Dear Miss Behavin’:

My dog Duke and I have frequented the dog park for the last couple years. He has his regular buddies who he plays really well with, but Duke seems to have more and more “discussions” with other dogs lately. A few times we’ve had to leave the park. What’s his deal?

It’s not uncommon for dogs to become more selective and less tolerant in their social interactions with other dogs as they age. While Duke may be a playful guy with dogs he knows, dog parks can be a melting pot of personalities and play styles.

Instead of blaming Duke for being less tolerant, or pointing a finger at dog parks and how risky they can be, let’s focus on what’s important. Dog play is healthy for dogs like Duke who enjoy it and it’s a great way to exercise him both mentally and physically.

Rather than go to the dog park, offer to host a play group at your house with the people and their dogs who Duke plays well with. If you don’t have a yard (which is why many people visit the dog park), you can offer to go on a group hike or meet at a different park that isn’t as busy.

If you rely on Duke playing with other dogs for exercise multiple days each week, you can look into doggy day care facilities that offer play groups. Do your research first – Duke should be matched up with dogs who have a similar play style rather than thrown into a large group of mixed personalities. To give you an idea, some dogs play like sumo wrestlers while others prefer a game of tag.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that while Duke may enjoy playing with other dogs, we’ve domesticated dogs (over many, many years) to be our companions. He might enjoy play time with you and a new tug toy just as much as a romp at the park.

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