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How do I know if my dogs are fighting or just playing rough? Will rough play turn to "kill" fights?

We have a 2 yo spayed am staff-boxer female and adopted a 1 yo neutered lab-german shephard male from the shelter 5 days ago. And they sure do play rough!!! Chasing like crazy, stealing each other's toys, tug-a-war, jumping on each other, biting necks/face/legs/etc. But no blood. I am scared to death that they will kill each other!!! When can I stop watching them constantly? Will they ever calm down? They do lick each other, so I think they like each other. Only "real" fight was over food, so they are separated during feeding and that stopped. It is just such a rough play that I am always freaking out and yelling at them to stop. I do crate him when I can take it no longer!!! Please tell me they will get used to each other and calm down a bit. We really like him and want to keep him, but not if the "play fights" turn taggressive and they end up maimed (no blood yet, although I am not sure how that is possible with all that roughness!)


Asked by Member 813165 on Mar 9th 2009 in Behavior & Training
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Guest

Well ultimately, it's up to you as the owner to decide when enough is enough when it comes to how rough they can play. When my dogs start to play too rough I say- "Eh eh!" and separate them before it potentially escalates into something worse. After they calm down I let them play again.

Perhaps before you let them play, take them for a good long walk to top off their excess energy. Playing with each other should be extra exercise- not the main form of it. Walking or jogging should be their main form of exercise. Once that initial rush of energy is gone, they will be more likely to play gently, and they will be calmer, happier dogs.


Member 409208 answered on 3/9/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 2 Report this answer


Koda

Growling, Barking, Nipping, Chasing -- it's all part of play fighting. It's how dogs in the wild practiced.

The one factor I watch for is one of the dogs squealing or screaming or some other noise to say they're in pain. As long as that doesn't pop up I usually let them play.

Sometimes I'll break it up if it seems to be getting too intense and make them sit for a minute before letting the play continue. Go with your gut instinct if you feel it's getting too rough. Just make them take 5.


Koda answered on 3/9/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 2 Report this answer


Bandit

You have two pups still and since they are so young they probably will continue to play pretty rough. Since you have only had your new dog for 5 days they are still in the adjusting period. They probably will come a bit but not that much untill they grow up more.


Bandit answered on 3/9/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Katie

Hi there!
Koda and Nari are right - this is just rough play, though it sounds like it's disruptive! I love to play rough with my dog friends at the dog park, and sometimes other owners get nervous because we growl and show our teeth - but as long as nobody is yelping, it's all for fun.
Do take them for walks and/or trips to the dog park or dog beach to let them run off that extra energy! Also, set the boundaries in your house by letting them outside when they get too excited. Crating should not be used as punishment.
Do remember that "freaking out" is seen by dogs as "weak," because the leaders they follow and respect are calm and quiet. They may interpret your yelling as similar to excited barking, which will spur them on!
Read The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., for insights into dog's "inhibited bite" response in play.
Congratulations on rescuing your new German Shepherd, and continue to enjoy your young, energetic dogs! They will age and slow down all too soon.


Katie answered on 3/9/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


Jack

Usually, play fighting like this is normal.

Dogs will bite, nip, snarl, grown and make a racket when they play fight.

Most of the time, its perfectly okay to allow this since dogs learn a great deal from each other, especially puppies, through play fighting with other dogs. However, if they get out of control, or if you feel one dog isn't playing "back" and is being picked on, then it's a good idea to get involved.

I'd highly recommend you take your dogs to a socialization focused puppy class. Most shelters have free or low cost classes they offer to recent adoptees, so contact the sheleter you got the german shep. from and see if they can help you out with this.

If you're not sure what kind of behavior is going on with your dogs, then you're not going to be able to predict what will happen later or what is okay and what is getting too carried away.

So, for that reason, it's important to educate yourself so that they are safe and so are you. Classes will help you.


Jack answered on 3/9/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


Kashus

when dealing with a powerful breed such as a staffy you must first always watch body language. The other thing is YES! play fighting can always turn into a fight, not say that every play date will turn ugly but always a possibility. as a pet parent your must not show that scared energy its weak. if you are showing weak energy as being "scared to death" leave, that energy will ultimatly lead to a fight. if your need further help i am a dog trainer and would be wiling to help you out if you need further attention! Ally and kashus


Kashus answered on 3/12/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer