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Dog Play Behavior: Are they fighting or playing?

October 18, 2008

“What is dog play all about?” This is one of those comments I hear from various folks…and often get questions about. Both in and out of my dog training classes here in Ventura and Santa Barbara – especially when folks first start bringing their dogs to our dog socials.

Humans commonly assume when dogs “hump” or “mount” is automatically means it’s of a sexual nature. This isn’t always the case, and more often than not isn’t the case. These are just a few dog training tips on what dog-play really is.

Dog play is practicing of “the four F’s” – meaning, if they had to survive out in the wild so they could pass on their genes – surviving, hunting for food, creating more of themselves in order to pass on their genetics (cause that’s what it’s all about, right) – survival of the fittest so you can pass along your DNA… This is the list of the four F’s:

  • “Fight” – dog play can get really rough – think two young human male children playing and wrestling about – With dogs it’s: I mouth you (practice biting, but inhibited bites in play), you mouth me, I pin you, you pin me etc…
  • “Flight” – I chase you, you chase me
  • “Feed” – meaning all the steps of the predatory sequence, including the “alert”, stalk, chase, “grab-shake-kill” – etc…
  • “Fun!” (fornicating etc…) – I mount you, you mount me… Unless both dogs (one male one female) are actually intending to breed in order to make more of themselves, then the whole humping action is just play! That’s why you see males humping males, females humping females, females on males, dogs on humans etc…and humping in positions that are not related at all to actually “doing the deed”…Note: if a dog is given attention when he or she “humps” then he or she is more likely to do that again in the future. Lets not forget Thorndike’s law of learning.

It’s important that dogs learn what acceptable dog play is, and what is appropriate – that is what dog social time is for!!! Yes, we can give the dog a “time out” if we don’t like something… but dogs (really important for puppies especially) are learning about what play is – and doggy DNA is telling them to “hump” – most likely trying to get the other “animal” to play… If humans don’t like it, the best thing to do is completely walk away and ignore the dog completely, but throw a party and play like crazy when he or she is playing the way you want… Older, well socialized dogs, who have great play skills can help “guide” younger pups…the older one will “tell him” (growl or a snap) to knock it off if he or she has gone too far.

A BIG note of importance: DOG PLAY SHOULD BE RECIPROCAL and CONSENSUAL! Sure, for some dogs they’d rather be the chasee vs the chaser. How to tell? Look at the one being chased – are they running off and trying to hide the entire time? Cowering under things? Trying to find their guardian? Or are they egging the chaser on? “Come on! Chase me!!”

A great “test” is to restrain (gently) the one who is chasing or pinning and then look at the behavior of the one you think is being harassed. If the latter stops, looks at you as if he or she is saying “What’s up? Why’d you stop us from playing?” then that’s a great indicator that the play session was consensual. If on the other hand the harassee looks relieved, then it’s safe to bet that interrupting was a good idea. You’ll know to take steps in helping dogs develop good play skills.

Providing opportunities for our dogs to socialize and play is very important for their well being, and development as well-mannered canines – training classes and socials that practice reward-based, humane techniques can help provide them. You just want to keep an eye on the situation, making sure that play-time is safe and fun for everyone!


202 Responses to Dog Play Behavior: Are they fighting or playing?

  1. Pingback: Introducing a New Puppy to Your Older Dog Doesn't Have to Blow

  2. AnnMarie says:

    My English bulldog has been very vocal in his play and he doesn’t back down. We got him at 8 weeks and figured my daughters 10 week old black lab was going to hurt him when they played. Right off the bat he stood up to him. They play rough but its consensual most off the time. We were worried about Napoleon complex but he’s not aggressive in anyway. We took Jim to puppy class and he did fine with dogs his size but when we went back for social time he was the smallest puppy there. He did okay until someone wanted to play and puthis paws on him. He went after him. Not sure if it was noise or fight or both. We were asked to leave. How can I teach him to play nice with others and play with his lab brother. At home if we think its getting too rough we say enough and try to distractthem but they’re like the energizer bunny and wont quit.Any suggestions would be helpful.
    Thanks AnnMaeie

    • joan says:

      Hi AnnMarie,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write in – what a great question. Poncho and I appreciate your keen observational skills – bravo to you!

      Our first suggestion is to make sure you’re rewarding both pups for playing nicely – meaning, during play use praise for sure. Secondly, you can lure both out of the play-circle with a treat, give them the treat, praise again, then allow them to resume play. This will help reinforce the behaviors you want while helping to teach them to interrupt play once in awhile.

      Self-interruption is one of the normal elements of dog-play, so hopefully with time both pups will learn to do just that. In the meantime you can help using this process, but as you noticed, they need something a bit more motivating to want to stop. You’ll also want to do this before things get too heated up. You can use this training approach with other dogs who Jim wants to play with. Matching with play style is important, more so than age or size. Our domestic dogs will often find their perfect buddy, so allow Jim to make his own choices.

      Lastly, taking him to an on-leash class where you can meet other dogs and their parents would be a nice way for Jim to be around other dogs, while keeping everyone safe.

      Thanks again for writing in AnnMarie! Poncho and I wish you and Jim all the best for fun times together!

      • hannah kennedy says:

        Hi…help needed!
        We have an 8mth old greyhound x bedlington finn and we’ve just got a new 1 yr old whippet x black lab daisy. They clearly get on very well. They play fight constantly, they seem very evenly matched and I think daisy is only just pipping finn in the dominance scales. However due to their size they are both fairly big, they rumble round our house constantly, we have a 6yr old daughter who can’t walk from one room to the next without an adult escort as they bowled her over and trampled her! They aren’t actually doing anything wrong as there is no aggression just endless energy, if they were small dogs this wouldn’t be a problem at all. I’m worried daisy will have to go back if this doesn’t calm down. Three days we’ve had daisy and they literally have not left each other alone yet. We can’t leave them on there own for a second as finn just does not stop, mostly because daisy doesn’t tell him too. We are constantly intervening and separating them for periods…but they just cry the whole time they are apart. Daisy was a rescue who was kept in a cage for most of her short life so far so I really want to avoid crate training but our gate isn’t working as she can jump clear over it…but if we shut the door finn just bashes it open to get to her. I’m literally at my wits end after three days with no sleep …how can I stop them for longer than five minutes…I’ve tried treats…I’ve be tried water pistols (under my vets advice) I’ve tried separating them I’ve tried really telling them off I’ve tried tiring them out I’ve tried toys but daisy ends up with them all and finn with non.i desperately want this to work

        • Joan the Dog Coach says:

          Hello Hannah – WOW! If we could only bottle that energy – but I realize that doesn’t help your situation, so how about these following quick tips: Management/environment – teach both dogs a “stationing” behavior, where they learn to target a bed (or towel/mat/crate/small rug) when the cue is given – a verbal or visual cue, including your daughter entering the room. (This is a handy behavior for many situations); arrange for a specific area they are allowed to play and be rambunctious that is safe for everyone. Enrichment: toys are great, but make sure each dog likes the toys each are playing with – but be aware of hoarding and guarding; food toys – in leu of bowls; independent activities that each enjoys – training classes in “manners” and/or sports. Please ensure you’re teaching both dogs what you DO want, as opposed to trying to punish out behaviors. Reward and acknowledge when they’re doing what you want, especially when they’re quiet and chilling out.

      • Tiffany Booker says:

        We recently got a 3 month old pit bull (male) puppy. Shortly after we rescued a 5 week old pit (female). The play seems to be consensual for both but my only concern is when Sasha rolls on her back and Marvin grab her leg and starts to shake it in his mouth. Is that normal or could he really hurt her? I always stop him because it scares me and I keep them separate except when we go outside for potty.

        • Joan the Dog Coach says:

          Hi Tiffany,
          Thanks for being inquisitive – and protective of your pups. Here’s my take on your situation. Is it “normal”? Yes, it sounds like it is, at least from what you’ve described. (They’re young pups, learning how to play, consensual, etc.). Could your 3 month male really hurt your 5 week female? I’m not there to judge the force the older one is inflicting, but I’d venture to say yes, there’s often risk involved with play. But it also comes down to your feelings and concerns – you say you’re scared when play gets too rough. To help everyone involved, set up play sessions where you’re monitoring, rewarding each dog for appropriate play behaviors, and interrupting before things get heated up. Teach them “obedience breaks,” performing episodes of sits, downs, and other behaviors between roughhousing. And, as I have mentioned to others, get them both into puppy classes (when cleared by vet) to help them learn while meeting other dogs. Classes are also a fun way to bond with your dog, so hopefully it’ll help you emotional state too. If you don’t have access to group classes, the DIY approach with friends or homeschooling are other options. Either way, pups learning like skills now will help set them up for a bright future – together and independently.

      • Morgan says:

        Hi, i need help. Yesterday while going for my daily run I noticed a truck down a dirt road near my house, they were stopped and the door was open. I continued my run. I few moments later a fairly young boxer comes running from that direction and she seemed really scared and i wanted to have a look. I made sure she was aggressive first then i sat down right where i was in the road and made myself seem smaller to her. After i did that she got the courage to come to me. I immediately called home. I turned and started walking back. She followed closely to me and kept looking at me almost like she was asking me if she was okay. For reassurance. As i was walking back the truck zoomed past and didn’t stop for their dog. We think they dumped her out, which has happened in the past. Anyways. I have a 4 year old male pit who I introduced to her first. He immediately sniffed her and she did the same. Then he started licking her ears and face. He loves her. But what I was worried about is our chihuahua-dashund mixed. She constantly growls and gets in her face acting like she wants to bite her. But this morning my chihuahua mix actually attacked her and my pitbull interfered by making a loud growling-barking noise. When my chihuahua growls at her the boxer now growls back but wags her tail while doing so. The only reason i took her in was because i could see her hip bones,ribs, and spine. She is very sweet and playful with my pitbull (bruce) but he makes sure he reprimands them when needed. I just need to know how to teach the boxer(we haven’t figured out a name) and my chihuahua mix(bella) from hurting one another or should we just let them figure out their differences

        • Joan the Dog Coach says:

          Hi Morgan,
          Wow, what a scenario – sounds pretty intense for the boxer, if indeed she was dumped. Before bringing her into your home, you might want to report the incident to your local animal control organization? She could have been dumped, but also stolen or from a shelter? Your vet could also tell if she has a chip (and any medical problems). As far as embracing her into your household, read through the other posts and follow the steps I’ve outlined: creating positive associations for both Bella and your latest family member, managing the environment when you’re not around, and interrupting before things get heated up. You might want to look for a certified dog trainer who practices force-free training methods to help you out. Let us know how it goes. ~Team Inquisitive Canine

  3. Bianca C says:

    Hi there,
    I have two small chihuahuas one is about seven and the other is one. The one year old is spayed and the older one is not. They play fight all the time but it always leads to humping or trying to lick each others genitals. Should I be concerned we usually break them up and they stop immedieatley. What are the consequences of having one spayed dog and one non spayed?
    Thanks
    Bianca

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there Bianca!

      Great question – thank you for writing in. We appreciate inquisitive pet parents :-) Regarding your question as it relates to dog-play behaviors and being spayed or not, I would only be concerned if your un-spayed dog were playing with an intact male. Otherwise, I believe it would be safe to allow your dogs to play in the manner they’re inherently skilled in. If one is unhappy with how the other is behaving, they should be able to communicate as such. The times I would interrupt play is if and when 1) one is being a bully towards the other, and 2) if it’s starting to get too heated up and neither are self-interrupting. (Meaning, they stop on their own to take a breather!)

      I realize to humans, the actions that make up dog play can be somewhat odd – and questionable from our point of view. But keep in mind that similar to humans, dogs (and other animals) are born with ritualized play-skills, therefore it’s up to us to understand it, and allow them to be who and what they are – then enjoy the show! It’s like having your own Animal Planet channel! :-) Happy training to you and your Chi’s!

      PS: We invite you to join our Facebook Page so you can share pics and stories of you inquisitive canines!

  4. Jill says:

    We have a golden retriever who is almost two years old and we just got a puppy, now age 8 1/2 weeks. Our older dog has been to several obedience classes but continues to be very reactive to other dogs and to people. She just has a ton of energy sometimes! She has been adjusting to the puppy and now wants to play with him all the time. My problem is that she is very rough with him and seems to bully him around. I’m scared to just let them play, with one at 60 lbs. and the other at 12 lbs. It seems like the older one is always initiating the play and then wants to straddle the puppy and hold him down. I can’t seem to stand it for more than a couple minutes before I feel it may be getting out of control and I separate them. This doesn’t seem like a good idea either, because I end up in the middle of two dogs who are excited and as the puppy grows I can imagine it will get harder to separate them physically. The older dog doesn’t have much experience playing with other dogs and she becomes way too excited it seems.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Dear Jill,

      Thank you for your inquisitiveness! Poncho and I appreciate your query. Let’s see what suggestions we can come up with to help in the dog-play arena that is your household!

