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Is it playing or fighting? How do I know? Help!

March 7th, 2008, 09:22 AM
So I am suffering from new puppy blues.
If you read my prevoius thread, I recently adopted a new puppy from a local shelter. We already had 1 dog who just turned a year old.

One of the reason we really wanted to get another dog is because our one year old dog absolutely loves other dogs. But heres where the problem is: She is insanely rough with the new puppy.

My older dog weighs 45 pounds, and the new puppy is 3 months old and weighs 15 pounds. When they play, the older dog inevitably flips the puppy upside down, pins him with her arms, and starts biting him. Its "friendly" biting as she doesnt actually bite down and is more just mouthing, but eventually it gets way too rough for the puppy.

At first, he would sort of yelp and we would pull them apart and things would be ok again. The problem is that over the past few days, he has started to get more and more aggressive. He now lunges at her, teeth barred and sort of growling. The growling is getting more and more pronounced. His teeth are usually bared a little because thats how they had been playing, but he seems more like he's fighting her than playing with her

She is big enough that she still does what she normally does and doesnt seem to mind. Her tail is still wagging and she still seems to be having a great time.

But how do I know if the puppy is getting aggressive or defensive? It "looks" like playing most of the time, but sometimes it really seems like hes just attacking her out of fear. I dont want to end up turning 2 sweet, dog friendly dogs into 2 problem dogs.

When they are both exhausted or in the morning after waking up, they both sleep together and drink together and eat from the same bowl. Its just the other times that are the problems.

We've tried excercising the older dog more and more (Im talking multi-hour walks and playtime in the backyard) but its like she has another source of energy for playing with the puppy. She can be walk-exhausted and still wrestle way too roughly with him.

What should I do? Do I split them up a lot more? keep her on a leash when they are playing? Are they even playing anymore, or is he fighting and she still playing?

March 7th, 2008, 09:39 AM
Geoff I wouldn't be too concerned. If the little devil gets too rough your female will put him in his place. Pretty much normal behavior from the sounds of it. He's just checking out his boundries. Come to my house I have a terrier who was putting a golden in his place, lol still does occassionally. Unless it looks like one of them is seriously trying to hurt the other let them sort it out.

March 7th, 2008, 09:49 AM
It's hard to tell from your description, but if there is no blood and the older dog isn't taking offense at the transgressions of the youngster, it sounds like it's just play. Dog play can get very vocal and rough, but it's still play. Are the hackles up? Are they standing off, baring teeth at each other?

This picture looks like a vicious attack to the uninitiated:


But it's actually fairly normal play around here.

I remember being a bit alarmed when Cass played with our two young pups. It looked so terribly rough! But now, looking at the DVDs from that time, I can pick up the signals and see how much she was pulling her punches.

Likely, the reason the pup has gotten more wild is that he's feeling more secure around your older dog. Your older dog was scary for a while, but then pup realized how he was pulling his punches--that gave him confidence and he wants to play harder. If he gets too rough, the older dog will let him know.

Watch them closely, paying close attention to the body posture. If the older dog disciplines the younger, don't get involved unless there's injury. If you're uncertain as to the dynamics, keep a spray bottle of half water/half vinegar handy. It's a safe way to break things up if they get out of hand.

Play is very important for them in figuring out their relative status. As I say, it's hard to tell without seeing it, but it doesn't sound on the surface like there's anything untoward going on.

March 7th, 2008, 10:11 AM
If I post a video, would that help? Its tough, because I've always been a 1 dog kind of family. I really "think" they are playing because once I break it up, theres no residual anger between the two. But its so hard to tell

March 7th, 2008, 10:25 AM
If I post a video, would that help? Its tough, because

I was just thinking while I was reading your post that it would be useful to see a video. All three of our dogs play extremely rough and it does sometimes get out of hand between the two females when they play outdoors (with today, actually, being the first day in 6 months that I didn't have to distract or separate them :thumbs up). There is a lot of growling and teeth baring while they are at play, but a lot of play bowing and goofiness so I know that for them it's normal. With time, I'm now able to differentiate the slight changes in the growling and posturing (with our male, it's just a "stare" he gives) to know when it's about to get out of hand so now I can successfully distract them before it does.

March 7th, 2008, 11:25 AM
I was thinking a video might be helpful, too....and then I remembered my dial-up and bad phone lines and didn't mention it. :o (hazel's modem and video just don't get along, geoff!)

But I think it would be very helpful if you posted one.

March 7th, 2008, 11:28 AM
If you can show us a video that would be excellent. Hazel i'll give you blow by blow descriptions. Oh by the way hazel your dogs are soooooo soft looking i have to come cuddle.