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Lily is almost 6 months old now and I am slightly concerned about her behavior with other dogs.

Everyday we go to a park where she and I will go for a 1/2 hour - 1 hour jog/walk through the nature trails and the she goes swimming. After swimming I take her to the dog park to play fetch, interact with the dogs (so long as I am comfortable with the dogs that are there), and to dry off.

Now I know that most will say stop taking her to the dog park - but at this current point we don't have another area where I can take Lily for off leash fetch. We only go when there are a few dogs there and only ones that I have watched behave well with others. I walk with Lily around the park and most often it really is just the two of us on one portion of the park playing fetch. I have no problem stepping up to a dog that I think is being rude or asking another owner to remove their dog or us leaving when the other dogs get riled up (even when Lily is not involved).

My concern is that Lily has two extremes when it comes to playing with the dogs. One is she ignores them completely. She will let the other dog sniff her, but usually because she is so caught up in watching me with the ball. Occassionally she will watch the other dogs play and join in on a game of chase. However, Lily has a bad habit of nipping the other dogs as they run and growling. When I watch her play I almost feel like she still hasn't learned what is acceptable play and what is not...and I don't know how to teach her that. The other dogs will stop playing with her when she nips. No one has ever gotten hurt but it's almost like the other dogs look at her like she has no manners. And other times she has no patience or interest in another dog interrupting her game of fetch. It's like the other dogs don't exist or they are just a nuisance to her play.

Any thoughts? Is there a requirement that she actually play with the other dogs? What is the best way to teach her how to play nicely?

I have a friend with a female pitt that she loves to play with. But this pitt is so submissive that she basically lets Lily just bite her all over and the pitt just rolls over. I felt like this was acceptable when she was very young and small, but now that Lily is getting older, I don't feel like her manners towards other dogs has improved from that puppy stage (and I know she is still a puppy, just trying to make sure she is developing at a good rate physically, mentally, and socially).

Sometimes I see a bit of a fearful dog in Lily. She almost seems to have an attitude of "I'll get them before they get me" without actually attacking. She puts on a big show of barking and acting tough.

Thanks for any advice.
 

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The running alongside, making all sorts of noises and nipping, is actually pretty normal adolescent GSD behavior. Heck, our adult dogs still play with one another this way. It's a type of play that is common in other herding breeds as well.

My opinion is there is nothing wrong or abnormal about Lily doing this. She sounds quite comfortable and well socialized around dogs. However, it's also true that this sort of play can be intimidating to other dogs who have different styles of play.... not to mention the owners of other dogs who aren't familiar with a GSDs tendency to play rough, and exhibit a lot of wrestling and herding behaviors in their play.
 

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Lily sounds a lot like my girl Mya. She would rather sit and watch other dogs play rather than join in. She is very solitary even at home with our other dogs. She will play sometimes, but when she does she is in total control. She herds, bites ankles, and bites and pulls on the other dogs scruffs. My young male Bear is a total submissive dog during their play sessions, i see that he will open his mouth and touch her, but will NOT close down and bite her, if he does by chance, she will immediately growl and bark at him as a warning. Its like the play only goes one way, and when shes done herding him around and biting him, she'll walk away and lay down. I keep a close eye on her at all times that she doesnt get to rough and switch from play mode to attack mode.

I would keep up with the socialization, and see if you could find another GSD that she could play with. Maybe one close enough in age so they have the same energy level when playing. Dont be afraid if it sounds like they're killing each other, my dogs are very vocal when they play and it can be mistaken as a *dog fight* to those who arent experienced in the breed.
 

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Quote:Is there a requirement that she actually play with the other dogs?
No. I also take my dogs to off leash parks because that's the only place I can get them out for play and exercise. We have big wide open space parks where we can really chuck the ball and they can run full out after it, and also a couple of places where they can swim. We have a tiny yard, and many parks either do not allow dogs, or only on leash, so off leash parks are our best option.

Socialization is about them being accustomed to, and comfortable in, lots of different places and circumstances, which for me, includes being around other dogs. But they don't really play with them, they play with us and each other, and that's fine.

I agree with Chris, this is absolutely normal play for GSDs, and other herding breeds as well. I can see how it might freak out other owners who aren't used to it, and that some dogs might not like it much. Fortunately, my dogs only get nippy with each other, although they won't usually turn down a blatant invitation to chase another dog.
I feel that it's my responsibility to monitor my dogs' behavior, so if another dog appears uncomfortable, I'll call them back. But some dogs really like to be chased, and when a "chase me" dog runs over, does a blatant play bow in front of them, and then runs away, I'll let them run a bit before we move on.
 

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This is how my dogs play with each other, but I would not allow them to get that physical with another dog UNLESS it was mutual, and the other dog appeared to be enjoying it and kept coming back for more:

 

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mikko also likes to play this chase down and nip game- he doesn't actually bite them. he used to play, but as he got older- he mostly does this- and wants to chase squirrels and play with us. so when we go to the dogpark, we walk around the park constantly, stopping for him to swim for 5-10 minutes, then doing another loop around. by constantly moving this keeps him from doing this behavior.
 

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I agree completely. Sometimes the play seems rough, but it sounds like Lily is doing fine. My GSD has several play mates, and sometimes they seem so rough, but never in two years has any dog been hurt.
 

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Originally Posted By: Chris WildThe running alongside, making all sorts of noises and nipping, is actually pretty normal adolescent GSD behavior. Heck, our adult dogs still play with one another this way. It's a type of play that is common in other herding breeds as well.

yup tyson does the same thing and the dogs he plays with are twice his size, actually last night he tackled my neighbors 90lb golden retriever while they were both running full speed
...mya has kinda tought him "behavioral manners" throughout time. when he was a wee little pup he was MOUTHY!! and mya is more of a dog that isnt too playful with other dogs, just kinda co-exists with them. when she would have enough of it she would put tyson on his back, growling at him like she was telling him enough was enough. actually i can say tyson has been put on his back more than one by her and another time by my friends lab mix although tyson's reaction from this dog wasn't like he is when mya does it so i had to seperate them. which i think that my friends dog was being aggressive
 

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Yes, Rafi is a bit of a loud, obnoxious brat with other dogs too. If he has Kong or a ball in his mouth then that pacifies him and he will run to the other dogs and invite them to chase him. If he doesn't he gets very loud and growls (it's a play growl b/c he does it with me too) and will pester the other dogs to run so he can nip at them. He is too loud and too rough for most dogs. They get scared! He is not crazy about other dogs acting this way with him but so far he doesn't understand when I point out the double standard.
Some dogs love this kind of play, as you can see below (the muppet-like dog hanging off of Rafi's neck is a golden doodle puppy):

 

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Originally Posted By: BowWowMeowYes, Rafi is a bit of a loud, obnoxious brat with other dogs too. If he has Kong or a ball in his mouth then that pacifies him and he will run to the other dogs and invite them to chase him. If he doesn't he gets very loud and growls (it's a play growl b/c he does it with me too) and will pester the other dogs to run so he can nip at them. He is too loud and too rough for most dogs. They get scared! He is not crazy about other dogs acting this way with him but so far he doesn't understand when I point out the double standard.

That is Lily EXACTLY. If she has a ball in her mouth I am more comfortable with her playing with the other dogs because her mouth doesn't make contact with the other dogs and the chase game can last for a while. But once her mouth is free, she gets those canines out to nip at whatever she can and both owner and dog seem nervous. Guess those pearly whites can be intimidating!

BUT the second another dog gets physical with her, game over. She loves to be the physical one with other dogs, but doesn't like them being physical with her. She's not expecting much is she?!
LOL

And I swear I see that herding instinct in her. When chasing the other dogs she doesn't follow their path but cuts around them and always 'herds' the group back towards us.


But I am glad to hear from all of your stories that she seems like a normal GSD. Now just how to explain to the other dogs and their owners!
 

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Originally Posted By: Cassidys Mom No. I also take my dogs to off leash parks because that's the only place I can get them out for play and exercise. We have big wide open space parks where we can really chuck the ball and they can run full out after it, and also a couple of places where they can swim. We have a tiny yard, and many parks either do not allow dogs, or only on leash, so off leash parks are our best option.
I use my dog park for the exact same reasons. I don't have a place where I can really let loose with the Chuk-It except for the dog park. There are so many options of things to do there from swimming to fetch to soccer to hiking plus lots of people, dogs, kids, bicyclists, and other distractions there that make the park such an inviting place to be. The park has been one of my biggest assets in training Lily with many distractions around and to be a good off-leash dog.
 
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