How to curb very rough play biting?
Hello all! My husband and I have recently adopted Layla, a three-year-old female German Shepherd, who is a littermate of our of our male Shepherd, Loki. The two dogs are utterly delighted with each other's company and have very rapidly bonded. They kiss, cuddle, and groom each other, eat and drink from the same bowls, sleep on the same bed, and and are frisky and playful with each other. Neither dog has shown hostility, irritability, jealousy, or aggression toward the other. Both dogs are fixed. My husband and I have gently, but firmly and consistently, let both dogs know that we two humans are the alphas, and all has worked out very well thus far.
We do however, have one problem with Layla: very rough play biting with Loki. When playing inside or romping outside, Layla will grab one of Loki's hind legs, front legs, or the scruff of his neck. Loki generally growls, gives her a warning nip or nudge, and trots off, which stops her unwelcome behavior. My husband and I also curb her play biting with a firm "No bite!" command when we are all in close proximity, and she is instantly, sweetly compliant. However, when we take both dogs to a park or other large open spaces for their daily run, Layla play bites and/or tackles Loki in an extremely rough manner when he runs after the ball my husband throws for him. (Layla has no interest in the ball, just Loki.) Because the two dogs are quite a distance away from us when this happens, Layla ignores our efforts from afar to stop her play biting, and Loki concentrates on his ball rather than putting Layla in her place.
We now must walk Layla on a short leash while Loki goes after his ball, but we would very much like Layla to run freely with Loki, for they do love to race together, and it is exhilerating exercise for both dogs -- until Layla goes into her "grab-the-Loki" mode. Is it possible to alter Layla's behavior? Would temporary use of a humane muzzle on Layla during these exercise sessions help her change, or would that only be a stop-gap measure or perhaps make her even more aggressive? In addition, we want to begin socializing Layla with other dogs in our neighborhood, but obviously play dates with our little tomboy are out of the question at present! She does like other people and dogs (except very small, shrill dogs) and is a very sweet, intelligent, lovable dog who wants to please us. Any advice would be very much appreciated!