      We believe the last sentence of your explanation really nails the situation right on target: “The older dog doesn’t have much experience playing with other dogs and she becomes way too excited it seems.” We completely agree! And, we’d venture to say that the youngster does not have the experience either.

      The good news is, both can learn. Dog-play behaviors for the most part are innate, both just need a little direction, from either other inquisitive canines that would be considered their age and developmentally related peers, or from you/other humans. (It’s okay to interrupt before the situation gets too heated up). You basically have the equivalent of a high-school energetic athlete playing with a pre-K toddler. Both want to engage in play, but because of size and experience, the situation could go south, resulting in physical injuries or the possibility of fear of playing with other dogs in the future.

      A few suggestions would be:
      Reward behaviors you like and want (especially the older one), including playing nicely with one another. Praise for sure, along with petting, treats for each, and the opportunity to play.
      Teach your older dog to lie down while the youngster gets a chance to romp/sniff and play around his sibling. Big sis gets extra yummies and praise for so helpful and tolerant of her younger brother.
      Enroll your new puppy in a humane, reward-based puppy class. Puppy play with similar aged pals can help teach dog-play skills. Not sure what part of the world you’re in, but a Google search can help you find one. If you need help, just let us know. Poncho and I can help you find one.
      Consider finding a humane, reward-based trainer to help you with your older dog’s behavioral concerns (“reactive to other dogs and people”). If you are able to work with these issues, you’ll then be able to take both dogs to other classes and outings together.
      Observe your dogs at play, watching for appropriate play behavior including self-interruptions. If they don’t take breaks, it’s okay to help guide them. Before they get too riled up, interrupt, give them a “manners break,” then allow them to continue play.

      With your keen dog-parenting skills, time, and little guidance, your dogs should be well on their way to a fun-loving, harmonious sibling relationship.

  5. John Decker says:

    This is a great article. I rescued a dog about a year ago and at first it behaved very bad. I think having multiple owners, he just did not know how to accepted new settings. I took him to dog training and he became very good and well behaved. I also learned some little techniques I can practice at home with him. Training a dog all on your own can be difficult, so I find it worth the money to have a professional train them.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Click-treat for you John! We applaud you for recognizing that education is key, for both us humans and our inquisitive canines! Keep up the great work – I’m sure your dog appreciates it!

  6. Emma says:

    Hi there, I have a male shih tzu – he loves playing ball with me. However, whenever we play indoors after a few throws of the ball, he will drop the ball, go to his biscuits, and bring one back to where we were playing and eat it. He will then go back out to his bowl, get another biscuit and bring that back too. Why does he do this? Thank you.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Emma – thanks for commenting and for being inquisitive. The best answer I can come up with is probably because he finds the bowl of biscuits much more fun and rewarding than playing fetch. If you’d prefer he play, then what I’d suggest is you 1) Remove the bowl of biscuits when playing 2) Use pieces of the biscuits to reward him for bringing the ball back to you. Let me know how it goes!

  7. Pablo L. says:

    Hi Joan!

    I just got a 10 week old boxer mix and she is simply the cutest. I named her Julie (short for Juliet), and she has a lot of energy. We also have Toby, a year old maltese, who also has a lot of energy. They love to chase each other and take each other’s toys. They play “lets bite each others mouth” game, pin each other and occasionally bark, but sometimes I feel that Julie can be a little too rough with Toby. She often get on top and bites him on the back of his neck. Now toby doesn’t seem to mind, he will start playing rough with her too and both of their tails are always wagging and toby will even egg her on. There are moments when toby will growl at her. My only concern is that when Julie get older and becomes a stronger, bigger dog she might hurt Toby. Should I worry?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there Pablo,

      Congratulations on your new puppy Juliet. Sounds like you have one fun-filled house of canines! In response to your question of whether to worry or not, I would say it’s always a good idea to pay close attention when dogs are playing, but allow the dogs to set the pace of their play. Give each the opportunity to communicate with one another — or other dogs — so they can learn from one another of what is acceptable and what isn’t. Keep in mind that each dog has their own play-preferences, so you’ll want to continue to watch, as you have been, for each of your dogs consenting to the other ones actions. If one of them wants to stop playing, and the other keeps pestering, then it’s okay to interrupt gently and redirect.

      I would also suggest you arrange play-dates with other dogs pals so both of your pups learn how to play with other dogs and not just their siblings. And most of all, remember to reward behaviors you like and want! You’ll get more of them. Cheers and woofs ~Joan & Poncho

  8. Jean says:

    Hi.
    We have a 3.5 years old female Shih Tzu and were recently given an 8 month old male Shih Tzu. The female one loves being touched, like lying in our laps or us carrying her. The male one on the other hand is really active and doesn’t enjoy us holding him.
    We’ve had the male one for a week now, and he keeps wanting to play with the female (biting her ear/wrestling her) but she keeps moving away. So I assume she doesn’t want to play and try to keep them apart. Sometimes I see both of them wrestling each other but the female keeps making noise (i think she is growling) and she looks pretty rough whereas the male seems like he is still playing so I’m confused whether they’re playing or fighting?

    Although the female is older she isn’t socialized with other dogs. In fact she has never played with another dog until we got this one. I’m not sure about the male though since he was given to us. Before we got a playmate for her she used to bite her slipper that we gave her and come to us to play with her, and after playing for a while sometimes she ends up making that noise too.

    My interpretation of the whole scene is that the male wants to play but the female doesn’t, and when the male keeps trying to play with her she gets irritated, snaps and fights back. But i’m not sure if i’m right…is this possible?
    Are the way they play automatically in their blood or do they learn it? Is it possible that they have different “definitions” of play? Thank you so much!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Jean –

      Thanks so much for your comment. To address your question re: instinctual dog play behaviors, our answer is yes and yes. It is theorized that dogs are born with innate play skills. However, it takes the right circumstances to help these behaviors develop naturally. This is why it’s important to arrange a paw-sitive environment for them to learn, allowing them to communicate in their native language. There are many elements of “dog play,” and each dog will have their own preferences as to which one(s) they prefer over others. Some dogs like to chase, whereas others like to be chased. Some like to bite, nip, and pin — and others like to be nipped and vocalize.

      The big determining factor with your female is what does she do when you gently hold onto the younger one. Does your female look at you in a state of relief? Or does she continue to try and engage in play? This will give you great insight into how to set up play sessions for your dogs. If she wants to continue, reward her for tolerating her brother, while rewarding your younger one for “being polite.” If she doesn’t want to play, you’ll want to find alternate play-dates for your youngster to help him develop nice social skills. Cheers and woofs! Joan & Poncho the Dog

  9. bowen says:

    I have three dogs at home. They have the whole backyard to themselves and its quiet large (let’s say that they can reach full speed before reaching the other end when starting the sprint from one end, and I think that’s enough space). I just noticed that my male basset when playing with the other two ( a female basset and a female mongrel), he manifest the “submissive dog” behaviour during their rough play. He’s the first to hunch low and belly up….despite the fact that he’s the only male. I never had the chance of taking him out on a regular basis to meet other dogs as I assumed that he can have it with the other two. But he does not seem to have confidence when I take him out on walks alone (without the other dogs). His head and tail are low when we walk. He only raise his tail up when he’s back in the yard. As with the female, it’s tail-up confidence, in and out of the yard. Is there anything that can be done to make him confident outside his “comfort zone” (yard)?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      HI Bowen — My initial response is, why not take the females with you on your walks, while creating positive associations for your male outside of the yard? His siblings might be a temporary security blanket while he gains the confidence to widen his safety-boundaries. You can have them join you on walks for all of it initially, then taper off the distance slowly, as he begins to adapt. For instance, walk a few blocks then back home, then the next time have your females wait while you go ahead a few more blocks (or yards/feet) on your own, then back home. Also, use food treats for your male when the females aren’t around – he only gets them when he’s on his own. And, begin by going shorter distances, increase the distance as he becomes more comfortable. Continue to watch his body language as you have been, to give you insight into how he might be feeling.

  10. Pamela says:

    We have a 9 month old beagle/lab mix female and we just adopted a 3 to 5 year old female english/bull mastiff. We introduced them slowly as we didn’t want to overwhelm the older dog with the puppies exuberance. After we had them together for about 3 weeks we got them both spayed. We had noticed one or two instances of humping with the mastiff being the aggressor. She would also get pretty loud and growl and snap when the puppy objected. Now that they are both spayed (it’s been 2 weeks since the procedure) it is still happening. We obviously stop it as soon as it starts because it sounds so terrible that I am scared it will get violent if we let them fight and argue. But I don’t know if this is just left over hormones or an act of dominance and should we let them naturally work it out or intervene each time. I appreciate any advice!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Pamela — Thank you for writing in — Sounds like you might want to be more proactive vs reactive. Reward both dogs for playing nicely, especially when the older one chooses alternate play-behaviors. You can also add in a planned interruption of play, before things get heated up. Offer up a little “Manners Break” – asking for a sit and/or down, or some other behavior they have in their repertoire, then let them go back to play. Watch for body language — if one wants to play, and the other doesn’t and is not listening, then it’s okay to interrupt. But redirect behavior so the dogs can get their play-energy out. Maybe signing up for some classes where both dogs can attend? That’s often a fun — and functional — outlet to release energy, use their brains, and gain some life skills.

  11. rachel says:

    hi. i just adopted a 9.5 week puppy (loki) a week ago. he’s half lab and the other half is collie, shepard and husky..we also have a 5 or 6 year old bull terrier named sidney….Sidney has always been the sweetest thing, any dogs she’s been great around all dogs, big or small, and she plays like any normal dog, there’s chasing, a little rough housing and it’s fine. there’s even some mouthing.
    but with loki, he bites her (which i know is just because he is a puppy with sharp little puppy teeth) and they do the chasing around the house and sidney will ge all excited and jump up on her back paws and flap her front at him, and he’ll reciprocate in kind. however i get a little nervous due to the fact that my mom had dogs that loved each other and then one would just snap and attack the other…so when they play and mouth at each other and sometimes get a bit rough, it makes me paranoid.
    everyone keeps telling me it’s normal, but i don’t really recall my dogs growing up playing quite that roughly.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Congratulations on the adoption of your new puppy! Cuteness throughout the household, I’m sure. Yes, when it comes to dog-play, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for us humans – it’s as if we’re watching a MMA match! The key things to watch for are: reciprocal behavior, each dog consenting to what the other is offering, self-interruptions, and each listening to the other if and when one isn’t in the mood to play. If one is being more a “tarzan” or “bully” then it’s okay to interrupt, redirect, and provide outlets for the one who wants to spend more energy playing than relaxing. I encourage you to get the younger, more active and playful one into an appropriate class to teach manners and socialize. Happy training!

  12. Cecilia says:

    My dog Snickers is a spayed female just over a year old. She has plenty of interaction with other dogs as she goes to day care several times a month,and to the dog park several times a week. Recently, a new playmate arrived at the dog park, also a spayed female a bit older and about the same size as Snickers. They greeted each other in the usual way by sniffing. I noticed they each had their hackles raised and they both began snarling, I was afraid these were signs of aggression, but they had tails and ears up and did not seem to be truly fighting. This continued for a few minutes,while owners stayed near and watched closely. There was no escalation and then they began chasing each other and wrestling in a way we’re more used to seeing. Not sure what to make of the snarling behavior. Ideas?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Cecilia – thanks for posting – Gotta let you know how much I love the name “Snickers” – of course now I’m thinking of having a snack, but I’ll address your question first.

      You’ve described the situation quite clearly, I appreciate that. Sounds to me like it was normal dog-dog ritualized greeting style, and age appropriate. Of course it’s part of the greeting style that is concerning since you never know what will cause the situation to escalate. Raised hackles can be interpreted a few ways, as can other displays of canine body language. Although all speculation, the two gals could have been letting each other know where they stood within the social hierarchy of the relationship? (I refrain from using terms such as dominant and leader).

      One other point re:”snarling” my suggestion should this happen in the future is to interrupt and redirect, but in a positive way. Some quick tips: reward (treats/praise) for being polite, for playing nicely, and for ignoring other dogs that might be “rude.”

  13. Alexa says:

    I know of more than a few people that don’t let their puppies play fight because they think they are actually trying to hurt each other. Its actually pretty healthy to let them play this way for a couple reasons: exercise & training.

