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Old June 6th, 2011, 02:55 PM
Doggiedose Doggiedose is offline
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Puppy and Adult Dog Play - What's normal?

Hello,

I have a 3.5 year old male boxer and an 11 week old female boxer, and am just wondering if how they play is "normal" and/or if I should be stepping in when things seem to be a bit chaotic?

There are a few things that they often do when playing together:

1. The older boxer will look like he's grabbing a toy and when the puppy comes near him, he starts to growl (no hackles up) and or bark in a high-pitched voice (while his head is still down near the toy).
2. The puppy will often pounce on the adult boxer's face and grab his jowls with her teeth - she sometimes growls while doing this and/or shakes her head. (She has actually caused scabs to form on the adult dog's neck.)
3. The puppy will get really vocal - sounds like she's growling like the Tasmanian Devil, and jumps/pounces all over the adult.
4. The puppy will often bite the adult boxer's back legs.

For the most part, the adult boxer will take whatever the puppy gives him. He's pretty easy-going, although he sometimes stands over her and "puck-handles" her (paws at her and pushes her around a little). I feel bad for him and think that I should step in and stop it, but I also wonder if it's better for them to just work it out. If I leave it to them, is there a chance the puppy will be aggressive as she gets bigger and older? If I jump in to stop it, am I messing up the pecking order?

If I should stop it, what techniques are best? Right now the puppy doesn't really listen to what I'm telling her (puppy classes start later this week).

Thanks in advance!
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Old June 13th, 2011, 06:52 AM
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Anyone have any advice/info on this subject? I am living a similar experience here with Zoey and Raggsy and though I don't think Zoey minds any of the behaviours I am concerned that Raggsy (as a puppy) should be called off when she is biting at Zoey's jowls/legs or is it OK to leave it.

Don't want to have a horror story on my hands in a few months.

Zoey is 6 and Raggsy is about 8-10mths old.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 08:15 AM
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In our experience, a well-adjusted older dog will eventually correct the youngster when the pup is getting out of hand. It often looks and sounds horrible when the correction comes--typically, the adult will sound ferocious and Puppy will sound like he's being torn limb from limb and probably scoot out of the room. However, when you track down Puppy, there isn't a mark on him. We finally learned to expect the showdown and we don't interfere when the adult finally lays down the law. In our experience, the correction doesn't last more than a few seconds before Puppy gets the point and submits.

Until it happens, as long as the adult and the pup are playing peacefully at this point--no hackles, no real anger from the adult--then the relationship is going well, even if the play gets rough. After the correction, you'll still see a lot of teeth and of body-blocking when they're playing, but because Puppy has gotten that critical "back off, Brat!!" correction, they now know what's acceptable.

That doesn't mean that if you're uncomfortable with how rough it's getting, even if they're having a blast, that you shouldn't separate them and train them to calm down on command. If things are getting too loud or rowdy or you notice scrapes, then by all means break it up. Puppies need to learn what's acceptable in the dog world, but also what your limits are.

Our rules are that they don't play rough in the house (with some success but not 100% compliance ). Outside we watch them in case tempers flare, but usually we let them choose their own level of play. The one exception is Lil Belle, who has chronic Lyme's and a bad back--she's a tomboy and loves to egg the others one, but then runs to Mom for protection when they get too rough. If any of the dogs look like they need 'rescuing', we generally wade in to calm things down.

Does any of that help?
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Old June 13th, 2011, 09:34 AM
Longblades Longblades is offline
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I have found as Hazel. I actually checked my dog for piercings when my sister's puppy was little. LOL As puppy got older she lost her "puppy license" and my boy began to be a little rougher with her. He'd take his big mitt, knock her down and hold her down with his jaws around her little neck. Once she stopped squirming he'd let her up and she'd go right back at him again. The only one who ever got hurt (we heard the odd yelp as razor sharp teeth met his ears) was my older, bigger dog but he was only one year old himself so we did not intervene. We did not let my puppy play with my sister's 15 year old though.

What's really funny now is my dog hasn't grasped that he can no longer knock Sis's dog down with one swipe of his paw. He doesn't seem to realize she's nearly as big as him now. Silly boy.

