It’s natural for dog-moms & dads to think their older dogs should go to doggy day care to mingle with other dogs. While the intention is understandable, socializing older dogs with other dogs isn’t necessarily a great idea. Here’s an article from the Seattle Times in which Kathy Sdao, an animal trainer, shares her thoughts about day care centers for dogs:
First, day care is not appropriate for all dogs. Your dog isn’t defective if she doesn’t enjoy hanging out all day with a couple dozen rowdy teens. Many middle-aged or older dogs who have not previously had a variety of canine friends are unenthusiastic about suddenly going “clubbing.” Read the complete story here.
The Animal Humane Society agrees.
Dog-to-dog socialization is a frequently misunderstood concept. While puppies can be let loose together (in a structured, sanitary environment) to learn how to interact, the same practice can have detrimental effects on adult dogs. While there are always exceptions, socially mature dogs (between 1–3 years, depending on the breed) do not typically enjoy playing with large groups of unfamiliar dogs. They may either attempt to avoid the dogs, stand close to their human family or even growl and snap at boisterous young dogs that come too close to them. Such behavior is often misidentified as abnormal, when in fact it is quite common. Learn more from the Human Society about socializing older dogs.
While there are many blogs telling us how to socialize older dogs, there are just as many that indicate that not all dogs want to play with other dogs.
Note that health issues may affect a dog’s social comfort level.
I have a three-legged Siberian Husky who is friendly, but cautious with other dogs. She is also very submissive, especially with new, large dogs. This is a good protective mechanism that keeps other dogs from challenging, and overwhelming her.
Three legged dogs, seniors, and dogs with joint pain or other physical illness, will naturally feel more vulnerable. As such, they may perceive most things as threats, and respond with aggression to protect themselves.
It is crucial not to expose such dogs to overly stressful situations, and to always protect them from unwanted attention (dog and human). Read the entire story here.
If your older dog isn’t into mingling with other dogs, that’s okay. Don’t force him to do something he doesn’t like to do. If for some reason you think it’s critical that your old pet get along with other dogs, hire a reputable dog trainer with experience in socializing older dogs.