  14. Christen says:

    Our 5 year old poodle mix was attacked and killed by a female dog we had been dog sitting after 17 days together. Now we have two small puppies and watching them play fight brings back all the memories of our dog being attacked. I was wondering how common was that and should I be concern about our puppies?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Christen –

      WOW! Allow us here at IC HQ’s to relay our sorrows for the loss of your beloved poodle. How devastating that must have been to witness, and continue to live with. I’m sure it was and still is a shock!

      I’m sure puppies are helping with bringing some sunshine to your lives, but I can imagine their rough play style can trigger old feelings of concern. You’re smart to be aware of the situation between your two pups. “Normal” play can look pretty intense to us humans – it’s best to watch for reciprocal behaviors, self-interruption, and consensual play. As for the previous attack, it’s difficult to weigh in without knowing all of the details. I would suggest you look back, think about situations that lead up to the incident, and try to figure out what you can take and share with others.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story, Christen. We’re honored you’ve taken the time to join us.

      BTW, if you feel like posting pics of your pups, we’d love to have you join our Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/InquisitiveCanine

      Cheers and woofs,
      Joan and Poncho the Dog

  15. Lee says:

    Hello! A few days ago we brought home a female standard poodle puppy! We currently have a male mini poodle too who is 1 years old. The puppy is only 7 weeks old and already weighs the same as our mini poodle Red…he is 9 lbs she is 9.2lbs. But he is taller and more slender than her…she is just a lil short chunky poof of fur for now. Ive been trying to watch their play sessions and its hard to figure out if they’re playing or “fighting”. I understand puppies play “fight” and that is completely normal but here is my concern: when Red (the mini poodle) is playing with Ruby (standard poodle puppy) he seems to do it like he is having fun not trying to hurt her..patting her on the back with his paw trying to get her to lay more chasing her around and he’ll sometime nip at her side egging her on. Ruby like I said weighs the same but is a shorter than him right now and still a little wobbly on her feet..she’ll play back but often times fall on her back because she’s still learning to hold up her weight on those short legs. When she falls on her back Red tries and jumps on her to play (i think) more and Ruby will start to swat her paws. When she flips over she chases after him (which is good) but Red being taller and her wobbly self he always gets her again..while they are playing Ruby will what it sounds like snarl/growl and she opens her mouth in a way to show her teeth and goes after Red. Neither of the two got hurt yet or yelped in pain but I just get nervous with her snarling that she is going to grow up being aggressive towards other dogs. I know because she is still very young at 7 wks that maybe her staying with her litter mates would’ve have helped her with the playing and socializing. Im sorry if this sounds a lil confusing its hard putting into words lol. They both sleep in the same bed together at night with us and eat at the same time and play with same toys so I know there is no food or other aggression. And they frequently play tug of war with the same toy. Its just Red gets super excited and maybe he doesn’t realize that she is still a puppy bc she is the same size as him? Our neighbor has a shitzu that is the same size as Red and they play together chasing and tackling each other playfully but I get nervous he is making her play rough/aggressive because she starts to snarl a bit opening her mouth.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Lee – Wow! This sounds like a fun household! I invite you to post videos and/or pics on our Facebook Page. We love watching dog-play! — As for your situation, from what you’ve described it seems the dogs are playing quite nicely. Both are engaging, neither are trying to escape from the other, and both are listening to one another, yes? I would continue to monitor, watching for signs of one not wanting to play, and to make sure the younger one is safe from getting hurt — sometimes pups don’t monitor themselves, playing too hard and getting hurt. Since your younger one is still fragile, you’ll want to keep an eye on things. Continue to encourage both dogs to play with other dog-friends so they’re well socialized outside of their family members — sibs sometimes tolerate some behaviors other dogs might not.

    • Laura says:

      Hi, we have just welcomed an 8 week old pug and have a 1 year old pug. Our situation sounds exactly the same! I worry more for the older dog getting his eye scratched and the younger dog becoming too aggressive. Our older dog has been so patient so far, we are so proud of him. How long before the novelty wears off and they can coexist a bit more peacefully?

      • Joan the Dog Coach says:

        Hi Laura, sounds like you have a lot of cuteness going on around your house. Regarding “novelty,” each situation will be different, as will each dog’s definition of novelty. Keep reinforcing those behaviors that you like and want – playing nicely and being patient are two that come to mind.

  16. Holly says:

    Hi, i have a 2 year old dog that I picked out of a bin when he was only 6 weeks old. He is the sweetist dog you could ever meet. I’ve never seen any aggression with him and other dogs. We have now got a 6 month old Pug who has been with us for only 1 month. Both are male. Cookie the 2 year old dog keeps trying to hump Max my pug puppy, and this results in lots of barking and fighting. They do play fight and its not as aggressive. The strange thing is, its not as bad when my other half is in the house. But the moment i am left alone with the dogs cookie the older dog barks at Max and tries to hump him. Im really worrIed. We live in a flat and all the barking must upset the neighbours. Both dogs are walked twice a day and cookie being a bigger dog is sometimes taken out again. Its getting to the point i cant sit down because they are fighting ontop of me. Does anyone have any advice?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Holly! Thanks so much for writing in – I’m happy to provide a few tips – Hopefully other inquisitive pet parents will chime in as well!

      When it comes to play, remember some of the key elements to watch for: reciprocal behavior, consensual behaviors (both wanting to play), self-interruption (both take breaks on their own), both watch for signals from the other to begin (play-bow, paw raise, bark, dash-and-go) or end (walk away, sniff ground, sit and scratch, go to the water bowl, check in with you).

      A couple of other training tips I’d recommend: reward with petting, praise, treats, opportunity to play when both are playing nicely. Allow each to communicate to the other in the innate language they were born with. Interrupt before things get out of control and give them each something else to do that is rewardable, such as “sit”, lie down etc. They can each lie on a blanket/towel/bath rug nearby getting rewarded – or given a chew toy/bone – while they rest.

      I would also find other doggy pals for them both to play with so they learn skills from other dogs too, not just their sibling.

      Thank you again for being inquisitive, and taking the time to comment! We invite you to join our Facebook Page and post any pics/videos you’d want to share of Cookie and Max (they sound adorable!). https://www.facebook.com/InquisitiveCanine

  17. Emily says:

    I want to express my surprise and appreciation that you’re still responding to comments on an article that’s six years old!! Thanks!!

    We have a year and four-ish month old pit/boxer? mix named Pikel. who we adopted from our local Humane Society last June (hence the unknowns!). He’s very friendly with other dogs, but tends to go from extremes of psycho crazy hyper playful to absolutely terrified. The terrified side doesn’t concern me too much (though it’s a little frustrating when the other dog isn’t being a bully or trying to play rough and Pikel decides he’s terrified). When he gets worked up and is super playful, he barks his head off and kind of runs sideways into the other dogs, sort of body-slamming them from the side. Always keeping his head facing away from the other dog. And completely barking his head off (very loudly and very ferociously, though with very playful body language) the whole time. Is the barking something we should be concerned with? I feel bad at the dog park because it’s so loud!!

    Also, any tips on encouraging him to play with the “right” dogs? He seems to sometimes gravitate toward those dogs that don’t want to play with him, whether because they’re old (yes, some people bring their barely mobile 14 and 15 year old dogs to the dog park…) or because they’re scared of Pikel’s barking. It seems like he might be doing somewhat better now this spring, now that he’s a few months older? But it’s hard to tell. Any tips and comments would be welcome!! :)

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there! Thanks for the accolades and for being so inquisitive! Although the post has some years on it, it’s still a worthwhile topic…so I’ll keep reinforcing dedicated dog parents such as yourselves :-) Allow me to address your questions.

      Barking and other types of doggy-specific vocalization is completely “normal.” The times I would be more concerned is if one of the dogs had to persistently growl for the purpose of telling the other playmate to back off, feeling like she/he wasn’t being heard. Also, the loosey-goosey actions are ideal – bravo for noticing. If you’d like less vocalization, remember to praise your dog for when he’s more “quiet.” (You could treat him too, but only if it’s safe – you want to avoid resource issues between he and the other dogs).

      As for playing with more appropriate physically matched dogs, I’d suggest you look around and ask. And then reward your dog with praise, petting, treats for choosing those dogs you want him to play with. Also, just because a dog is older doesn’t mean s/he might not want to play. Go by what the other dog is doing – are they engaging? Are they avoiding? Sometimes the youngsters help keep us young ;-) If the other dog is displaying reciprocal behavior, then it should be consensual. But again, look around and ask…

      With regards to the “terrified” response, watch behaviors leading up to this – from your own dog as well as other dogs. The others might be sending messages they don’t want to play and your dog isn’t listening and doesn’t know how to cope? He also might be hurting himself (physically) getting so overworked and tired? Are you able to interrupt the play giving him a little break, so as not to allow him to get to the fearful point? All things to think about and try.

      Lastly, I love love love your description of your dogs play behavior! You’ve painted quite the perfect picture. I can totally understand and feel like I’m right there with you in the dog park. Kudos to you! Trainers such as myself appreciate when behaviors are described, as opposed to using labels!

      Thanks again for being inquisitive and joining the conversation :-) Feel free to comment/post – We also invite you to join our Facebook Page – would love to see pic/video of your own inquisitive canine! https://www.facebook.com/InquisitiveCanine

  18. Liz says:

    Hi. Just a bit of advice please! We have an adorable jackapoo 18 month old female Pippin who is very well socialised and loves playing with other dogs whilst on walks. Two weeks ago we bought an 8 wk old female whippet whom we have called Belle. We introduced our dogs away from home and everything went well. We decided to crate Belle in order that the two dogs would never be left alone. However at night the crate door has been left open and we have had no problems at all. Both dogs seem to be getting on very well. They are both fed individually and have separate toys. We have ensured that we always treat Pippin as no 1 dog, I.e she gets the treat first above Belle etc. we also ensure they each have time alone with us.
    I am a little concerned as initially the playfights seemed very tame but over the last 2 days have become very vocal. I have been interrupting when I felt it was getting too boisterous by spraying water and then calling both to sit and treat. Is this something which can happen as the puppy finds her feet and am I right to interrupt or should I allow them to sort it out themselves. I am getting conflicting answers so any guidance would be great. The last thing we want to do is for a fight to ensue.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there Liz – thanks so much for writing in, and congratulations on the addition to your family! Sounds like one paws-itive household :-) From your description it seems you’re taking the proper steps to ensure a harmonious household; introducing on neutral territory, allowing play – interrupting only when there’s concern, providing one-on-one time, and questioning conflicting information. We adore critical thinkers! So, allow me and Poncho to address your query.

      When it comes to vocalization, every dog is different as to how loud and/or intense their voices are. You’ll need to pay attention to the varied tones each of your dogs’ exhibits and understand when they are engaging in play and when one might be getting annoyed or too heated up. I would not only listen to voices but watch their body language. Is one trying to escape from the other and the instigator isn’t backing off? If so, then interrupt gently. Using a small treat or toy to lure them away from each other (no need to use the spray bottle though as this can create a negative outlook on one another). You can then do as you have been doing: ask for a sit or down or “Watch me”. This approach can 1) interrupt and redirect in a positive way 2) allow for “breaks” – so they learn to self-interrupt if they’re not doing so 3) create positive associations with one another which will help them like each other more, and trust the humans around them.

      You can also use their food to reward nice play behavior from the older one, while treating the younger one for bravery of playing with their older sibling. Although Pippin has been around longer, I would also suggest treating each dog equally – just as human siblings or coworkers want to be treated equally. One way you can achieve this would be taking both to a training class – Belle to a puppy class and Pippin to an adolescent or adult class — at some point you can take the both to the same class. This way each dog will also be introduced to other age-appropriate dogs so they can learn about playing with dogs other than their sib.

      Thanks again for writing in! We invite you to find us on Facebook – we’d love to see pics of your pups!

  19. Barbra says:

    I have a question and I am hoping for a good workable answer.

    I have 2 pitbulls, a male and an unrelated female. Both are 2-1/2. They used to play and get along great, and then about a year ago we rescued another dog with big problems. She has many issues and whipped up fights with the other two. Then one day my female pit attacked my male and it was ugly. We have kept them on a crate and rotate schedule ever since, although for the last couple of months we have loosened up and we keep the female restrained and trust the male to stay away, and it seems to work.

    My male seems to know when he can be close to the female and when she is “hot” and he needs to stay away. It is the male that is not socially well-adjusted though. I don’t think he had much contact with other dogs at all until I got him at 10 months old. He plays very rough, and in things like tug-of-war he can escalate very quickly. He is also bad at resource guarding.

