  8. ♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥
    October 2, 2017 / 7:44 pm

    Lots of good tips. Poor Lightning is just terrified of bikes, and of course, that then moves down to skateboards, rollerblades, strollers, etc. Mom has to anticipate their approach so she can get him to sit and try to relax. Otherwise he just panics so badly. As for other dogs approaching, we can usually handle other dogs just fine, but some owners just don't understand that maybe they should keep their dog closer to them until it is clear that a meet and greet might be OK.Woos – Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  9. Eastside Cats
    October 2, 2017 / 8:18 pm

    Sometimes, it's too peopley out there…or too doggy…

  10. da tabbies o trout towne
    October 2, 2017 / 9:29 pm

    ruby….thiz iz whatz nice bout bee in a cat…ask de boss…her can tell ya de whyz ~ ☺☺☺♥♥♥

  11. Maxwell Faraday Richman
    October 2, 2017 / 10:52 pm

    LOVE #5 & 6 – and yes, we figure our mom is totes sociall awkward too. Just meowin' …. ~ Faraday

  12. Idaho PugRanch
    October 3, 2017 / 12:05 am

    Good tips for all of us! I have been helping with a CGC class and Mabel is going with me tonight and is expected to be a neutral dog. hhmmmm – sometimes not so easy for her, some dogs stress her out. Hope it goes wellhugsHazel & Mabel

  13. Marg
    October 3, 2017 / 12:43 am

    Such a good post. That is why it is so good that Ruby came to live with you because you understand her misgivings about some things. Those are some mighty good tips for all parts of life. Have a great day.

  14. Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song
    October 3, 2017 / 1:27 am

    LOL. This is so Pocket and I. We are both awkward. I loved your tips. I am committing them to memory.

  15. Emma
    October 3, 2017 / 10:46 am

    We dogs are social, Mom not so much, but her thing is never avoid problems confront them, so if someone comes along who wants to chat, she has to chat. Our only issue is one of not enough time some mornings.

  16. Madi and Mom
    October 3, 2017 / 12:57 pm

    Very good tips!!! Mom says I'm sometimes socially awkward too but then I'm a cat and it seems folks see a sleeping kitty and think of I must rub it. GEEEEEEEEEEEEEZ I bet that human would give good stinky eyes too if someone rubbed their noggin when they are in a deep sleepHugs madi your bfff

  17. Beth Patterson
    October 3, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    Thanks! I think I may have inspired the term socially awkward. And all of my dogs have their own idiosyncrasies.

  18. Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat
    October 3, 2017 / 3:13 pm

    I get it. I've never fit in with girls – instead, I'd spend recess with the boys – no talking, just four-square or tetherball or kickball. I've avoided many family functions. I'm still not entirely sure how I managed the BlogPaws Conference TWICE … but inside my head wasn't a pleasant place. I'm always critiquing myself – at a loss for words or conversation – and then feeling like I'm just a social dud that no one wants to hang out with. I think cats are more likely to be socially awkward – but that might just be a product of most people not socializing them. Bear won't bite, scratch, or hiss at a strange person … but he'll claw me until he manages to climb on my back. He's probably thankful that I don't drag him into social situations!

  19. Jill
    October 4, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    OMG I could have wrote this! I never fit in – and my rescue dog Cleo, is the most socially awkward dog ever thinking the world is out to get her. This was a great read — with some great tips! Thank you!

  20. Nichole Burke
    October 4, 2017 / 4:52 pm

    I'm BOL reading this, but it is great you put this together for so many who have similar issues. I think all dogs can be awkward around plumbers, however. I mean, Penny would just get down there and start licking their face, while Tut would stand behind them barking up a storm… Sophie would be hiding in another room. 🙂

  21. Baymonkey
    October 4, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    Babu is a social bee 100% of the time while I am unsocial to the hilt…hahaha! So our walks are always tilted one way where he stops to be petted by everyone we see. Ruby is so cute!

  22. Golden Daily Scoop
    October 4, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    Great tips and ones that I can certainly use when I walk Bruin. I am always aware of escape routes and can dart across the street in a flash. lol This sometimes make our walks not so enjoyable but I cherish the good days when he has them.

  23. Talent Hounds
    October 4, 2017 / 6:29 pm

    Funny I would not have called you socially awkward at all. I guess we got to know each other online with things and values in common so in person seemed easy. I am quite sociable and Kilo looks so cute but he is so socially awkward. It is a big problem as he will yell and lunge at strange people and dogs and he will not step into the park at the end of the street as people have off-leash dogs and he is terrified. Thank goodness he remembers smells and friends on the street and is learning to "walk by" and gaining confidence. However I still have to cross streets and peek around corners to avoid confrontations. I often just scoop him up.

  24. Ruth Epstein
    October 4, 2017 / 7:02 pm

    Thanks for these great tips, just love them

  25. Heather Wallace
    October 4, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    AWWW, I definitely have my socially awkward moments. Gonzo is the popular jock, but Beau is totally clueless. He really is. He either barks loudly at the other dogs or is too in their junk. Everything is overkill. My neighbors know when he's in a mood and no apologies necessary!

