Social Skills, Separation Anxiety, and Party Tips for Socially Awkward Peeps and Pups

I am an introvert by nature and so is Ruby. And although not all introverts are socially awkward, we are card-carrying members of the socially awkward ‘sometimes it’s hard to leave the house’ club.

This isn’t breaking news. Long time readers already know about our struggles to be normal. But in case you are just joining us, here’s some background info. Ruby and I are normal most of the time, until we are not. I am a nice person and generally friendly, but I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as chatty. Ruby is a nice dog, she’s just kind of awkward around other 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).

Maybe we could be more social. Maybe I should try harder to socialize Ruby around other dogs. But truthfully, it seems unfair to ask her to do something I don’t really want to do either. And bonus points: having a dog that is socially awkward or even selectively reactive, gives you a built-in excuse to wave and keep walking without the judgment or guilt from extraverted friends and neighbors. “Sorry, my dog is having a bad day. Can we chat another time? Maybe next year?”

Social skills for socially awkward peeps and pups

Social Skills and Party Tips for Socially Awkward Peeps and Pups

This is all well and fine, but sometimes we must leave the house without our dogs: stores, parties, school and work functions, trips to the DMV. All anxiety-producing places where dogs are typically not allowed (dang it). Of course, if you have an emotional support dog, then you are good to go. But I’m not even sure socially awkward dogs are allowed to be emotional support dogs because if it is unclear who is receiving and who is giving support, things get confusing. Boundaries are hard.

The first step (deep breath) is leaving the house without your dog. They say the first step is always the hardest, but actually all the steps are hard when you are socially awkward and must leave your dog at home. There will be sad eyes, maybe some shaking, and lots of guilt. Socially awkward pups have perfected the ‘if you leave I might die” look that makes us run back in for one more hug – and then curl up on the couch and give up.

party tips for socially awkward peeps and pups

Parties

When you are at a holiday party and the one person you know disappears (and by disappear, I mean talks to other people).

You try to act normal, but your hands are shaking so you miss your mouth and potato salad ends up in your lap. And you think, “where is my socially awkward dog when I need her, she would have this potato salad cleaned up so dang fast”. So you don’t eat for fear of it happening again or drink because low blood sugar equals fall risk.

Helpful Party Hint #1: Find the pets first. And keep in mind, if you don’t find the host’s pets early in the night, some other socially awkward person will find them first. Most normal people only have one or maybe two pets so there may be competition. Do not pass go, do not get a drink. Always find the pets first.

Helpful Party Hint #2: Don’t forget the fish. If the cat or dog is taken, fish watching is a great way to avoid eye contact and the forced small talk that will surely follow. If anyone does try to talk to you simply say, “Wow, I never realized how fascinating gold fish are. Just look at how they float in one place” This is what I call a conversation starter and closer all in one. You are welcome.

Helpful Party Hint #3: Here’s how parties should go (and if I ever actually host a party, I will make this a priority): you arrive at a party or social function where you don’t know anyone and are immediately offered a drink and a quivering lap dog with whom you can retreat to a corner and occasionally wave to your more social friends, coworkers and acquaintances. “I’ll take a Yorkie and a chardonnay, please.”

social skills for socially awkward dogs and their socially awkward people

School functions

When you force yourself to go to back-to-school night because you don’t want to embarrass your kid by being the parent who doesn’t show up and/or or talk to anyone. 

The other parents are all super charming and social and you are not. Everyone sits in a circle and answers some random icebreaker question (I would rather actually break ice than answer ice breaker questions). Only when it is your turn, you can’t remember the question so you answer some other random question. It’s super awkward – and if only your socially awkward dog was with you (eating a desk or knocking over a trashcan) so you could politely excuse yourself and leave the room.

Helpful Hint #1: Now in principle I don’t believe in classroom pets. But if there happens to be one at back-to-school night, I make an exception. Simply position yourself in front of the turtle habitat and start analyzing his behavior “I don’t think he is happy we are all here.” At this point, much like the fish example above, most parents will smile and move on. But if anyone pauses and says “You are right. We should probably all leave,’” you know you have found a friend for life.

Helpful Hint #2: No classroom pet, no problem. Find the children’s artwork and then spend all evening staring at drawings of stick people with big heads and smiling purple cats. If other parents wander over, make interesting comments like “that’s one happy cat.” Parents are usually so enamored by their kid’s giant pink frog with green polka dots that they won’t notice or care what you are saying.

Parties and school functions are two of my personal social menaces. There are many others, but hopefully some of these tips can be applied to a variety of uncomfortable social situations. Staff meetings and other work related events used to be a big ‘no dogs allowed’ social challenge for me, but I now work from home so problem solved.

socially awkward dogs and people

The Very, Very Best Part

No matter what happens in the outside, super chatty, stressful world you eventually get to go home to your socially awkward dog who will surely act as though you have been gone for months, maybe even years. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back and your dog on the head for being so brave and almost normal.

Dogs (and cats and even fish) don’t care if you leave your house, answer your phone, make a fool of yourself, fall down and go boom. They love and accept you, social anxiety and all. As long as you have each other and a socially awkward friend or two, you are good to go – or stay home, depending on your personal preference.

Feel free to share your own ‘no dogs allowed’ social challenges in the comments below. 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.