    And then 2 nights ago I caught them playing when I was out of the room. Full body, having the time of their lives playing, complete with a destroyed bed and tongues hanging out of their mouths. I did notice that it was almost completely one dog dominating the other. They were trading off however. Then it happened again this morning.

    I am thrilled, but I am unsure of where to go from here. Everyone’s lives will be much better if they learn to co-exist. I don’t know if I should lave it alone and continue on this path a little longer or if I should release the female and let them have some more freedom in an environment that is free of anything that can be considered a resource, including myself perhaps.

    Because of the age my dogs were when that combative female came into our house I don’t know if it was her that set things off or if it was the two pitbulls maturing and becoming intolerant. Me female is very clear-headed however. She does not blindly strike out. She knows exactly what she wants and she goes for it. She does have the typical pit traits of being quick to act and having very subtle body language. You have to be on your toes.

    I promised my male I would not allow him to be hurt again and I intend to keep that promise. SO I need to know what my next steps should be.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Barbra — Thanks so much for sharing your story – sounds like an energetic household.

      Bravo for keeping an eye on your dogs, monitoring when and where you can, and for observing their body language. These three steps are key in maintaining a harmonious household.

      As far as “next steps,” I believe your last sentence says it all, “I promised my male I would not allow him to be hurt again and I intend to keep that promise.” I know it’s tempting to move things along quickly with the advancement of the relationship your dogs share, but I would continue on your current path: slow and steady, allowing them to set the pace. Learn to observe the more subtle signals, keep objects of guarding out of the picture, give everyone their space, provide individual activities so each can thrive on their own. And, when playing tug with your boy, make sure you take little “Manners Breaks” to help keep the excitement level a bit more controlled.

  20. Susie says:

    Hi, we recently adopted a three year old chihuahua mix. She’s very high energy and active, and she doesn’t appear to have had any training. We already have an eleven year old corgi mix, who prefers to ignore the new one and go about her business. The problem is that the new dog pesters the old one, mounting her from behind until the older dog snaps and they start fighting. I can usually divert the new dog with a toy or by taking her outside to play, but I worry about leaving them home alone.

    I plan to get the new dog into basic obedience, but in the meantime what can we do to address this behavior? I don’t want either one of them to get hurt. I’m doing some research online and came across your article. Thanks!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there, Susie!
      Thanks so much for joining the conversation — we appreciate your inquisitiveness. Poncho and I suggest you be proactive with the situation, preempting any type of interactions where you’re having to interrupt and redirect. Save the latter for times when you’re caught off-guard. What does this look like? 1) Reward the younger dog for giving the older one space and respecting boundaries, 2) reward the older one for being polite to her younger sib, 3) reward both for those times when they play together nicely, 4) provide other fun outlets for the younger pup, such as at-home training games, scavenger hunts, fetch, tug, walks and runs, meals out of food toys, chew bones, and classes! (Yay for already planning on attending those!) And remember, when you’re not training or keeping an eye on them, manage their environment to help prevent unwanted behaviors from rearing their ugly head.

  21. Katlyn says:

    Question that I am hoping will get a wonderful answer like the others on the post- so informative! My husband and I just adopted a 2 year old greyhound/lab mix from a local shelter. She is very polite and loves other dogs we have met on walks. She exhibits very playful posturing and will sometimes roll over, showing her belly. This weekend we have to travel to my parents house for a wedding. We live in an apartment, my parents live on a farm. They have 2 2-year-old Australian Shepherds who are not as well mannered as our Callie. They have not really been leash trained since they have free roam of the house and invisible fenced yard. We travel there a lot and want Callie to be able to coexist with Sadie and Josie the shepherds. sadie is a bit of a guard dog and has been known to growl at strangers or snap at mailmen. We are worried about introducing the dogs. The one time in my memory that another dog came to play with sadie and josie they had moments of aggression at the beginning but played fine afterwards. Any tips to make the meeting smooth? We plan to bring Callie’s crate for while we are at the wedding and in case there are serious problems between the dogs.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there Katlyn,
      Thanks so much for writing in – your question is a good one. And, bravo for planning ahead for the trip since it sounds like you’ll be busy with the wedding events and whatnot. With regards to your question of helping to make the meeting go smoothly, I’d suggest 1) meet on neutral territory and go for a walk (if possible, not sure this is likely out on the ranch). 2) introduce one dog a time to Callie 3) reward polite behaviors with high value treats/foods (will create positive associations with one another) 4) see if your family or their friends can help find you a qualified dog trainer, pet sitter or dog walker that can help out with all of the inquisitive canines while everyone is busy with wedding affairs. Crates, baby gates, X-pens and sequestering to separate locations with enrichment is certainly an option for times when management is in order — and you’re not around to watch and train. Hopefully this is enough to get started — feel free to contact us again with updates or additional questions! We love inquisitive people too :-)

  22. Anna says:

    Hoping for some advice. We have a sweet female dog, we think she is about 3, we’ve had her for a year and a half. She is great with kids, has some fear of men in big coats and hats (barks at them but stops when she sees they are ok) We think she is part Jack Russell and part blue heeler/or cattle dog. She loves the dog park. Usually she is well behaved, occasionally snaps if another bigger dog is too rough or runs over her in chase. It’s never been a problem and if we see it we give her a time out, either with a verbal sit or if she’s super excited a couple minutes with the leash on. I took her to the same fenced dog park we always go to this week. I noticed she was running around to all the trees and sniffing and then lifting her leg and peeing. She did this to many trees. She doesn’t urinate like that at home (she squats) and I’d only ever seen her lift a leg a couple times before, and then she only did it once. My adult daughter (who is actually her owner and lives with us) took her tonight to the park. There was a poodle there who Jordan had played with before just fine. The minute my daughter removed the leash and let Jordan into the park she bolted straight for the poodle and attacked it. She had it down, but thankfully it was broken up quickly when the poodles owner pushed Jordan off his dog. It was not playful at all according to my daughter. The poodles dad was mad, the mom remembered the two dogs playing together before also and was surprised. Once she caught Jordan (who ran off and wouldn’t come at first) and leashed her, my daughter apologized profusely and gave our phone number to the couple. The poodle was shaken but unhurt. What in the world happened? Someone else has told me that when she went around lifting her leg she was marking the entire park as hers and will now be aggressive any time she is there. I’m so sad and worried. What should we do next? Obviously we won’t be taking her back to the park until we have this figured out. There were several other dogs in the park when this happened.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Anna – Thanks for sharing your story. Your friend’s observation might be spot-on, in that it sounds like Jordan is marking, versus eliminating. Whether she wants to make the entire park her own or not is all theoretical. In any case, I can see how modifying her behavior is key. A couple of quick tips Poncho and I would recommend would be: no park outings unless you’re working with a certified trainer who uses force-free methods – check the http://www.ccpdt.org website for a referral, condition Jordan to wear a muzzle — gotta protect the weapon and public, practice “manners” skills to help bond you share, while providing life-skills, monitor body language to help understand communication — she’s probably been sending off warning signals for awhile, so it’s important you “hear” what she’s saying. As for “time-outs,” those are appropriate if and when Jordan is being more of a bully. However, if other dogs are invading her space, and she’s telling them to back off, then allow her to communicate her needs. If she keeps getting ignored, or being punished for expressing her feelings in appropriate ways, it could lead to her having to “get louder” in sending her message, including snarking, biting, and going into attack mode.

  23. Helen says:

    My dog is a yorkie 12 years old, he likes going to the park,but other dogs always want to play with him, but all he wants to do is watch the other dogs play, do dogs know when a dog is old or young.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Through doggy innate communication, they are able to detect gender, health status, and commonly, age. In my professional (and personal) observations, I’ve seen where young dogs will bound towards another dog with great enthusiasm, but once they realize the other dog is “mature” he or she will back away — not to anthropomorphize, but it’s almost a “Respect your elders” type of approach. Your senior dog still might enjoy the great outdoors, but I would say he might prefer to enjoy from afar…allow him to attend the party as he sees fit.

  24. Gabi says:

    Hi Joan!

    I have just adopted (2days ago) a three year old female lab. She is spayed but I was told by the shelter that her previous owners crated her for more than 20 hours a day and so she suffers sever separation anxiety. In addition, she will try to climb on top of me and hump me while mouthing my arm. I have noticed that the humping behavior occurs during times when she is over stimulated due to playing and when she wants to engage in play. The problem is that I am unable to get her to stop at this point. I have tried trying to prevent the behavior by recognizing when it is about to occur and giving her a different command but, that has not been successful. I have also tried to place her on her back to get her into submissive pose (my bf can do this but she struggles with me). Any suggestions? Thanks!!!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Gabi – Wow, it sounds like you saved this poor pup from a dreadful life. But it appears as if she has landed in a great household, where she’ll be loved and cared for 24/7! Initial thoughts that Poncho and I have would be: practice different play skills and games before you need them, including trying to preempt when the behavior is about to occur. Your timing sounds good, but with practicing the skills, she’s more likely to respond. And remember to include high-value treats and activities into the play sessions, with “manners” and rest breaks, along with rewarding behaviors you want, and staving off those amped up moments. As for the rolling-on-back activity, I would recommend avoiding this. When dogs go into a “submissive” position, they do so on their own, not by others forcing it. Methods such as these have a risk of leading to confusing — she might think you want to play — or, it could scare her, leading her to become fearful of you and/or your boyfriend, damaging the harmonious bond you’re trying to create.

  25. Lisa says:

    Hi there. We have a 1 year old labrador named Kiara and we look after my sisters dog while she is at work who is a pug and also 1 years old named Millie sometimes at their home and sometimes at ours. However Kiara chases Millie constantly, as soon as she has her in sight that’s it she focuses on her and we are unable to get her attention back at all. We have tried treats, throwing her ball etc and nothing seems to work. Millie will play for a little while and then wants to pretty much be left alone but Kiara doesn’t seem to know when to stop. She was the same when my friend brought her dog round, they were here for 6 hours an Kiara was none stop.

    I’m worried about my children because she doesn’t realise they are there and has almost knocked me and my husband over, I’m worried that if she knocks them over she will really hurt them when she’s doing this because it is with some force when she runs past.

    Any advice on this would be much appreciated.

    Thanks you

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Lisa – thanks for posting your comment. Wow, Kiara’s energy sounds amazing — too bad we can’t bottle it. It sounds like she needs a full-time job, so it’ll be up to you to fill that need. Initial thoughts are: get Kiara into fun dog training classes, including dog-sport activities. This will keep her mentally and physically busy (and possibly tire her out), plus she’ll learn life-skills to help her play nicely with other dogs. You’ll also have the tools for requesting ideal behaviors when you need them — such as “Go to Your Mat” when kids are around — as opposed to allowing her to run them over. Arrange specific play sessions, rewarding behaviors you want, including playing nicely with her doggy pals, and when she self-interrupts. You can also practice interrupting, using higher value treats, offer up “manners breaks,” then allow her to play again. Keep in mind Kiara is still pretty young, and will likely grow out of some of her exuberance — not all of it, but some. And, she’ll then learn the skills you want her to develop.

  26. Lex says:

    So my dogs always wrestle. But it always ends in my male (fixed) humping or trying to hump my female puppy (not fixed and usually her head for some reason) should i break them up or just let em stop on their own?

    Lex

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there Lex – you’ve certainly described the scene perfectly. Quite cute and hysterical ;-) As both a trainer and dog mom, I only interrupt dog-play when one (or more) of the dogs playing aren’t reading or listening to the cues of others, or aren’t self-interrupting – which is considered polite, appropriate dog-play.

      Performing a consent test would help you decide on next steps: gently hold onto your male and then observe what the puppy does next. Does she walk away and hide, or look at you as if she’s saying “thank you!” or does she try to engage in more play? If it’s the latter then I’d say allow them to continue, but still keep an eye on them to make sure everything is going smoothly.

      Bravo on your observation skills!!!

  27. Kerry says:

    I have two dogs, both adopted from the Humane Society. One is a Cavalier King Charles Cross – not sure what the other part of the cross is, and the other is a chihuahua cross. They get along with each other very well. They play hard and snuggle and share their toys. The only thing that I think is odd is that at least once a day they will spend five minutes licking the inside of each other’s mouth. This is reciprocal and afterwards both Buddy and Joey snuggle. It almost looks like they are cleaning each other’s teeth! Any explanations out there?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi there Kerry –
      Thanks for writing in. Great observation on your part – and an interesting scenario, to say the least. I’ve spent some time at the dentist the past couple of weeks and I have to say, he didn’t mention this type of mouth care. But hey, whatever works!

      When it comes to behavior, getting down to the most simplistic explanation, remember that animals perform behaviors to get more or less of what they want. When it comes to your two dogs it seems they both like and want more of licking one another’s mouths. The activity could fall under the, “If it feels good, do it” perspective, yes?

