It is a common scenario – the three year-old dog that used to be the life of the dog park is now less interested in romping with the group. To the owner’s surprise, they even showed their teeth at a few dogs recently. Does this mean the dog has suddenly turned dog-aggressive?
Not necessarily. Assuming any physical causes have been ruled out, they may just be a normal dog, showing normal signs of maturity. While dogs are a social species, and most puppies and adolescent dogs tend to enjoy play with other dogs, most adult dogs tend to be a bit more selective. They may prefer fewer and/or well-known play partners, and they may have more interest in chasing a ball or going for a sniff walk than rough-housing at the dog park.
The dog park isn’t for all dogs, and that’s OK and normal. If your dog does not seem interested in running with the pack, there are plenty of other ways to get them physical exercise and social enrichment:
- Invite one dog that you know your dog enjoys over for a private play date in one of your yards.
- Go for a “buddy hike” with another owner and a dog friend. Dogs can enjoy social activities such as checking out a new trail together – they don’t need to be wrestling to be having fun with a friend.
- Engage in a special activity with your dog, just the two of you. Train a new trick, lay a “treat trail” for them to find, enroll in a fun training class to learn some new skills, build a DIY agility course at home, etc.
- Find a place to safely and legally give your dog some off-leash time to stretch their legs and explore. The “Sniff Spot” app is a great way to find private areas for rent where Fido can get a chance to run on his own: https://web.sniffspot.com/about.html
For more information on dog sociability, check out this blog post.