ETA:
Quote:
If I leave it to them, is there a chance the puppy will be aggressive as she gets bigger and older?
My expericence is exactly the other way around. Your older dog, as mine did, will soon tell the puppy off and I think that's the best way for them to learn how to properly interact with other dogs. It's not aggression so much as not knowing what the limits are. You can interrupt them, you'll probably have to, to save valuable items of furniture, but leaving them to it is the way I like best for that lesson to be learned.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 11:10 AM
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MyBirdIsEvil MyBirdIsEvil is offline
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In addition to the above, I think it kind of depends on the dogs themselves. Some dogs just play much rougher than others.

My malamute mix and her sister will get extremely loud and growly during play, grab each others necks and shake back and forth, snap at each other etc.. But neither of them take offense to the behavior. They've never gotten in a fight before. If one becomes a bit rough the other will yelp in pain which temporarily stops play. The one that got too rough will lick the other on the head and then they'll resume play again. As long as your dogs stayed with their mother and litter for an appropriate amount of time to learn proper play and socialization with other dogs, this should be about how it goes.
If one dog yelps in pain and the other keeps going, then you should stop the play yourself temporarily. Eventually if puppy becomes too rough and won't catch on the adult will correct him, like the others said.
Quote:
1. The older boxer will look like he's grabbing a toy and when the puppy comes near him, he starts to growl (no hackles up) and or bark in a high-pitched voice (while his head is still down near the toy).
As far as the above, it's kind of hard to determine based on description whether the older dog is trying to elicit the younger to play with the toy with him, or guarding the toy.
I'd say supervise this behavior and if the older dog seems to actually start to become possessive (growling with hackles up, trying to keep the toy away from puppy aggressively, running away with toy with head down and growling, or blocking the toy with objects (like standing in the corner) so the puppy can't get to it and growling etc.) then the toy needs to be removed from the situation. Make sure not to take the toy away from the adult and give it to the puppy since this can make possessive behavior worse, simply remove the toy altogether.
Unfortunately some dogs are so possessive they cannot be left around other dogs with toys present, or sometimes it's just one specific toy or type of toy that elicits the response. Or they may only behave this way with the toy when in a certain place, like in the house. Like with my Bheka, there's a specific type of sheep toy that she'll guard ferociously from other dogs (she will give it to me willingly...if the dog becomes protective of the item with YOU that's more of a worry), so I only let her have that by herself, but all other toys she behaves normally with.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 11:43 AM
Doggiedose Doggiedose is offline
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Originally Posted by hazelrunpack View Post
In our experience, a well-adjusted older dog will eventually correct the youngster when the pup is getting out of hand. It often looks and sounds horrible when the correction comes--typically, the adult will sound ferocious and Puppy will sound like he's being torn limb from limb and probably scoot out of the room. However, when you track down Puppy, there isn't a mark on him. We finally learned to expect the showdown and we don't interfere when the adult finally lays down the law. In our experience, the correction doesn't last more than a few seconds before Puppy gets the point and submits.

Until it happens, as long as the adult and the pup are playing peacefully at this point--no hackles, no real anger from the adult--then the relationship is going well, even if the play gets rough. After the correction, you'll still see a lot of teeth and of body-blocking when they're playing, but because Puppy has gotten that critical "back off, Brat!!" correction, they now know what's acceptable.

That doesn't mean that if you're uncomfortable with how rough it's getting, even if they're having a blast, that you shouldn't separate them and train them to calm down on command. If things are getting too loud or rowdy or you notice scrapes, then by all means break it up. Puppies need to learn what's acceptable in the dog world, but also what your limits are.

Our rules are that they don't play rough in the house (with some success but not 100% compliance ). Outside we watch them in case tempers flare, but usually we let them choose their own level of play. The one exception is Lil Belle, who has chronic Lyme's and a bad back--she's a tomboy and loves to egg the others one, but then runs to Mom for protection when they get too rough. If any of the dogs look like they need 'rescuing', we generally wade in to calm things down.

Does any of that help?
Hi Hazel,

Yes, this is very helpful! Thanks so much. Since I posted the original thread, my adult dog has corrected the pup once. He was lying on the floor (trying to cool down) and the pup climbed on his back - he gave one loud "woof" and the pup jumped back in shock (I was surprised too! ). After that they fell asleep and their play has been "normal" ever since.