      It’s great that they get along so well — and even more wonderful that you have opened your heart and home to adopt these two loving inquisitive canines :-)

      Cheers and woofs to you all!

  28. Sharon says:

    We have a 6 month old black lab named Sasha. She’s sweet but very excitable around new people and other dogs, but generally quite submissive. She hates being left on her own, so we decided another pup might help. Today we brought home Boo who we realised as soon as we saw her was not the dog described in the ad we responded to. However, we wouldn’t have been able to live with ourselves if we’d walked away from her. She’s much, much younger than the 12 wks we were expecting, and is tiny compared to Sasha’s robust build. Sasha is understandably very excitable around her but she is demonstrating some stalking behaviour around Boo and I don’t know what to expect from it all. She also stands ringht over her and Boo has already been very vocal and nippy in response. I know it’s obviously very early days yet, but any advice or reassurance you could offer would be much appreciated.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Sharon — thanks for your comment. Poncho and I would suggest you reward each dog — Boo for being brave, and Sasha for being a polite older sis. Make sure that Sasha is being monitored, observing body language, and taught the right skills for interacting with other dogs. Giving each dog their space would also be good for independence, and feelings of safety. (Provide appropriate enrichment if you use crates/X-pens/confinement). We would also recommend you enroll in appropriate, reward-based puppy and dog training classes. Both dogs are learning how to be dogs, by helping them with the skills, they’ll likely develop into two smart cookies!

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  30. Emma Rutherford says:

    Hi – just wondering if I could add a question to the pot. We have a large 2 year old male dog staffie x mastiff (we rescued him from a shelter around 10 months ago). We have worked hard with his basic obedience but still struggle daily with him, plus he was never socialised and is very reactive. Recently we fostered a young female pup (also a staffie x) who we decided to keep and she is now around 4-months old. We’ve had her since she was 7 weeks old. They have never really bonded, and I don’t feel that they feel like part of each others pack. They need to be supervised constantly and so are separated if we leave the house. She is going through a real landshark phase and her play always seems to involve swinging off his dangly bits, and because I guess he was never socialised correctly, he doesn’t provide normal adult/pup corrections, so unless we step in she continues at him (biting his neck, face and legs) until of course he has really had it and he turns on her bowls her, pins her on her back and bites her neck. As soon as he lets her up she is back at him. The other day his bite was far too hard as she was having trouble breathing, I called him off but a chase then ensued until he could make a dash for the safety of inside the house. I don’t feel that their ‘play’ is play, it feels like more of a power struggle. There is no real switching of rolls when this happens.. I’m worried that I may not be able to keep the young female whom I love so much – if they can’t be left alone life could be very difficult! What can I do?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Emma — thanks for throwing your question into the pot. It’s a good one. This is a great example of why it’s important to arrange play-dates with non-sibling dogs. It seems that sibs will tolerate a lot more than other dogs who are unknown or just friends. Sounds like your male is a lot more tolerant, while the youngster is quite confident — and tenacious. If her being pinned by her brother was “punishing,” she would have backed off. Your male is having to escalate force, which isn’t really fair to him. I would suggest getting both dogs into classes to teach life-skills and to make friends with other dogs. In addition to skills, both will learn boundaries, build confidence, enhance their bond with you, and make new friends.

  31. Bethany says:

    Hi-

    I really appreciate all the info you have given in the article and the replies! I have just adopted a 3 month black lab female, Melia and my sister has a 2 1/2 month shepherd/collie puppy, Moose (quite a bit smaller). They met for the first time last night. Melia dominated Moose, a lot of neck biting/pinning, biting his side, face but Moose laid on his back, played back and kept coming back for more. They both seemed to have fun but I kept getting involved to release Melia’s bite on Moose. Moose never yelped, so I don’t think Melia was hurting him. But she seemed like she chomped down hard and I really had to pry her jaw open. Should I be worried Melia is biting down too hard even if Moose doesn’t yelp?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Bethany,

      Thanks for writing in – seems like you and your sis are having lots of fun puppy play sessions together with the Melia and Moose show! You’ve mentioned some key points: 1) Moose keeps coming back for more, 2) no one is yelping, 3) Moose returned the play behaviors, engaging with Melia. If the pups are continuing to display reciprocal consenting play behaviors then I’d continue to allow them to play. You can certainly interrupt now and again for obedience breaks, then allow them to play again. But see if you can allow them the opportunity to self interrupt. And remember, reward behaviors you like and want, including each dog playing nicely and being polite. Cheers to you all!

  32. Aztrid Lasala says:

    My female siberian husky just turned 1 year old this year. I always take her for walks and pass by our neighbors dog, who is always out of the cage. I always let my dog play with that male dog but they just kinda keep on wrestling like 2 bears wrestling. I don’t know if its good or not, also my dog bites the male dogs neck then runs off, what does that mean?? Please hellllppp!! Thank you

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Aztrid — sounds like the two dogs are having fun, yes? Wrestling is part of play, as is biting, running, and chasing. Here’s a question: what does the neighbor dog do? Run away to get away from your dog? Or run away to get your dog chase him? That’s a key clue as to whether this horseplay might lead to tragedy.

  33. Mona says:

    Hi We have a 14 weeks old female Chihuahua puppy (Roxy) and 2 older female spayed Chihuahuas one 10 (Lucy) and the other is 8 (Maxie). Maxie lets Roxy bully her, paw on Maxie’s shoulder, butt her, then they starting growling and playing until Maxie stand like she wanting Roxie to “do something” I have to ended it every time they play too rough! I worry about Maxie as she tries to take a breather but she kept on going with Roxy. I just started puppy class with Roxy last week. I had to put Maxie in the other room as it was too much! Help!! thank you, Mona

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Mona — Did Maxie keep wanting to play, but just needed to take a breather due to age and energy level? If so, interrupting, creating shorter, but frequent play sessions might be fun for both dogs. If Maxie wants to escape, that is a different story. But it sounds like she’s having some fun, learning how to be a youngster again. Bravo for getting Roxy into puppy class!! She should burn energy and make some friends — both helpful for keeping a harmonious household.

  34. Alisha says:

    Hi, I was just reading through the different comments and questions that people have made and find that the answers are very appropriate. Maybe you could answer my question. We have a 1 1/2 year old Idaho Shag (which is a mix of heeler, aussie, and collie), Bree. and just a couple of months ago got a 6 week old shag/ border collie mix named Tess. I at first just let them be together all the time as they got along really well. But, I started to notice that even when I was out there with them (they are strictly outside dogs) they were constantly play fighting, and it was hard to get Tess’s attention because she was so busy imitating or attacking Bree. Bree is so full of energy she just dishes it back and never does any older dog discipling when Tess goes too far like I have read about other dogs. I could see it was going in a bad direction, so I have since seperated them completely by tying them up in different spots and then just taking turns doing stuff with them (Which, as a side note, I know the prolonged lengths of time tied aren’t good so I try to go out twice a day and spend around a half an hour plus with each dog, as well as any time I am out there to have one of them off with me. Is that enough? Sometimes too I’ll let one off the leash and just watch through the window to make sure the loose dog doesn’t go by the tied up dog). It has helped leaps and bounds with Tess’s training and she now pays closer attention to me and what I am doing and asking, but since I would always find a disconnect of attention of both dogs when together I have just continued to keep them seperate. Because every time Tess gets with Bree, Tess will lick or nip all over Bree’s face and jump on her. I started to wonder though about making it possible for them to be together, just appropriately and what exactly that entails. How do I let them have quality time together without Tess becoming obsessed with Bree again?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Alisha — Keep in mind that both dogs are young, so should grow out of the excessive play. If you have another human that can help monitor play, then I would suggest you take the time to teach them to play together. Use the tips mentioned in the post. You can also arrange life-skill training sessions with both dogs — each person handle one dog. Basically creating your own “Dog Manners” class. They learn to have fun together, but as study-buddies.

  35. Andrea says:

    This is such a great service to the dog loving community! Thanks! And now my question. I have a Pit mix (DNA test says 1/2 Staffy, 1/4 Entlebucher, 1/4 retriever). I worry a bit about his Pit instincts, but he is generally a very tolerant dog. I have been taking him to the dog park since he was four months old. He is 2 1/2 now. He seems to be less interested in playing now that he is older, but he will play sometimes and loves going to the dog park. He is more guarded now though and will run between my legs (or a strangers legs) if he is scared. He also tends to bark when other dogs are rough-housing for fun and gets especially animated and interested if dogs ever fight, to the point that I am afraid he is going to get into a fight or hurt if a keyed up dog lashes out at him. Someone actually grabbed his collar last time like they were holding him back which made me angry, because he has always left the tiff if I call him away. The barking when other dogs are just playing is hard to stop, fairly harmless, and horribly annoying. Why is he so interested in other dogs playing and why doesn’t he just join in with the fun? And why does he try to act like the dog park cop all the time? I swear he is yelling at other dogs to stop playing so rough or fighting, but I know that is probably humanizing him a little too much.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for writing in and joining the conversation — It’s fun to anthropomorphize! But you’re right, let’s tackle this with a more objective eye.

      Your dog likes to be playground monitor — this isn’t uncommon, so know that you’re not alone. The bigger question here is: what is your overall goal? Do you want to take walks at the park with your dog? Then concentrate on that activity. Do you want your dog to play with other dogs? Then you might want to find smaller groups, even one-on-one, where his play-pals have similar play styles. If he is guarding himself, could it be that he’s physically uncomfortable and trying to protect body parts that might be sore? Might be a stretch, but something to consider.

      Keep in mind that your dog is maturing and what he found to be fun when he was younger, he no longer finds as enjoyable. Similar to us screaming and playing on the playground when we were kids, we now enjoy doing other types of activities as adults. (Although it would be fun to scream and run around on a playground now and again) ;-)

      In any event, allow your dog to choose the activities that he likes — it’ll be more fun for him and less frustrating for you, making your outings that much more fun!

      Cheers and woofs,
      Joan & Poncho

  36. Sarah says:

    I’m so thankful for this forum and all of the Q&A. I’m hoping for some guidance with my situation. We have a 4 month old german shorthaired pointer pup. We have experience with the breed and know their needs. However, we recently acquired a cute, 1 year old Brussels Griffon mix. We wanted our GSP to have a companion for burning off some of her energy, but wanted a smaller, lap sized dog for us. The Grif is very obedient and well behaved and the two dogs enjoy each other’s company. However, I can’t always tell if he’s playing or not. My puppy is always playing and goes at it with abandon which is typical for her breed. The Grif seems to be playing too, but vocalizes a lot-which we’re not used to. Frankly, he’s kind of scary looking at times. I don’t think my bigger, GSP pup is very good at picking up social skills yet, and I don’t want her to learn aggressive behavior from the Grif -if that’s what’s happening. I’ve experiments a bit, pulling one or the other away, and there doesn’t seem to be any tension which might indicate a fight. Is it okay to break it up if I think it’s too rough? Should I give my puppy time to play with other dogs her age? What about the Grif-I don’t know about his background, but suspect he didn’t have a lot if socializing experiences. I’m feeling a bit anxious about our decision to bring in a second dog and would love any insights you may offer.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hey there, Sarah — Thanks so much for joining the conversation! Poncho and I are thankful for inquisitive pet parents like you! We appreciate your story. I can totally understand that certain dog vocalizations and body language can sometimes be scary to us humans. To answer your specific questions, we say yes, it’s okay to interrupt before the situation gets too heated up. (Horseplay leads to tragedy, as our parents taught us). “Manners Breaks” to interrupt while making it fun for both dogs will help promote self-interruption, and rewarding both dogs for playing nicely will also help. As for arranging play sessions with other dogs, we say yes for both dogs. Matching play-style is important, sometimes more so than age (but do consider vaccinations and keeping puppy safe). Regarding your final concern, enrolling your Grif in “Manners” classes will help develop social skills, along with making new friends and building confidence.