17 Comments

  1. July 30, 2018 / 5:44 am

    you are right, the first step is the hardest… I couldn’t stand it and 2 minutes later two happy dogs went shopping with me and to meetings dogs are not allowed, so I had the husband on board too who waited with them in the car … a day from hell… but at least the dogs were happy campers… I promised myself to leave the house next time like the 3 famous monkeys, with covered ears, eyes and mouth…

  2. July 30, 2018 / 7:55 am

    I like your suggestion to go look at the fish at a party!

  3. July 30, 2018 / 8:36 am

    I never go anywhere except maybe the Vet place. I used to be social with company until the roofer humans came banging for days, now I’m not social at all when the doorbell rings!

  4. Princess Leah
    July 30, 2018 / 9:04 am

    I, Princess Leah are just pawsome at breaking the ice in any social situation, I DEMAND everyone’s attention and it is true to say my Mum tends to know pets names long before she gets around to asking the peeps names!
    Loves and licky kisses
    Princess Leah xxx

  5. July 30, 2018 / 9:29 am

    Mom and I spend a lot of time together and we love it that way! She would rather be home with me than go out without me.

  6. July 30, 2018 / 9:33 am

    Ruby and Kristin…what a informative and helpful post for 2 and 4 leggers.
    I must admit I’m an extrovert…due to my mom probably Daddy used to say she’d talk to a telephone post. Bryan is about 1/2 and 1/2 leaning more toward introvert…but when you are married to someone who talks non stop….LOL. Madi doesn’t respond to the door bell but when someone knocks that gets her attention. She normally just stays where she is. Once she was on the bed during an a/c inspection. The guy went into the bed room to check the airflow. Madi was fast asleep. I heard him say hello pretty girl. He said she raised her head an looked at him. I’m pretty sure she gave him the stinky eye
    Hugs all around Cecilia

  7. The OP Pack
    July 30, 2018 / 11:51 am

    Mom says she walks in the same steps as you on many occasions. Great tips. Maybe someone needs to make a special bracelet that holds our furs so the uncomfortable person can keep their fingers on that bracelet and think happy thoughts about their furry to calm their anxieties:)

    Woos – Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  8. July 30, 2018 / 3:15 pm

    Hari OM
    Been there, done that! Interestingly, I can be the one to break the ice at times – but most of the time, quite frankly, I find the “conversations” around me ot be inane and totally unrelated to my world. I also don’t take alcohol and have some dietary restrictions that tend to cause others to over-compensate and really, it’s just better to not go out! I am perfectly happy travelling and visiting ‘attractions’, or sitting in intelligent small groups, but parties and meetings? Nah. Thank goodness they are rare in life now. Folk have learned not to invite me! YAM xx

  9. July 30, 2018 / 3:16 pm

    GUYS !!!!!!!! total lee grate ta see ewe all again ~~~~~ round de land oh trout we iz all kinda letz go, stay home, yay companee, go a way….hello stranger; AIIIEEEEEEE….may bee it haz sum thin ta due with de moon 😉 ♥♥
    ♥♥♥

  10. July 30, 2018 / 4:34 pm

    I am an introvert as well, and have had to work hard to become more social. Fortunately the collies help with that, as everywhere we go people have to stop and say hello to them. If I had a dollar for every time we heard “look, there is Lassie” or “You never see a collie any more,” I would be a wealthy lady! lol

  11. July 31, 2018 / 5:05 am

    My sisters and I are super social, but Mom prefers to avoid humans. If she has a party, she spends all her time in the kitchen working on food to avoid the people. The difference is dog events/classes. There she feels totally at home and is more of an extrovert because it is her world.

  12. July 31, 2018 / 6:56 am

    Haha, this is a funny and great post! Can we chat another time? Maybe next year?” Love it! I’m definitely an introvert but only occasionally socially awkward. But our dog is definitely socially awkward!

  13. July 31, 2018 / 10:51 am

    Being an introvert myself, having Sam as a gregarious pet therapy pooch has really helped me in social settings. He does all the work; I just drive. It’s a win-win for both of us. 😁 Seriously though, he has helped my introverted personality more than I could have imagined. I count my blessings he’s by my side every. single. day.

  14. July 31, 2018 / 4:41 pm

    Normal is over-rated. And we love you and Ruby so much – that normal clearly isn’t the end all or be all. I love how you’re talking about it – how many pet people probably feel the same way?!

  15. July 31, 2018 / 5:30 pm

    I’m an introvert too. All of my previous dogs have LOVED meeting strangers, and I didn’t like how that forced me to be social with everyone. Now, Shyla looks worried when we meet strangers so I say “sorry, she’s afraid of strangers”, and we move on. Having written that, I’m wondering why I’ve expended so much energy trying to help her be more outgoing! Silly me!

    My “no dogs allowed” difficult place is my dad’s apartment and community. I still haven’t figured out how to handle that one, although there is a magnificent fish tank that I stare at frequently!

  16. July 31, 2018 / 5:50 pm

    I love this so much! I am also an introvert and socially awkward. As I get older, I find myself less and less willing to put myself into uncomfortable situations. Having a dog who is reactive and fearful of strangers actually works for me, because it’s an excuse not to have people over to my house!
    I used to try to fight it, and put myself into social situations that made me hopelessly uncomfortable. Now I’m less apologetic about choosing avoidance for both Luke and myself (it’s still hard to do that though, because so many people just don’t get it). But sometimes I just have to put myself out there….and these are great tips for those times!
    I SO appreciate your honesty, and how you put humor into the situation!

  17. August 5, 2018 / 2:22 pm

    It is so funny, when I think about it I can go either way though too much social time makes me want to stay in my PJs on the couch all day. II always go for the pets though no matter where I am.

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