  26. Lifewithmutts
    October 4, 2017 / 8:18 pm

    Walking off hours is great and has worked really well for us, especially when we were working on Ringo's anxiety. I love the waving from across the street bit… haha too perfect

  27. Pawsitively Intrepid
    October 4, 2017 / 9:49 pm

    Haha. Good post. My socially awkward dog and I have definitely perfected the headphones and quick crossing of the street technique.

  28. Lola The Rescued Cat
    October 4, 2017 / 10:10 pm

    I'm not good with small talk, and I envy people who are. If I hear someone out in the hallway in my building when I'm just about to walk out the door I wait until they leave. Growing up I was so awkward it was painful.

  29. Jan K
    October 4, 2017 / 11:27 pm

    I love this! I could not agree with all of it more. I often use my dogs as an excuse to avoid more public places, but the truth is that I'm happier walking on our own property where we don't have to encounter anyone else! You know what? I think it helps us to understand our dogs better too. I often think Luke was sent to us for a reason…he might not be happy in a home where they constantly wanted him to socialize!

  30. FiveSibesMom
    October 4, 2017 / 11:38 pm

    BOL…this is *so* good! I can see me walking into that tree, too! (They always do seem to move at the oddest times, don't they?!) I especially like #3, #4 & #5! Making notes! 😉

  31. Lori Hilliard
    October 4, 2017 / 11:38 pm

    I'm so relieved to read this post – my dog doesn't understand social cues from other dogs, either. He's like that weird kid on the playground who tries a little too hard, so the others don't want to play with him. He's getting better all the time but, bless his heart, he just doesn't understand the fine cues other dogs send out sometimes.

  32. Happy-Go-Doodle
    October 4, 2017 / 11:52 pm

    Ruby's pics are so adorable. From tongue out to tip of tongue to a sweet smile, she's so expressive! These are great tips. We're so happy that Ruby has you…and you have Ruby. What a great team.

  33. M Dawson
    October 5, 2017 / 12:12 am

    I used to chatter on a lot but people get tired so I try not to talk much. It's a big help and they don't discover you are awkward because you never speak HA! Win!

  34. Sandy Kubillus
    October 5, 2017 / 2:56 am

    Chipper, my twelve-year-old cocker is socially awkward. He barks and acts like he wants to attack, when he's really a wimp. I just tell people that he doesn't like dogs and he's unpredictable with people, so stay away. I always tell kids that he might bite, so they stay away. So I don't do much socializing when I'm walking him. I call him my grumpy old man.

  35. Irene
    October 5, 2017 / 2:59 am

    I can totally relate to everything here! Great tips! I think I've mastered the quick crossing. I'm also a good weaver who avoids eye contact at almost all times.

  36. KB Bear
    October 5, 2017 / 3:04 am

    When I saw this title, I had to read it, just had to, because that describes me and Shyla. The hard part for us avoiding interaction on our "off" days is that Shyla expresses her awkwardness by freezing. She cannot move or be moved. So, I am standing with a motionless dog trying to explain the situation to some nice person who would really like to help… but the only way that they can help is by leaving! And, how the heck do I tell them that?Thanks for an article that fit us so closely!

  37. Jackie Bouchard
    October 5, 2017 / 3:23 am

    Ha! Yep. Rita and I are exactly the same! One other thing we do… look for things to put between you and the other people/dog you are avoiding. 🙂 We are masters at timing it so we just "happen to be" passing behind this big truck as the other people pass the other direction across the street. 🙂

  38. Kamira G
    October 5, 2017 / 12:52 pm

    I'm not socially awkward however can appreciate where you are coming from. I'm sure many others can relate to your experience too. Well these are very clever tips. Hmm I like 6 and 7 the most.

  39. Angelysty
    October 6, 2017 / 8:44 pm

    Love this! Both my dog and myself are socially awkward and this has made for some weird encounters. We have nice quiet routes to walk near home and can re-route quickly if we need to. I have come to know his triggers and can tell when it may not be a good interaction, so that helps,but I prefer our quiet walks together most times. Sometimes when I watch him interact awkwardly with other dogs, I see myself when I awkwardly interact with people and think how we are alike! 🙂

  40. Three Chatty Cats
    October 8, 2017 / 3:40 pm

    Become a fast crosser – we're experts at that now! Eddie has definitely calmed down in his old age, but we still have to avoid certain dogs on our walks.

  41. Viktoria Marquardt
    October 11, 2017 / 3:56 am

    Awesome! My dogs don't go out much and can be very awkward when trying to meet new dogs and even people. It's so hard to keep them socialized in such a small town.

  42. Monika
    October 12, 2017 / 2:36 pm

    I know how it is, I am quite an introvert so it is relateable. Kira is not very socially awkward though, lucky girl 🙂

  43. Cathy Armato
    October 13, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    OMD Kristin, this post is so funny! I'm reading it at the airport & laughing out loud!! I never found you socially awkward at all, you're one of the nicest people I've met in a long time, I love hanging out with you! Your "tips" crack me up!Love & biscuits Dogs Luv Us and We Luv

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