  37. Brittany says:

    I have a question about rough play. I have a 2 year old male Siberian Husky that I raised from 6 weeks and a 5 year old female Husky I adopted earlier this year. They play incredibly rough with each other, much rougher than with other dogs. The female usually puts the male in his place if he steps too far past the line of acceptable play.
    However, I dog sit quite regularly and while the female will never play or acknowledge any other dog other than her brother, the male plays super rough with higher energy young dogs and sometimes the other dog walks away with scratches. It’s an interesting conversation with other pet owners when they show up and their dog has small scratches around their neck/ears. My dog usually walks away with some too, but people don’t see those as well since he’s so fluffy.
    Is there a way to teach him to calm down the rough play with guest dogs? Usually it’s because the other dog exhibited they were ok or provoked it. I know there is no aggression at all, new dogs quickly learn the pack order too. Or maybe if it’s not possible, should I be issuing out a disclaimer?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Brittany,
      Thanks for writing in — good observations and good questions. Here are our few quick tips: 1) if you are running a petsitting business then I would definitely have an official waiver that clients sign, but you might want to consult a lawyer to be sure 2) if your dog isn’t self-interrupting his play, then I would teach him to do so. You’ll find tips in our blog on how to do this. 3) Make sure your dog is playing with other dogs that match his play-style 4) keep in mind that siblings and co-resident dogs tolerate a lot more from one another than unknown (or newly introduced) dogs, so you’ll need to keep a sharp eye on their play 5) reward any and all behaviors you like and want — especially when your dog is playing nicely!
      Cheers & woofs,
      Joan & Poncho

  38. Lori says:

    Hi, I have a question regarding my 2 dogs. My husband and I have a black lab mix, Abbey, who is 3 years and 10 months old, whom we have had for 3 years and 7 months. We also have a German Shepherd mix, Rocky, who is 4 years and 2 months old, whom we have had for 3 years and 1 month. They get along great. We call them our lovebirds, because of the displays of affection they show each other. They are really a good match for each other. They are both indoor/outdoor dogs. Over the years they have had a few real fights (3 or 4), but they always get over it and move on very quickly. Unfortunately, Abbey has severe hip dysplasia, and spinal arthritis at her young age. She is on daily meds, and supplements for this. She seems to be doing just fine, and when she seems a little under the weather we just restrict her activity. We are Rocky’s fifth home (poor guy), so he is very needy (sometimes overly so). Even though he has found his forever home with us, and has been with with us for over 3 years, he is still insecure. So, now that you have the background, here is my issue. Abbey and Rocky are rough players. In the beginning it really made me nervous. Rocky is extremely vocal during play, and it sounded scary. However, Abbey always comes back for more, when she feels up to it. And Abbey likes being chased, and Rocky likes chasing her. It doesn’t really make me nervous anymore, as we’ve had them together for 3 years, and obviously if they were going to seriously hurt each other, they would have done it by now. However, when we come home, especially at night, they get really rough with each other, more so than any other time, and Rocky seems to be the instigator. We have a gate to our property and I can see them starting this as soon as we are driving up to the gate. I can’t stop it right away. It almost looks to me like Rocky is trying to chase Abbey off, so he can get attention first (jealousy and insecurity?) or maybe they are overly excited we are home. He’s also pinning her down, and roughly. Now she does get into this as well. It just looks so rough and scary, and it can’t be good on Abbey’s hips. I try to restrain Rocky, but he is almost 100 pounds, and it is very hard, because he is strong. Once they are inside after this, they calm down and are fine. This just doesn’t look like their regular play, and I just don’t want them being that rough with each other due to Abbey’s hips. I can’t stop it right when it starts because I am not even in the yard yet. Any suggestions on what I can do, short of separating them when are going to be home after dark? (not something I really want to do, because I am glad they have each other when we are not home. It’s not super often we are gone until after dark, but it does happen).

    Thanks!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Lori – thanks for outlining your situation in such great detail. These are some initial thoughts: 1) teach the dogs to “station” to their own individual place (i.e. mat, towel, bed, or even a crate with open door). Your car becomes the “trigger” for them to go to their place; 2) in leu of going to their station, teaching them to auto-sit (or down, or stand still) when they see your car; 3) stop your car at the gate, practice recall, then walk them back to the house – you might need to train one dog at a time, unless you have someone else to help (one person per dog); 4) teach dogs to self-interrupt play to help prevent the situation from getting out of control (remember, horseplay leads to tragedy). Most importantly, monitor Abbey’s health condition to ensure she feels well, is not in pain, and wants to play. Maybe taking them to training classes including lower impact such as Nose Work courses could be an option? Something to think about. Let us know how things go! And thank you for being inquisitive.

  39. L. Green says:

    Hope you can help! I have a 7 year old male Golden Retriever and a 1 year old female boxer. Both are fixed. They have been the best of friends since we brought the female boxer home as a pup. Our Golden R. Is very docile and affectionate towards everyone including the female boxer pup. She is also very gentle and affectionate. Our female boxer follows him everywhere and cuddles with him at night. Up until now, she hasn’t seemed to mind that he asserts (friendly) dominance in the form of going to her food bowl or taking her toys. She just patiently went to get another toy. He never growls or does these things in a threatening manner – he just walks slowly up and takes her toys! She good naturedly gives them up! But recently, our male GR approached her when she was eating, presumably to try out her food (they swap bowls all the time) and this time she let out a very loud and threatening bark! It scare the GR and he stood stunned, then walked away. The whole thing passed without incidence, except that now our Golden Retriever will not have anything to do with our boxer! He ignores her or walks away from her. It’s as if their whole relationship has changed! She seems to understand that he doesn’t want her, so she goes her way and he goes his and they have no interaction at all! It’s so strange because they have been the best of friends, and the “incident” wasn’t alarming or even particularly aggressive. She just sent out a warning bark and he walked away. And has stayed away! I hope it’s a temporary thing because one of the reasons we got the puppy was so that our GR would have a playmate after our children left for college! Also, the poor boxer pup looks so lost and forlorn without her friend. They won’t sleep together anymore, and act as if they just don’t like each other! No fighting at all, just apathy! Im trying not to attach human emotions to them, but seriously, they’re acting like a couple who have “fallen out” and are giving each other the silent treatment!! Any ideas out there?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Laura – thanks for taking the time to write. You’ve outlined the situation quite clearly, which we appreciate. My immediate thoughts are: 1) had the dogs been communicating with one another in more subtle ways all along, but this last incident was the proverbial “straw?” 2) has your boxer finally matured enough to stand her own ground, not wanting to put up with her older sib, and not wanting to share at the same level she used to? As for ideas, I suggest you arrange fun activities they can do together – take them to positive reinforcement-based training classes (Manners, sports etc…), our for walks, or trips to the outdoor cafes (or wherever dogs are allowed in your area). The more fun they have together with the guidance of the humans, the more likely they will enjoy spending time together on their own. Also, remember to reward each dog for showing interest in one another, and especially if and when they play together. This type of “shaping” can help build the bond they once shared and likely allow them to “fall back in.”

  40. Sarah says:

    Hello. We have an almost 4 year old male bichon frise (Peppa) and have recently bought a 9 week old female puppy,who is Yorkie cross. When they first met our eldest dog barked for quite a while at her and refused to come near her. It’s been a few days since the introduction and they’ve settled well but I’m still unsure how the eldest feels. He jumps up on the sofa to get away from the puppy, who isn’t phased by Peppa and at times tries to chase and play with him. Peppa is more reserved and moves away. But if she gets too much he sometimes snaps or barks at her. Recently he’s been barking right at her face (quite close) and been chasing her,which is right on her tail. His tale is wagging the entire time and my husband seems to think they are playing. Is this right?? I’m nervous how to integrate them and I don’t want to interfere on dog hierarchy! They sleep in the same room but the puppy is in a cage and when it’s feeding time they both get fed at the same time and there seems to be no jealousy or fighting over each other’s food. Please can I have some advice. Is this barking normal and will our older dog get used to the new puppy. He’s a friendly dog,who is quite placid but normally round other dogs he can be a bit nervous if they are energetic. But he always wants to meet them.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Sarah – thanks for being an inquisitive pet parent. It sounds like both dogs have their own individual play style, and both are learning how to respect that – and “listen.” If Peppa is barking and chasing to tell the younger sib to back-off, then I’d say they’re not playing — at least the older one isn’t but the younger one might think it’s play. This is a post from a dog parent who had a similar issue: http://inquisitivecanine.com/dogtraining/mutt-match-made-heaven/ Read through and try out the training tips, and please let us know how it goes – you can always send follow-up questions.

  41. Liz says:

    We just added a 7 month old white GSD/cattle dog to our house of two adult humans and a 2 year old Lab mix. Our lab mix Indy is quite the energetic player and is one who has always “played rough”. Now we have the new dog, Rue, Indy will not leave her alone. After 2 days Rue is starting to play rough back. Is this reinforcing/teaching bad habits?? I’ve been intervening when the play gets too rough but after a minute break they go straight back into it. Indy also starts play biting Rue’s ears and legs when I or my boyfriend pet her? Is that aggression or just adjusting? I’ve been trying to tire them out together and separately. Started training the new pup while crating the existing one but it’s only day 2 so she doesn’t know many commands. I’ve also been keeping up with my training with Indy in the same manner (crating Rue). It’s exhausting having them together right now but I want them to learn to be around each other. We’ve been having them play together, have a break, go outside and play together, train separate as described earlier, etc. Does this play/jealousy go away with time? Is rough play inherently bad if it’s how dogs relate? I just don’t want to create any fear/aggression in the dogs if there is something I could have done to help it. Thanks so much!!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Liz – Wow! Bravo for all of your efforts in helping Indy and Rue develop a loving relationship. Being day 2, I would continue to monitor for the next few days/weeks while getting through the adjustment/honeymoon period. While doing so, you’ll want to reward Indy for leaving Rue alone when you pet her – you can teach Indy to sit/stay using high-value food rewards whenever you pet Rue. This will 1) teach Indy the better choice of behaviors, and 2) create a positive association: every time Rue gets attention, Indy wins the lotto – not so bad for Indy :-) It sounds like you’ve started out on the right paw, for sure! Let us know how it goes.

  42. zhana says:

    We have 14 month old,90 pound german shepherd, who is absolutely amazing. Happy,healthy,calm and colected. We just rescued 5 weeks old puppy, and it seems that german shepherd wants to play, but he is so big he is scaring a little one..is that normal, and how to adjust gs to be gentle?thanks!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Zhana – I would using all rewards (petting, praise, treats, etc…) to teach your GS to be more stationary, allowing your youngster to have control of approaching and interacting with his/her older sib. At this young and tender age, you’ll really need to monitor any interaction to ensure the young pup is safe.

  43. vanessa says:

    I have a 20 lb brussels griffon who is very good with other dogs, however hes not much of a player and doesnt like dogs who paw at him too much and will correct them. Most of the time this is fine and the other dog takes no for an answer. Recently my boyfriend got a pitbull, she is super sweet and only wants to play, but she is hyper focused on my dog and wont take no for an answer. I am afraid to let my dog go into full correction mode since the pit is so powerful, im worried what could happen if she does get mad. How do we handle this? Thank you!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Vanessa – When you say “hyper focused and won’t take no for an answer” my first thoughts are: 1) get both dogs into a positive reinforcement training class so you can create some fun bonding time with focused activities, 2) find pals for your pit who have the same play-style, allowing her to get some of that energy out – playing with other dogs goes beyond exercise, it’s good socialization and development of skills that dogs can only get from other dogs. 3) if you’re concerned, you can condition your pit to wear a basket muzzle that would help prevent any disasters. By teaching her to love her muzzle, she’ll be happy to wear it. For more info on muzzles, check out my trainer pals website: http://muzzleupproject.com (Think of it as holstering a weapon, not being punished). Finally, you might want to involve a certified dog trainer for some one-on-one help, should you still have concerns.

  44. Brianna says:

    Hello Joan,
    I have two english bulldogs both about 6 months old and they are siblings (male and female). They are always fighting! yes they play fight, but when they get aggressive they are barking and one of them always comes out with a new scratch/cut. They only do it for about a minute but its constantly! Its usually the female that starts it by growling at the male. Its not during feeding time, it’s Usually when they are in the cage. I don’t know what to do to make them stop! please help!

  45. Sia says:

    So…about a year or so ago, I briefly kept an eye on my grandfather’s dog and the dog’s daughter/friend. (both bitches – mother/daughter that are ‘close’, in human terms) They were playing and doing all the bowing and stuff and I was watching them playing because it was amusing.

    Then after a bit, I wasn’t sure if they were playing. I’d read this article before so I tried restraining the daughter – she was taking a more active role. Mostly the daughter was the one doing the chasing. They BOTH looked relieved when I tried this?

    I picked the mother up (they’re lapdog size) and gave her a fuss. When I put her down again, they quite happily went back to playing although at less intensity than before.

    What was that about? My best guess is that they were genuinely playing but got a little overexcited and needed help calming down again.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Bravo, Sia! Yes, it does sound like things started to heat up – but you implemented the perfect amount of observation, refereeing, and guidance. Well done!