I have to admit that I'm still nervous about the sounds they make and watching them play, although it seems like it's normal - something I'll have to get used to. I've been told that Boxers play rough and can be quite vocal. I've noticed once or twice my adult boxer's hackles up, but I believe it's out of excitement and trying to goad the little one into playing and not an intention to do harm.

Any tips on how to safely separate them when playing? If I put my hand/arm in between I'm a bit concerned about being the target. And, once they're separated they usually just head right back for each other. I don't mind crating the pup on occasion but don't want to always feel like I'm rushing to lock her up (I'm starting to crate her for an hour after eating because they keep wanting to play and I don't want them to get bloat).

Also, yesterday for the first time I saw the adult grab the little one by her neck and shake his head - I've seen the pup do it to him and figure that at her current size (15 pounds) vs. his (74 pounds) she won't do much harm to him, but is it likely the adult will hurt her? For the most part he's quite gentle with her, but I thought that's how they killed their prey, by shaking them by the neck? (We did tell him to back off, by the way.)
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Old June 13th, 2011, 11:48 AM
Doggiedose Doggiedose is offline
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Originally Posted by Longblades View Post
I have found as Hazel. I actually checked my dog for piercings when my sister's puppy was little. LOL As puppy got older she lost her "puppy license" and my boy began to be a little rougher with her. He'd take his big mitt, knock her down and hold her down with his jaws around her little neck. Once she stopped squirming he'd let her up and she'd go right back at him again. The only one who ever got hurt (we heard the odd yelp as razor sharp teeth met his ears) was my older, bigger dog but he was only one year old himself so we did not intervene. We did not let my puppy play with my sister's 15 year old though.

What's really funny now is my dog hasn't grasped that he can no longer knock Sis's dog down with one swipe of his paw. He doesn't seem to realize she's nearly as big as him now. Silly boy.

ETA: My expericence is exactly the other way around. Your older dog, as mine did, will soon tell the puppy off and I think that's the best way for them to learn how to properly interact with other dogs. It's not aggression so much as not knowing what the limits are. You can interrupt them, you'll probably have to, to save valuable items of furniture, but leaving them to it is the way I like best for that lesson to be learned.
Thanks Longblades. I'm not used to having two dogs at once, and am still trying to figure out what's normal and what's not. I really appreciate your thoughts, and I'm really glad to hear from your experience that this play didn't lead to aggression - that's one of my biggest fears, that I won't step in when I should and the puppy will end up not learning what's appropriate and how to be "polite" and obedient and will end up being the opposite! I'll have to remind myself that this all is normal (seemingly, anyways).
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Old June 13th, 2011, 11:50 AM
Doggiedose Doggiedose is offline
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Originally Posted by MyBirdIsEvil View Post
In addition to the above, I think it kind of depends on the dogs themselves. Some dogs just play much rougher than others.

My malamute mix and her sister will get extremely loud and growly during play, grab each others necks and shake back and forth, snap at each other etc.. But neither of them take offense to the behavior. They've never gotten in a fight before. If one becomes a bit rough the other will yelp in pain which temporarily stops play. The one that got too rough will lick the other on the head and then they'll resume play again. As long as your dogs stayed with their mother and litter for an appropriate amount of time to learn proper play and socialization with other dogs, this should be about how it goes.
If one dog yelps in pain and the other keeps going, then you should stop the play yourself temporarily. Eventually if puppy becomes too rough and won't catch on the adult will correct him, like the others said.


As far as the above, it's kind of hard to determine based on description whether the older dog is trying to elicit the younger to play with the toy with him, or guarding the toy.
I'd say supervise this behavior and if the older dog seems to actually start to become possessive (growling with hackles up, trying to keep the toy away from puppy aggressively, running away with toy with head down and growling, or blocking the toy with objects (like standing in the corner) so the puppy can't get to it and growling etc.) then the toy needs to be removed from the situation. Make sure not to take the toy away from the adult and give it to the puppy since this can make possessive behavior worse, simply remove the toy altogether.
Unfortunately some dogs are so possessive they cannot be left around other dogs with toys present, or sometimes it's just one specific toy or type of toy that elicits the response. Or they may only behave this way with the toy when in a certain place, like in the house. Like with my Bheka, there's a specific type of sheep toy that she'll guard ferociously from other dogs (she will give it to me willingly...if the dog becomes protective of the item with YOU that's more of a worry), so I only let her have that by herself, but all other toys she behaves normally with.
Thanks for sharing your experience - nice to know my dogs aren't the only ones that are quite vocal and rambunctious!

