Imagine yourself as a social child, eager to be entering school for the first time. All of these new classmates running around are seen as potential new friends. On the playground, anyone can join in the fun and games. Your world has opened up and you have begun to learn and grow – together.
As you grow and mature through adolescence, you start becoming more selective of your friends. Not every kid in class is invited to your birthday parties anymore. Groups are formed and become more tight knit. You used to play with one particular classmate all the time when you started school, but now you enjoy the swings and they enjoy the slides. They like to run and yell and you prefer to relax in the quiet shade.
This same thing happens with our social puppies. They may be well socialized and love playing with anyone and everyone, but as they age, they are more likely to start being more selective of who they want as a play partner. A more mature dog may now be less tolerant of an exuberant, bouncy puppy who doesn’t always listen to the “rules of the game”. Perhaps they take more frequent breaks and have shorter play sessions. Maybe they would just rather be home taking a nap. They are not alone as this is not an uncommon transition and is not abnormal.
Although some dogs may retain their puppy-like social openness, it is more likely that your dog will become more dog selective with their interactions. Imagine yourself as a 40 year old attending a 21 year old’s birthday outing. You may still have fun socializing, but you may start to get overwhelmed by the constant high energy of the crowd. The loud music that you used to dance to is now starting to bother your ears. Suddenly, “party all night” turns into a few hours and you are beat.
How do we know when daycare isn’t fun for our dogs anymore?
The best way to determine this is by regularly checking in and listening to what the daycare staff has to say. They can paint a picture of your dog’s daily routine. They may have seen your dog go from a bouncy puppy to a quiet recluse who would rather hang out with the staff. They may have noticed that after a few hours, your pup would rather snooze than continue playing. It’s possible your dog may even be getting a little snippy with the younger pups. Do they prefer one or two playmates and would do better with a playdate?
Consulting with the staff is the best way to get a clear picture of your dog’s behavior while at daycare. They can help you determine whether a dog may be better suited to attend fewer days, shorter periods of time, or not at all.
If you find that your dog isn’t enjoying daycare anymore don’t be dismayed there are other options. You can cut down the days or hours they attend. You can set up playdates with known doggie friends! Perhaps keep your dog at home and hire a dog walker for individualized time. If you can, pop in mid-day and start making your lunch breaks special time for you and your dog. No matter what option you choose, you are choosing to listen to your dog’s individual needs and doing what is best for them.