Question: My dog is a really sweet dog, but he doesn’t like being around other dogs. He’s not a mean dog; he just has no interest in playing with them. He would rather hang out by my side if we go to a dog park. How do I get him to engage with other dogs?
Answer: Most people who contact dog trainers WISH they had a dog that would focus more on them then on other dogs. They pay good money to get that sort of control. Since your dog naturally gives you attention over other dogs you are actually quite lucky!
If he isn’t interested in playing, then it’s obviously not as important to him as it is to you. I wouldn’t try to force the issue. Instead, try to find things that he likes to do. Perhaps you teach him to catch a Frisbee or fetch a tennis ball. Playing games like this will always enhance your relationship with your dog.
If he is the athletic type, you can enroll him in to a dog sport class like agility or rally obedience. These are often fun for the dog and fun for the owners. You can even purchase mobile agility equipment if you have a big enough back yard to practice in, or make some on your own. Just make sure he is good health before starting this type of exercise. You wouldn’t want to put stress on his body if he has any health problems.
If he’s not exactly excited about physical activity like that, then maybe you can try teaching him to track with his nose. Dogs have an overwhelmingly powerful nose and get a real mental workout by trying to find objects. Some dogs are naturally great at it, and some need a little guidance in getting started. Either way, it’s extremely rewarding for the dog.
If you find he just really wants to be with you and lacks interest in other activities, then go for long hikes with him off leash. Allow him to move freely but still be with you. All dogs have different personalities, but I wouldn’t be too worried if he doesn’t show signs of enjoyment in the things that you want him to. Instead, try finding the things that make him wag!