Should I intervene in puppy play?
I have 2 German Shepherds; a 10 month old female named Heidi and a 13 week old male named Zakk.
Heidi has always been a really gentle, friendly pup and absolutely adores Zakk. Zakk obviously loves her too and spends most of his time with her.
My question is around their rumbles. Zakk seems to get a bit fired up at times and I'm not sure whether I should be stepping in or letting them sort it out themselves (have been doing this so far). Heidi plays nice and will lie down and let him climb on top, the problem is that when he gets on top he seems to change a bit - his nose crinkles up and he sounds quite savage... well as savage as a 13 week old pup can :) He obviously can't really damage her yet and when he does hurt her with the needles he calls teeth, she just stands up which knocks him over and continues on with the game. He does get a bit rough at times when he is not on top trying to pin her down too. It seems that if she gets a bit much for him, rather than yelping and stepping away like most puppies, he fires up and attempts to hurt her back - she would never deliberately hurt him but is over twice his size so accidents happen.
I was expecting her to correct him... basically tell him off for playing too rough. I have had multiple dogs before (always a female first and male second) and in previous cases the female has always told the pup what's allowed and what isn't. Maybe I got him while she was still a bit too young to take on this role?... either way it's a bit late to change that now.
Right from the start he would steal treats from her, and try to take over her food bowl when he had finished his dinner (she let him). I did step in here and now he knows that he has to wait until she has also finished eating before he can go and lick her bowl. Occasionally he will still grab a treat from her but when I take it back off him, he accepts that and just eats his own.
I'm in 2 minds about the play though.
1.) I ignore it and let them sort it out - Heidi needs to learn to either end the game or tell him off when things get too rough. I'm not always going to be here to do something about it due to work, so she needs to take control. Even if she was putting him in his place now, Zakk will eventually be top dog... he's going to be bigger and her personality is definitely more wanting to be a pack member than leader... so do I just let him take top position now?
2.) I pull him off and correct him. He's getting towards the age where he'll be going to the dog park in a few weeks and I don't want to see him trying this type of play with dogs he doesn't know. I am also a little concerned that if this keeps up the way it is going, he will hurt her when he gets bigger.
I don't think he is an evil puppy, he just doesn't realise that he shouldn't be playing at the level he is. At puppy preschool he was quiet for the most part, kept by me for the first couple of weeks and just watched the other dogs play without getting involved himself. He did come out of his shell in the last couple of lessons and was fine with all the other puppies.. bar one; a cattle dog that had been going round humping all the other pups each week. Zakk seemed to realise he was bigger so everytime he saw that going on, he would head over and knock the cattle dog over and hump him... which even the cattle dogs owners found amusing to watch.
Anyway, just figured I'd ask if anyone had suggestions on the best way to deal with it? Or am I just worrying about nothing? It's been a long time since I had 2 puppies so maybe I just don't remember the other males getting this feisty. If I should be correcting it, I'd rather start now than later.
Most of their play is nice... Both lying down, with a quiet whine going while they softly mouth each other.
As I said, maybe I'm worrying about nothing. I'm just after a few opinions on whether I should be watching it, or if this is pretty standard for a puppy of his age.
my boys will pin each other. body slam. jump on each other. I mostly posted that for the sound effects - my neighbors are always convinced they are trying to kill each other!
if he gets too wild, just give him a little time to calm down. maybe even burn off some energy another way before letting them play together. I've never had two dogs that close in age - too much work for me! lol
Haha!! Yeah, my sister has a couple and the neighbours came round one day to tell her that that her dogs were trying to kill each other while she was at work. While that conversation was happening, the dogs were playing and the neighbour says "see, they're doing it now!".
My sister pointed out they were playing and neither of them had ever had a mark on them.
I'm sure mine will be fine. I just might take over the teaching of what is too rough because my females not doing it. She's obviously not taking offense to it because she can't get enough of him... doesn't even like going for walks without him.
2 young dogs is a lot of work... but it's a lot of fun at the same time =)
what you don't see is that she IS teaching him! When she has enough she stands up and changes the game. Teaching him how far that he can go. She knows that he is a baby "if he's on top of me, all I have to do is stand up and *poof* he falls off" The fact that she continues the game just signals that he hasn't been annoying enough that she wants him to quit.
Kind of like when a toddler starts banging his toy car on the floor and you say "like this" and show him how to roll it on the ground.
When he comes back at her like you described, that means that she ISN'T being a bit much for him. He's just escalating the game.
At his age, he isn't "more dominant" than her. She is being tolerant of the baby. Just because you let a 2year old take a cookie off your plate doesn't mean that he's going to rule the house when he grows up. It means that he is a baby and you don't care that he takes a cookie. Later, when he is older, you might say "Kid, this is my cookie. get your own"
it's pretty easy to teach them if you don't want them to play this way. Just step in and distract them to something else. They soon learn what is appropriate and what is not.
I'll use my dogs to illustrate even though Rayden was 7 when we brought Singe home. Rayden let Singe crawl all over him and bite his ears and play rough. If it got out of control, he would stand up. If he had had enough, he would simply walk away. If Singe followed, Rayden would pick him up, bring him to me and drop him on the floor. Of course, being an old bachelor, Rayden carried him by his head :)
When he got older, the game changed. Instead of standing up, Rayden would take a paw and push him to the ground, hold him there for a second and Singe would play nicer. If Singe didn't get the hint, Rayden would look at me and grumble and if Singe still didn't take the hint, he would take it a step farther and bark and tell him off.
There was never a doubt about when the game had gone too far. Rayden was just more tolerant of a baby than he was of a teenager.
Maybe she's just being a bit more subtle about it than I expected. It'll be interesting to watch the change as he gets a bit older.
The behaviour you described is more what I was expecting to see now... but as you said maybe it will start in the future.
Now I think about it, I can remember a moment from my last dogs that was similar to what I'm seeing now - The puppy was hanging off my females cheek and she just looked at my and gave a very human like smile and shrug of the shoulders and let him continue. She definitely did teach him the boundaries, so that must have started a bit later on.
I think I am just being a bit paranoid about the whole thing. Everyone advised I waited until Heidi was at least 2 before getting the second pup... but of course, I knew better =). So I've been keeping a very close eye on them to try to make sure nothing goes wrong.
I really don't mind them playing rough... as long as they are both comfortable with it and it doesn't escalate any further than play.
the reason that people encourage you to wait is that you want to keep young puppies as separate as possible. Otherwise, they bond more strongly with each other than with you.
So it would be encouraged that you limit their playtime together anyway and keep them away from each other for all but a short period every day.
Also, you have to remember that she is a baby herself. So what she is willing to put up with is going to be a lot rougher than an older, more settled dog might want to do.
I'll have to keep an eye on that. At this stage it is very much all about me. As i said I've had 2 dogs before, my parents, sister and friends do and in every case the dogs have got on really well but were more bonded with us than each other... but it's worth watching out for.
And yes, it's hard to remember how young she is sometimes. She'd have to be pretty close to full grown and was generally quite sensible before he turned up... watching them get into mischief together has highlighted that she's still a puppy though.
2 dogs that are well apart in age will each bond with their owner more than each other without a lot of extra efforts.
2 dogs that are at the same "stage" will bond more easily with each other, sometimes to the point of ignoring their owner when the dogs are together and panicking if they are away from each other.
I think it's because that, being close in age, they have so much more in common with each other and can meet each other's need for play and socialization. Where an older dog will already be firmly bonded with their owner more than other canines. Kind of like the different relationship between siblings who are a couple years apart vs a set of twins. :)
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