The Bulldogs moved to the AFL’s new stadium at Docklands in 2000, and played the first AFL game under a roof. In Round 21, they inflicted the only defeat for the 2000 season on eventual premiers Essendon and finished eighth, after losing the elimination final to Brisbane in captain Scott Wynd’s last game. Scott West was runner up in the Brownlow Medal.
In 2001, the Bulldogs missed the finals for the first time since 1996. A consortium won the television rights to broadcast games during 2002–06, committing to a 16-team competition and tipping in $500 million over five years, securing the future of existing clubs.
Terry Wallace announced he was stepping down as coach one week before the end of the 2002 season. Peter Rohde became senior coach but the Dogs’ form fell away dramatically in 2003–04. The only bonus from the 2003 wooden-spoon season, in which captain Chris Grant went down with a season-ending knee injury in Round 1, was the drafting of Adam Cooney. Chief executive, Campbell Rose, was instrumental in gaining a multi-million dollar federal government grant, kick-starting funding to transform the Whitten Oval precinct into a premier sporting and community hub by the end of the decade.
The Bulldogs, under new coach Rodney Eade, made a late season run to miss the 2005 finals by half a game and Scott West won his third consecutive best and fairest (making a total of seven; a club record).
In 2006, Chris Grant played his 330th game, breaking the club games record and, for the second year running, a knee injury ended captain Luke Darcy’s season. Despite a run of injuries, the Bulldogs made the finals – defeating Collingwood in the elimination final before losing to eventual premiers, West Coast, in the semi-final. That game was the 300th for Rohan Smith (playing his last game) and Scott West who was runner-up in the Brownlow Medal for the second time.
Jason Akermanis was a big-name recruit in 2007 but the Dogs’ season petered out, with injuries a major factor. Luke Darcy and Chris Grant retired at season’s end, Grant as the games record holder.
The Elite Learning Centre, the first phase of the club’s $31 million redevelopment of Whitten Oval, opened in 2008 and, by the end of 2009, the redevelopment was near completion. In 2008 and 2009, with players like Brad Johnson (who played his 300th game in 2008), Ryan Griffen, Daniel Cross, Matthew Boyd, Brian Lake, Lindsay Gilbee, Daniel Giansiracusa, Dale Morris, Robert Murphy, Ryan Hargrave and 2008 Brownlow Medallist, Adam Cooney, the Bulldogs played the first two of three preliminary finals, coming closest to a win against St Kilda in 2009, when defeated by only 7 points. The Western Bulldogs led the first half but a free kick in favour of St Kilda before the ball was bounced to begin the second half changed the course of the game.
The 30,000 membership barrier was broken in 2009. Consolidating the club’s base in the west, record membership was achieved in seven seasons under David Smorgon’s continuing presidency. Club frontiers were extended by the playing of a home game annually in Darwin from 2004 and in Canberra from 2007.