  46. Zach says:

    Hello I am currently staying with a friend with my male fixed Pit/Massive mix my friend’s dog is a female Australian Shepard not fixed. They play great the only problem is when she bites him on the neck and draws blood and he dose not yelp at all and just keeps playing. She has yelped a few times setting boundaries, but he has never made a peep. It is gotten to the point we only let them play supervised now and break it up when she bites. What should we do?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hey Zach – thanks for writing in. Smart that you’re supervising all play. I would definitely continue with that. From what you’ve described, it sounds like your friend’s dog has a high tolerance for rough-housing, with a possible side-order of poor listening skills; he might just like rougher play though. I would try to interrupt with luring each dog out of play before any needs of biting occur. You can also reward the female for tolerating the big boy, and reward the big guy for playing nicely – and listening (if and when he does). Teach them to self-interrupt play by gently intervening and heading up obedience breaks, then allowing to go back to play. And, you might want to talk with your vet about spaying your female.

  47. Kathy godin says:

    my dog is an Australian Shepherd who is 8 months old who loved to play at end of puppy class ( she is finished now, not classes just puppy play ones) and loves to play at the kennel she goes to sometimes but she is an only dog and we are searching for other dog play dates in area. What is best way to introduce my dog to another when we go to their house? I was thinking an introduction with both on leash first and then a simultaneously leash off. What signs do we watch for to make sure both are playing appropriately? Want to make sure a positive experience for both. What about my dog going to a place that has 2 dogs, this okay?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Kathy – sounds like a fun time, and that you’re a great paw-ty planner ;-) I like your idea of an on-leash then off-leash (provided things go well) to start things off. I’m thinking chances would improve if the initial greeting occurred outside the host dog’s home – yard, driveway, or some other neutral area – maybe even a little walk together? You’ll also want to allow the dogs to set their own pace on developing their friendship. Watch for behaviors as I’ve outlined in the original post: reciprocal behaviors, each engaging (no one is running away and trying to hide and call it quits), open mouths, bouncy gaits, loose bodies, playful noises. Make sense? Please post pics and/or videos to our Facebook page! We love watching puppy play!

  48. Camy says:

    Hello Joan,

    I have a black Labrador that is 10 months of age. I will try and describe the situation i’m in as best as i can. First off all, let me point out that i’m not from US so my English might not be so good.

    So, my puppy Lab… He is well behaved in the house (doesn’t destroy things, he listens etc) but when we get outside most of the time he listens and his attention is on me up until we met another dog. That’s when all hell breaks lose.

    What i do: when i see his body language change i try to distract him. At first i use a treat to get him focused on me (works like 70% of the cases). If that doesn’t work i pull on the leash and try to snap him out of it..that rarely works :(. If i’m not successful on getting his attention the following things happen:
    - he pulls and tries his best to get to that other dog even if he has a choke collar on
    - if i manage to keep him near me (and i found out that is not so easy with a Lab as they can be very strong) he will cry and bark and not settle down at all no matter how long i stay there with him and try to calm him down.
    - if he manages to get to that other dog he is not aggressive and only thing he wants is to play. That is all he really wants, to play with every dog he sees no matter if those dogs want to play with him or not. He never bit another dog but do to his size i’m afraid he will hurt smaller dogs and for sure he scared a few dogs and owners with his explosive way of meeting.

    He will calm down only after we leave or the other dog leaves.

    My dog trainer thinks that he is slow in learning. I know i’m not a specialist but looking at things as objectively as i can, i think that is not the case and there is something we missed or we fail to communicate to the dog. And that it’s not the dog’s fault but ours.

    Also, he doesn’t come the first time we call him. It’s like he entered a stage in his life and has forgot a lot of the things i tried to teach him when he was a small puppy.

    At the moment i only socialize him with mature dogs that i know wont hurt him but they will tell him what is good behavior and what is not accepted. He gets it for the moment and he is capable of being calm around those dogs after a while. That tells me that he is not stupid. Sadly, in my neighborhood, lots of people have dogs that are not well behaved and the encounters with good dogs are rare. I say this cause i see other dogs bark and growl at him and try to bite him even if he has all the attention on me and he doesn’t even look at them.

    The trainer also tried electric collar with little results.

    I’m are at a loss. Some articles on the internet tell me that he is in his adolescent stage and that is normal behavior for adolescent Labs. That he will grow out of it and will become the dog i dreamed about. I take all those articles with a grain of salt as i’m sure that this is the stage in his life when i need to be able to tell him what is good and what is bad.

    I’d appreciate any advice that you can give me!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Camy – thank you for your inquisitiveness! No matter where you are in the world, we appreciate pet parents like yourself and welcome you to the PAW-ty :-) As for your specific situation, these are my immediate thoughts: 1) your 10-month lab exhibiting exuberance, joyfulness, excitement, and “life of the party” attitude is quite normal – at least to me. (This goes for other 10-month old dogs…it’s that adolescent stage, as you mentioned). Will he grow out of it? Likely, yes. Some at two years, some at 10 years – each dog is an individual, 2) Is he “slow”? Not from what you’ve described. This is a label I’d throw out, 3) Choke and electric collars. Please rethink using these aversive tools. There are risks of side-effects you’d probably like to avoid. Check out the position statement put out by AVSAB that explains this further http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf, 4) Impulse control – time to teach your dog some skills for gaining some impulse control (waiting at doors, waiting until you give him a release cue to meet other dogs, waiting for food to be given etc…), 5) manners and dress rehearsals: teach your dog the skills you’d like him to have BEFORE you actually need him to perform them (eye-contact with you, loose leash walking, coming when called). Also, enrolling in a positive reinforcement, force-free dog training class will give you the opportunity to teach him the skills (with added distractions), while possibly meeting other inquisitive canines you can arrange play-dates with. Cheers and woofs to you – Let us know how it goes!

  49. Jessica Crater says:

    I have two chihuahua mixes one is 2 and a female and the other one is a little over a year and a male. They are both fixed and my question is the younger one I just got a week ago and every time they play the male always starts to wine and starts to try and hump her. Is that okay or should I stop it?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Jessica – Sounds like both dogs are still getting to know one another. I would interrupt if the male is being more of a bully, versus just trying to get his older sib to play. (Remember, “humping” is one of the 4-F’s that make up dog play behaviors). If she’s telling him to back off, and he’s not, then you can gently interrupt and redirect his behavior. If he does his thing, along with trying other play-skills, she is responding appropriately and he is listening, then I would allow them to continue – monitoring of course, while they still get to know one another.

  50. Jenny says:

    Hello, we were looking into adopting a resucue dog. We currently have a 6 year old Doberman Mix, who loves to run and play with other dogs. He lives with 2 cats that he doesn’t bother to much, but likes to chase. He doesn’t realize that he is 84lbs and can get a little rough. The dog was brought over for an introduction and in the hour and half time frame the adopting coordinator didn’t feel that we should have the dog, due to the fact that our dog was playing to rough. Our thoughts were that given time and monitoring this behavior would change, and they would both live together very nicely. My question is, should dogs be expected to play nice together the first few minutes they meet. Or was this person, not exactly trained in determining the behaviors, and should have given the dogs time to get better acquainted? We do plan on working more with our dog, to refresh his training, and to make some adjustments with regards to him barking at the doorbell, and barking at people outside while he is on the lease Thank you in advance for your response.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Jenny – to answer your question, “…should dogs be expected to play nice together the first few minutes they meet,” my initial response is, no. Do you love every person you meet right off the bat? Or does it sometimes take to to get to know someone? Ugh…my second response is, I wish all pet parents were as enlightened as you. Being aware of your own dog’s needs and behaviors, as well as wanting to set everyone up for success, is key in bringing a second (or third, fifth, twelfth) animal into a household. Maybe the adoption counselor was aware of subtle signs or behaviors exhibited by the second dog that were only known to those who worked closely with this other dog? Not to defend this person, just playing Devil’s advocate. Working more with your own dog is great – teaching play skills, social skills, life skills etc can help improve quality of life for everyone, even if you decide to maintain a single dog household.

  51. …thank you so much for posting. I love to read your post as there is always something new in it.

  52. Art says:

    A cooper hound about 5 years old aggressively barks at and annoys a 8 year old English bulldog who does not want involvement.
    The owners think it wants to play I think it is a jealous dog it barks loudly none stop

    Agree with me?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Art – hmmmm, since there really is no scientific data that confirms dogs possess feelings of jealousy, I will have to side with the “attention” vote. Whether the 5 y.o. wants to play or not, it seems that s/he finds barking reinforcing and enjoyable. It could be self-reinforcing – the “just because it’s so much fun” – or someone is paying attention to the dog when s/he barks. Either way, if the barking is annoying the owner will want to, 1) reward the dog whenever s/he is quiet, and 2) give the dog something else to do – such as hold a toy in their mouth.

  53. Rachael says:

    Hi. Around 12 weeks ago we got a puggle puppy, who is now around 20 weeks. We also have a collie cross who is around 8 years old and we have had her since she was a puppy. When we first got her we had a male labrador cross who was much older than she was and they got on very well. However, since we got our puppy she has been quite unsettled and will not happily stay in the same room as him. He does go for her a lot but it appears that he’s trying to play with her and she’s just not having it. Is this because he’s a puppy and she sees him as an annoyance or is it because he’s male? When we had our Labrador cross we had a male terrier cross and they were best friends, so we’ve never had dogs before that didn’t get along well. Would you recommend anything to try and get her at least comfortably spending time in the same room as him? Or any tips on how to make him stop attacking her? Sometimes it does look like she’s joining in but he nips at her tail or legs and she growls and tries to hide even though she’s much bigger than he is. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Rachel, I have to commend your collie cross for being so patient with her younger sib. If you think about it, you’ve got a very young energetic spitfire wanting to play with a much more sophisticated, well educated and skilled inquisitive canine. I do believe the age difference (and play skill level) have a lot to do with your situation. This is pretty common, but something that can be addressed. Since you’ll want to take your youngster to some training classes, along with finding play-pals who have similar play styles (puppy socials perhaps?), you can take your older dog along too. We’re never too old to learn, so it might be fun for everyone. This type of enrichment can help enhance their bond. You can also allow your collie to set the pace for how and when she wants to play, then reward her heavily with petting, praise, and even a treat or two. You might also want to reward your pup for being polite to his older sister. Finding other age appropriate activities for your pup is also key, since he is learning all about his environment – enrichment toys, tug with you, nose work games, sports, and as mentioned, training classes.

  54. sheri says:

    Hi
    we just got a dog from the shelter, a boxer mix, and it wants to play really rough with our 3 year old shezu mix. The boxer is 6 mo old, and the shezu does not even want to play with it, she loves to play with our 10 year old golden. The boxer will lunge at her and bite her all over and she growels very loud. other times she just looks scared. Not sure what to do, or if it will work out.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Sheri – thanks for taking the time to comment. Sounds like your boxer is coming on really strong, like an adolescent “Tarzan.” Following the steps I’ve outlined in the initial post could help. You also might consider taking your boxer to a training class, to help with manners and life skills. You could even take both the boxer and Shih Tzu together to help create a more positive bond, but within a controlled and structured environment. If you’re concerned with your boxer behaving in a more “aggressive” manner, then working with a certified trainer in your area would be a good idea. Management is also key, until they become best buds.

  55. Kerri says:

    What a wonderful site- so glad I stumbled upon it! My mom adopted a Scotch collie in March and I adopted a cocker spaniel in May. They were great with each other from day 1 but when they try to play, they don’t understand the other’s play style. They want to play, but the collie wants (of course) to herd and run and the cocker wants to wrestle and explore. They are perfectly fine with each other but I do think the collie- Serenity- wishes the cocker- Fauna- would learn how to play properly! Is there some way to help them understand one another? Thankfully, they have a friend down the road to play with who is a Aussie cross, herd dog but Fauna’s size, and he plays with each girl on their level, lol.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Kerri – great question and synopsis of your situation. Thanks for writing in. Here are a couple thoughts/suggestions. Some dogs prefer one play style, whereas others like to “X-train.” Sounds like your dog and your mom’s dog have a specific style each one likes, and your neighbor Aussie likes to cross-train. You can reinforce play between Serenity and Fauna by paying attention to them with praise and cheer when they’re playing the way you like. This should flow over into self-rewarding feelings, shaping them towards a more uniform play style and helping them to understand one another’s preferences. You can also find other play-pals for each dog, such as the neighbor dog, as you have been, allowing them to branch out and learn about other styles of play.

  56. John Mark says:

    Well I don’t know exactly what it is but according to me it is their way to show love. Dogs are the best pet as they are faithful for human. By the way I like your post and thank you so much for this post. Keep posting and keep growing.

