I have a 3-year-old male shepherd mix named Joe. We have
been going to dog parks and day care since he was a
puppy, but we have been kicked out now due to his
behavior. How can I train him to be nice at the dog park
Quite simply, Steve, you donít. I suspect that your
dog has simply matured to the point of not wanting to
socialize in the same manner as he once did, which is
normal as well as expected. Let me put this into human
terms for comparison:
youíre young, you meet up with other youngsters ó at
the park, on the playground, etc. Children chase each
other and rough-house, which builds strength and
coordination. They play with toys, they learn to share,
they practice actions that will be accepted by others,
and learn to modify behavior that gets them into
trouble. In short, childís play teaches life skills,
in physical and emotional ways.
adults, our style of play and interaction with others
changes. Playground romps turn into family BBQs. You
socialize with others you find enjoyable; you share
stories. You learn how to seek out compatible friends at
cocktail parties, and youíd likely be not only
surprised but angry if someone tackled you like they did
as a child during horseplay at the local park.
same maturation process happens with dogs. Puppies go
through a very social period of development ó learning
how to play with one another, how to share, life lessons
like "if I bite too hard, no one will play with
me." As they mature, thoughts turn to more adult
behaviors, some of which is influenced by inherited
genetic traits. The sporting breeds will naturally want
to look for and flush game; the herding breeds will want
to chase and move others; the guarding breeds will
become more serious and begin to guard. This is the
natural course of maturation.
course, there are always exceptions. Some dogs do enjoy
an extended period into adulthood where being social and
playful with other dogs is still enjoyable. This most
often occurs in the breeds that we have selectively bred
to be mild mannered, like Labrador and Golden
retrievers, etc. But most dogs eventually outgrow the
desire to have lots of social contact with other dogs.
sounds like Joe has been telling you, perhaps for a
while now, that being placed in an environment with
other dogs of various ages and play skills is no longer
his favorite thing. Itís your job to interpret his
behavior and "read" what he is saying. Dogs
that are not enjoying themselves amongst a group of
others will often hang out at the perimeter, spend more
time sniffing and investigating the environment, and may
snap at or chase off others if they come too close or
persist in instigating play. Your dog isnít behaving
badly; heís simply trying to communicate.
to do the very best for your dog? "Listen" to
what he is saying. Make more one-on-one time for him.
Give him the exercise and attention he needs, from you.
Teach him some tricks and play games with him to keep
him mentally stimulated. Hire a neighbor or a dog walker
to give him exercise and attention in a way he prefers.
And when it comes to day care or dog parks, remember
that itís not about your wants or needs ó itís
about what is best for your dog.