As for the high-pitched barking and growling near toys, I'm pretty sure the adult is just trying to get the little one's attention - he doesn't seem to be displaying any possessiveness (thank God). Yesterday I gave each of them a kong with some peanut butter and of course each had to check out the other one's kong, and I kept an eye on them to see what would happen and there was no growling, barking, tooth-baring, etc. So far so good!
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Old June 13th, 2011, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Doggiedose View Post
Any tips on how to safely separate them when playing? If I put my hand/arm in between I'm a bit concerned about being the target. And, once they're separated they usually just head right back for each other. I don't mind crating the pup on occasion but don't want to always feel like I'm rushing to lock her up (I'm starting to crate her for an hour after eating because they keep wanting to play and I don't want them to get bloat).
In my experience, dogs tend to pull their punches when they're playing--especially if they're playing with pups. In all the years we've had multiple dogs, I've never been punctured accidentally during play, even if I somehow managed to get my hand in someone's mouth while separating dogs. The risk of injury goes up, of course, if you're breaking up a fight instead of over-rambunctious play.

As long as it's play, though, just getting between them should do it until you can get them responsive to a command like Settle. You can grab a collar in each hand if you need to and separate them that way. If you can't handle both, then go for Puppy--your older dog is more likely to listen to you when Puppy might still not know what you're asking for. (LOL And if that doesn't work well, switch it up and go for Big Guy first. In this case, whatever works )

Even now, with all our dogs grown up, I don't hesitate to wade into the fray with body blocks or get my hands into the mix if the play is getting a little too wild. It really is amazing how much they pull their punches when they're playing...

Some good commands to teach your dogs at this point are 'Settle' and 'Gentle'. Another thing I found useful is hand commands--if you don't use hand signals already, begin associating the verbal command of 'stay' with a particular gesture. Then, while you're dealing with Puppy and getting her under control with collar and voice, you can give your older dog the hand signal to stay. All our voice commands are reinforced with hand signals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doggiedose View Post
Also, yesterday for the first time I saw the adult grab the little one by her neck and shake his head - I've seen the pup do it to him and figure that at her current size (15 pounds) vs. his (74 pounds) she won't do much harm to him, but is it likely the adult will hurt her? For the most part he's quite gentle with her, but I thought that's how they killed their prey, by shaking them by the neck? (We did tell him to back off, by the way.)
IMO, you did the right thing. This is the type of behavior we discourage, as well. Once puppy is larger, it's not so critical if they want to scruff each other, but if your larger dog gets carried away with excitement, he might accidentally hurt her doing this.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 03:24 PM
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In my experience, dogs tend to pull their punches when they're playing--especially if they're playing with pups. In all the years we've had multiple dogs, I've never been punctured accidentally during play
I agree there. I've gotten bruises from Bheka from her teeth smacking into me (and from her stepping on me, running into me, etc...the dangers of floppy 100+ lb dogs ), but never any punctures and none of my dogs have bitten down.

The only time I'm worried is if I break up an actual fight (though I'm careful to keep hands away from mouthes), and even then I've rarely been bitten (knock on wood). They seem to be way more focused on going for each other in those situations. The few times I've been bitten it was actually by very small dogs like min-pins, where they tend to flail around a lot, be really squirmy and just snap at everything, and no matter where you grab on a little dog their mouth isn't very far away.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 06:19 PM
Doggiedose Doggiedose is offline
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IMO, you did the right thing. This is the type of behavior we discourage, as well. Once puppy is larger, it's not so critical if they want to scruff each other, but if your larger dog gets carried away with excitement, he might accidentally hurt her doing this.

