If you’ve got a 3-4 year old dog, you may have noticed some changes in their social behaviour. Perhaps they aren’t as interested in playing with new dogs. Or perhaps you’re noticing their patience is waning with younger dogs. You’re likely seeing a very normal change in social behaviour, the change to becoming dog-selective.
A lot of dogs start off extremely social and will seem like utter social butterflies. They may get along with almost all dogs they encounter and those dogs are truly great dog-park-dogs. They are patient, adapt play-styles to their partners, and tolerate rude behaviour from younger dogs easily. But the likelihood of seeing this social behaviour continue for their entire lives is unlikely. In fact, most dogs have some kind of dog-selectivity as they age. Some may only play with a few dogs they trust and won’t accept new friends easily. Some will stop wanting to play with any unfamiliar dogs and even some of their dog friends. And some will remain quite social. It’s a spectrum, from dogs that love all dogs to dogs that dislike the company of all dogs, and your dog will fall somewhere on there.
I’ve put this post together with the goal to manage your expectations. Your dog, especially if they are young, is likely to change their social behaviour as they age. This is often disappointing for dog owners. But it is a normal part of their development.
So what can you do? If your dog’s social behaviour changes, then it’s time to adapt. That means it might be time to stop hitting the dog park if your dog is no longer enjoying it and instead go on adventures for the two of you like a hike, or a sniffari. A lot of dogs don’t have fun at the dog park as they age. So it’s important to find other ways to meet their social needs.
A final note: If your dog is starting to display aggressive behaviour at the dog park and outside of the dog park when they see another dog, then it’s time to reach out to a certified professional dog trainer for help and definitely stop going to the dog park. Dog parks will not “socialize” your dog into eliminating this behaviour and will likely make it worse.