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Rough play-should I be concerned?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
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Graham

Part angel, part- devil, all dog
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 1, '12 9:42am PST 
Hi all- We recently adopted a new dog (Graham) and he and our older dog (Molly) get along pretty well. My only concern is that they play together quite roughly. Graham, who is an Aussie/Pom mix, will bite or nip at Molly's legs and ears and Molly, who is a Lab/Shiba mix responds by standing up on her back legs and wrapping her front paws around his neck and knocking him to the ground. Molly will stand over him and hold him briefly, but she doesn't put any physical pressure on him and backs off quickly. Graham will occasionally run at the sofa and catapult himself at her. This goes on for 15-20 minutes at a time and it can seem pretty intense. There's never been any growling or agression and no one gets hurt while they are doing this. Both dogs seem to be having fun, ie. wagging tails, happy body language and I can break it up easily by telling them to go to their kennels.
The last time we had two dogs at the same time, one was much older and didn't really engage in play behavior with the other dog so this is new territory for me. Just FYI, Molly is almost 9 yrs. old and Graham is just about 1 yr. old. Is it normal for them to play so roughly with each other or should I discourage it? They get along beautifully most of the time, eat next to each other, walk together, share toys, etc. Maybe I'm just being a "nervous Nellie", but I don't want to end up with problems down the road. What does the Dogster pack think?
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Smokey

Let's play tug!!
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 1, '12 1:34pm PST 
Obviously Molly is still young at heart! big grin I wouldn't be concerned, unless you think someone is going to get hurt. It sounds like it's reciprocal and they're both having a great time. From your profile, it looks like you've had Graham about two weeks. I tend to be very cautious with brand new playmates, but the amount that I interfere decreases based on how long the dogs have played together and whether they've had any problems (such as a directed growl or a snarl, play-growls are fine with some dogs). After two weeks of playing together, I would just be keeping an eye on it for now, and see if anyone seems to start getting annoyed. In a few more weeks, if there are no problems, I wouldn't even bother supervising, and would only interfere if I happened to see an aggressive behavior I hadn't seen before. Dogs will often tolerate just about anything from a dog who they know won't hurt them.
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Graham

Part angel, part- devil, all dog
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 1, '12 2:07pm PST 
Hi Smokey wave Thanks for the advice. You're right on both counts, Molly is still very active (has more energy than most young pups) and we've had Graham for 3 weeks tomorrow. I don't think either one would hurt the other on purpose, however Molly is twice the size of Graham, so I keep a close eye on them just to be sure. I've just never seen dogs go at it like this and wasn't sure if it was common behavior. Thanks again for putting my mind at ease.
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Smokey

Let's play tug!!
 
 
Barked: Thu Nov 1, '12 5:56pm PST 
Sounds like you've got it all under control. Smokey plays with bigger dogs a lot at the beach, so I take a little extra note of how reciprocal the play is. Is Molly willing to roll over on her back, get down low to play with him, or let him chase her or jump on her? If so, those are all great signs that she's handicapping herself and not using her size to dominate him. It's not necessarily an impending disaster if the big dog isn't doing those things, but it's definitely good to be aware of the little dog's response. When Smokey is on his back, I usually let other dog sniff him, but after that, if the big dog doesn't seem to be backing off, Smokey is usually wide eyed and licking his lips, so I pick him up and hold him for awhile. I think it's good training for the bigger dog too, to learn that domineering behavior makes the play stop. Another good thing to watch for is that they listen to each other. So if Graham yelps, Molly looks concerned and backs off. If Molly gets tired, Graham will let her have a rest and not spend 10 minutes biting her ankles and barking at her. Even if some minor tweaking is needed, it sounds like they're off to a fantastic start.
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Graham

Part angel, part- devil, all dog
 
 
Barked: Fri Nov 2, '12 8:02am PST 
Thanks again Smokey. So far Molly has not rolled over or been knocked down by Graham. She does back off after a few seconds when she has him down though. He does chase and jump on her sometimes. Sometimes she seems annoyed by the way he bites at her legs (I don't blame her, he really goes after them sometimes). When that happens she stops and goes into her kennel.
It seems like it's always Graham that instigates the play sessions, usually by nipping at her ears. It just looks so painful and I swear he treats her like a chew toy sometimes. She doesn't seem to mind to much though. shrug I guess the nipping is part of his nature as a herding breed mix. All of my previous dogs have been retrievers, pointers and similar breeds so I'm not used to this kind of playing.
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Maggie,- Tika, &- Porter

Aussie-tastic- Trio
 
 
Barked: Fri Nov 2, '12 4:28pm PST 
My two girl Aussies play like that. Super rough and lots of teeth and noise. As long as both dogs understand when another doesn't like what is happening I don't worry, they play rough and there are times that one gets pinched and will squeal and maybe snap back in a "Hey! That hurt!" - I let those things go. If I can see one of the two getting too aroused I will suggest that they do other things like I get up and do something in the kitchen (that always gets immediate attention lol!). But I don't worry about rough play as long as it is mutual big grin
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Kodiak CGC

WOOoooOOoo
 
 
Barked: Sat Nov 3, '12 4:50am PST 
Aw, that sounds like wonderful play. What a joy that Molly can get into roughhousing with him, with the age gap!
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Rusty

Champion PPH
 
 
Barked: Sat Nov 3, '12 8:07am PST 
Rusty wrestles & does bitey-face with several dogs that are more solid than him. I was worried at first that it would turn him into an aggressive player, but he does tone it down for smaller, less rambunctious dogs. He doesn't take the growling noise of one dog to heart at all. If it gets too intense, give them a short time out. When I quit worrying, I realized that my boy initiates the play and keeps going back for more. It wears them out, burns calories, and a tired dog is a good thing!
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Smokey

Let's play tug!!
 
 
Barked: Sat Nov 3, '12 10:22am PST 
And it makes them more bulletproof when they're playing with new dogs, so that's always a good thing. "Oh, you want to jump on my back? My brother does that". I wrestle with Smokey, and it's made him notably more relaxed when he plays with rambunctious or rude big dogs. Usually I get uncomfortable before he does.
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Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
 
 
Barked: Sat Nov 3, '12 12:18pm PST 
Haha, sounds like they're having a blast! Charlie and my foster dog Beau played very similarly! Granted, Beau was alllll noise! I think I even have a youtube video of them playing somewhere, cause it was so funny. As long as nobody is hurting the other, then I'd let them play and have fun. For now, just keep an eye on them to make sure it doesn't get carried away.

With Charlie, after observing him and his play style over the years, I learned that the louder her gets, the more irritable he's getting and the more likely he is to end the play in a scrap. So, that's usually when I step in with my dogs. For example, they were just playing, Ria got Charlie pinned against the couch, and he got agitated, so he snarled, and she reciprocated. I gave a small "Eh!" and they took a break before going back to normal play again. smile
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