Thanks again...that's what I was thinking. I get really nervous in these situations. I can't wait for the puppy to be bigger so that the play seems more even (although that may seem scarier because they'll both be big then, lol).
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Old June 13th, 2011, 06:21 PM
Doggiedose Doggiedose is offline
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Originally Posted by MyBirdIsEvil View Post
I agree there. I've gotten bruises from Bheka from her teeth smacking into me (and from her stepping on me, running into me, etc...the dangers of floppy 100+ lb dogs ), but never any punctures and none of my dogs have bitten down.

The only time I'm worried is if I break up an actual fight (though I'm careful to keep hands away from mouthes), and even then I've rarely been bitten (knock on wood). They seem to be way more focused on going for each other in those situations. The few times I've been bitten it was actually by very small dogs like min-pins, where they tend to flail around a lot, be really squirmy and just snap at everything, and no matter where you grab on a little dog their mouth isn't very far away.
Good to know. I think I'm picturing the little one nipping at me more than the adult. The pup is more of a biter right now - the adult is better about just mouthing at her. A couple of times when I've picked up the pup to remove her from the garden or other places she shouldn't be she's tried to nip at me, which I don't love.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 11:06 PM
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MyBirdIsEvil MyBirdIsEvil is offline
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Originally Posted by Doggiedose View Post
Good to know. I think I'm picturing the little one nipping at me more than the adult. The pup is more of a biter right now - the adult is better about just mouthing at her. A couple of times when I've picked up the pup to remove her from the garden or other places she shouldn't be she's tried to nip at me, which I don't love.
Most likely that's just a playful thing that she will grow out of and learn not to do as you train her. Puppies tend to be really nippy, and I'm always happy when they grow out of that stage. Most of them will try to nip when they're in excited state (i.e. getting into something they shouldn't ) and you go to pick them up, but that shouldn't be mistaken for aggression. As they learn not to be nippy with people during play that will generally stop, plus they just tend to use their mouth less as they mature.
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Old June 16th, 2011, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Doggiedose View Post
Any tips on how to safely separate them when playing? If I put my hand/arm in between I'm a bit concerned about being the target. And, once they're separated they usually just head right back for each other. I don't mind crating the pup on occasion but don't want to always feel like I'm rushing to lock her up (I'm starting to crate her for an hour after eating because they keep wanting to play and I don't want them to get bloat).

Also, yesterday for the first time I saw the adult grab the little one by her neck and shake his head - I've seen the pup do it to him and figure that at her current size (15 pounds) vs. his (74 pounds) she won't do much harm to him, but is it likely the adult will hurt her? For the most part he's quite gentle with her, but I thought that's how they killed their prey, by shaking them by the neck? (We did tell him to back off, by the way.)
You're doing great. It's a bit disconcerting sometimes they get riled up and excited. I have a pair of 1 year old sisters who have at least 20 rounds of puppy gladiator fights a day

The reality is that, like any playground, play fighting can occasionally escalate to real fighting. Or maybe one of the dogs is dealing with a sore hip/healing injury/sickness or something that would have her feeling not up to play fighting while the other dog is raring to go. You want to be able to break them up with confidence without having to lay your hands on them.

I regularly break up my girls' play fights. I've made it part of their play. I usually let them wrestle for a few minutes (often adding in commentary from the sidelines) then I clap my hands to get their attention and they usually break contract and sit pretty. If they don't immediately stop, I'll body block my way between them and loom over each individually until she sits. No eye contact, no cue. Then I give her a 'good girl' and do the same with the other.

I wait for them to calm down and then I announce "Round 2" and they continue on with their play fights. It helps teach them to calm down and prevents play fighting from escalating into real fighting.

It took about a week of training and conditioning to get them to do this but it's been a really helpful tool in keeping things under control. Of course, in the beginning, I gave verbal and hand cues (sit and stay) for what I expected from them but after a while, they figured out the routine. I think they actually have come to expect me to interrupt their fighting. Everynow and then, I'll let them go for a while and they'll slow down and stop fighting and both will look at me as if to say, "Mom? Aren't you going to breat this up?"

Ultimately in the end, I maintain control and for the girls, the play fighting is itself the reward for stopping when I ask and calming down on their own. It's a win-win situation.
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