  57. Lucy says:

    Hello,

    I have a 6 month old male cocker spaniel and when he comes round my friends house with me to play with her 8 month old border collie, they hump each other pretty much the whole time! The other day we went round for 5ish hours and they were playing chase and then humping for pretty much the whole time, apart from the half hour when they finally went to sleep for a while. Neither of them get to play with other dogs that often and they were doing it the last time we went round too when my pup was about 3 months. Is this normal? How can we stop them doing it? Last time my pup growled and barked at my friend’s for doing it but then mine continued trying to hump the other one.

    Lucy :)

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Lucy, Thank you for contributing to the conversation – Although dogs tend to practice all four Fs, some dogs prefer one F over the other. Sounds like your dog and your friend’s dog like a particular one – although, your pup might be growing out of it. The big question will always be: is the situation consensual? If so, then this might be “normal” play for these two particular dogs. If one is asking the other to back off, and not being heard, then it’s time to teach them appropriate play skills – and if possible, introduce them to other friends to vary their play-skill development. ~Cheers to you and your inquisitive canine!

  58. Clariza says:

    Hello! My family had recently bought a 2 month old Maltese/Poodle Mix. He is a bundle of energy and has been with us for 5 days and now has a new playmate: A 6 or 7 week old Labrador who is also a bundle of energy, who has been with us for two days now. They play fight often but I don’t know if they are enjoying it or are resenting each other: the maltese often tries to let her play and she responds well, they chase each other repeatedly, play bite at the leg, body, neck etc. But I think they are sometimes way too riled up: they bark a lot at each other and look as if they are about to “attack” when they aren’t chasing each other and often stand up while “playing” and opening their mouths. The maltese also often barks and growls while the labrador barks and returns the bites. Is growling while playing normal? When should I let them stop?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Clariza, Wow! Talk about a big bundles of cuteness! To answer your question, yes, growling is a normal vocalization element of play. If one is growling as a way to tell the other to back off, then that is different. However, if both are letting out growls while they are play-biting and frolicking about, then I would say it is normal. (This is without seeing it “live). As for when you should let them stop, I’m not sure if you mean should you interrupt? I would say only interrupt if they aren’t self-interrupting and it appears horseplay is going to lead to tragedy.

  59. Rachel says:

    Hello,

    We have adopted two labs from the dogs home. The first we have had for nearly 3 years, and she is spayed. The second we literally just adopted him and brought him home today. He is intact and has been after our female all evening trying to mount her. She is having none of it and keeps trying to get away from him, sometimes snapping at him. We had them meet each other on neutral ground before bringing him home. They seemed to get along but right from the start he wanted to mount her, even on the walk home he would still try.

    They were both still wagging their tails, ears alert, occasionally just playing. But once he is ‘in the zone’ in trying to mount her, no amount of trying to call him, tell him no, etc is doing any good. We have to keep pulling him off but he is quite strong and he will still be trying to go for her even while we are trying to pull him away. I had to put them in separate rooms just to give her some space and him to calm down. Once he calmed himself I was able to give him commands and he would listen, and also would play catch, etc. I tried having them in same room again but still he was obsessed with mounting her.

    Should I let them get this out of their system, establish their roles so to speak? Or should I continue to stop it and nip the behaviour in the bud? I feel bad for our female dog. We do plan on getting him neutered as soon as possible in hopes it will end the problem.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Rachel – Thanks for writing in. You don’t mention the age of the male. Are they siblings? Or, are they from the same line? Either way, yes, I’d meet with your dog’s vet and discuss neutering. As for “letting them get it out of their system,” I would avoid this. First, because it sounds like it’s only in your male’s system, not your female, and second, it wouldn’t be fair to subject your female to this undue stress. Wouldn’t you agree? I would go with your second option – teaching the skills to stop the behavior: teach your male what you want him to do and reward him heavily for it, arrange activities other than play (and mounting) where both dogs can have fun together (take them out on walks together, to classes, to a cafe for a meal etc…), and give your female a place of retreat so she can have some space from her brother. ~Cheers to you and your inquisitive canines! And, let us know how it goes!

  60. Jordan says:

    Hi there! I have had a lab pit mix for the past five years and she’s an angel. She’s incredibly sweet with people but since she was a rescue (we got her at about two years) she was never really well socialized and doesn’t always play well with others. Recently we fell in love with a two year old blue heeler mix and took a chance on bringing her home. The two get along all right now after a few weeks, but their fighting can get a little rough. Sometimes it starts when the heeler approaches one of the human family members, and I’m worried my lab just doesn’t think of her as part of the pack. My main concern is that I have found scars and bite wounds on the labs face from their play sessions. Usually they go for each other’s mouths, ears, and legs when they fight, but the blue heeler also sometimes mounts the lab, who just seems a little annoyed about it. My concern is that the heeler doesn’t know her own strength, so while my lab practices some restraint, the heeler doesn’t even know she needs to. I don’t want either of my dogs to get hurt, but I can’t imagine rehoming the heeler at this point, especially since my lab seems so lonely when the heeler is gone or in her kennel (she is a little destructive so we kennel her when she’s home alone.) At this point I don’t know what to do to protect my dogs and form a more cohesive pack. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Jordan – thanks for being inquisitive. Since it’s only been a couple of weeks, I would make sure you’re rewarding both dogs for any and all behaviors you want. I would also enroll BOTH of them in some sort of training class, whether it be basic manners or agility. Something they can do together that is fun. This can help the bond, without being in each others face all day long. If you want to take the DIY approach, that is certainly an option. The main point is, they have fun together and learn that being together is actually being a family, one isn’t just visiting.

  61. jeremy richard says:

    I have a 7 month old Husky/Shepard currently and now recently ascertained an 8 week old Husky mix into the pac, problem being is the 7 month old while playing fine with each other will sometimes run away and than come back full speed ahead and topple the puppy over like a freight train which causes a yelp. It doesn’t stop until I intervene where I will add very quickly being I don’t want the puppy to grow fearful of the resident dog. I have a trainer coming in, but certainly open to any suggestions as I would appreciate any ideas to fix this.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Thanks for your interest, and for contacting me about dog behavior info. I’m happy to help. Some quick tips can be found on my blog, as you have already looked through, but here are a few more.

      Remember to reward both dogs for performing behaviors you like and want, including self-interruption and being kind to their sibling. You’re taking the right approach by playing referee when needed, just to teach and remind both dogs that play-breaks are important. With the age difference, you’ll want to provide each dog with playmates who have similar energy and play styles. Enrolling both in age appropriate puppy classes will be key.

      I know you mention you’ve hired a trainer, just ensure they offer an approach that is in alignment with your beliefs, and that their priorities are in the well-being of your inquisitive canines. Check for humane, reward-based classes in your area. A friend and colleague, Lisa Davis, lives in your area and offers many training services, including puppy classes http://www.pawsitivelycanine.ca

  62. Garry says:

    Hi Joan, great article. It was exactly what I was looking for. I have a 8yr old staffy and over the weekend trialled a 9month old pup as the current owners cannot keep her. Everything was fine for first hour with both dogs playing. But after this the older dog got tired and would do her best to hide and avoid the younger dog. The younger dog does not pickup at all that the older one is growling and had enough. On Sunday my older dog just seemed depressed and sat by herself alot. I felt terrible but the current owners of the young dog think it is normal. What do you think? I dont want to take another dog on if my current dog finds it too stressful? Problem now is the pups owners are saying she is unsettled and if I take the dog for anither weekend they want it to be permanent. Also what are your thoughts on having two female dogs together?Thanks

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Garry – thank you for joining the conversation. Here are my thoughts: you have two dogs with quite an age discrepancy. However, each can learn to love each other, as well as respect boundaries – but you’re going to need to teach them. By a medical definition, your 8 year old is considered a “senior” while the youngster is an adolescent. So I would allow the older one to set the pace on how much play she wants to engage in. Her hips and back might be sore after a bit, so give her some space. Find activities for both dogs that are age appropriate. Both can get into agility, but one might be more agile than the other. Know what I mean? As for two female dogs in the same household, there is some data out there that says the second most common fight within the same household is between two female dogs, but there’s no guarantee your two won’t get along perfectly. (Especially because of the age difference). The bigger question is, do you have the time and energy to take on a second dog? If you’re looking for another dog to keep your resident dog company, then your older dog should have say in the matter. :-)

  63. kade holt says:

    I have a 5 year old boxer, recently I got a boxer-pitbull mix who is only 6 weeks old. My older dog is very rough when they play (biting, shoving etc.) Will this make the puppy mean as it gets older?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Kade – thanks for joining the conversation. You ask, “My older dog is very rough when they play (biting, shoving etc.) Will this make the puppy mean as it gets older?” The answer: Hard to tell. I’m sure there are some folks out there voting yes or no, but IMHO it would be unlikely that this particular situation alone would be the one variable that would lead to “meanness.” As I’ve learned along the way, it should be the “study of one,” or, in your case, the study of two. So trying to draw a conclusion now could cloud your overall judgement for plan development. There is a significant age difference, so you’ll want to keep that in mind – as I’m sure you yourself have realized, with age and experience, a different level of confidence develops. Your older dog is likely more experienced and confident in dog social behavior. What does this mean for your household? Get your puppy enrolled in an age-appropriate reward-based puppy class, connect with a force-free trainer who can help guide you to achieve your goals, reward any and all behaviors you like and want (even those you didn’t ask for), monitor play, and if necessary play referee. :-) Yay for puppies!!!

  64. Debbie says:

    Hi, my dog has recently started growling at my older brother. She’s known him for a while now and has never growled at him, but she’s been doing so for the past few days. She hadn’t done anything like that before until today, where she started barking at my grandfather for no reason while he was making food in the kitchen. My dog can get protective with my siblings and I as well, and does start to bark when my older brother started to play roughly with them (wrestling, pillow fights, picking one up, etc.) I don’t want her to continue doing this because it may cause problems with other people. She hasn’t barked at any female in my family either, just the two males listed above. She was a rescue dog that we know for a fact was beaten, as when we first got her she was very timid around my dad. I really don’t know what got into her all of a sudden, please I need your help to stop what happening.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Debbie – thank you for being inquisitive. Here are a few tips that I hope help: teach your dog an alternate behavior where she gets rewarded with high-value treats, petting, and praise from you when the men are around. Have the guys give her high-value treats, gentle touches, and soft happy-talk telling her she’s so cute so she can gain their trust and enjoy being around them. (She might have had a bad experience wth a man who your brother and grandfather remind her of). Allow her to speak her mind and set the pace of how quickly she wants to bond to them. ~Cheers and woofs to you!

  65. lorraine says:

    Hi my grayhound is to rough with my boxer dog. Im realy worried because when he plays he uses his mouth alot and his teeth are sharpe and leaving marks on my dog now and he also puts his mouth over hers. What can I do .

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Lorraine – How does your boxer respond when your greyhound plays like this? Mouthing is a normal dog-play behavior, and one your greyhound might be more proficient at. If your female is telling him to back off and he’s not listening, then you can intervene gently and redirect his behavior in a positive way. You could also try and find other inquisitive canines who have matching play styles, so he has an appropriate place to let out some of that energy.

  66. Kathy says:

    Please help
    I’ve had my baby from a pup he is know a 3 yr old m boxer with no bits n bobs gone when he was a pup. Over the last few months when in play with other dogs sometimes can become over excited and then turns the play real.refusses to listen to commands and after being separated will have a go at anything that comes to close. Even me be4 he realises its me.I don’t know what to do as this behaviour is not all the time and comes unexpected I don’t see any warning signs I know they must be their but I don’t see them
    I really don’t want to have to muzzle or keep him on the lead as he is a really good dog most of the time.he doesn’t like being jumped on or humped.im really struggling on what to do please help
    I’m not that stronge and it seriously affects my nerves when he starts so I need my dog to listen to me plus the stress on the other owner and the other dog mine starts them can’t finish them. After he roles on the floor on his back which he knows I find cute so struck him normally
    He is well socialised as I didn’t want situations like this when he was a pup I don’t know what I’m doing wrong he walks by my side but does run of when he wishes comes back on his terms but does know recall

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Kathy – great to meet you. You’re probably right, in that there most likely are warning signs being overlooked. Good for you for recognizing you’ll need to pay closer attention. These are my initial thoughts: 1) continue to practice recall and eye-contact in various places with other types of distractions, to help strengthen these skills, 2) make sure the dogs your dog is playing with is a good match (play style etc.), 3) gently interrupt play before it gets heated up, lead him up, taking him for an obedience break walk (to cool his jets), then allow him to go back and play again, 4) try running him on his own with a game of fetch to help get some of the energy out, redirecting on “legal” toys (not other dogs – or people), before allowing him to play with a group, 5) try shorter play sessions, building in length of time as he learns better skills, 6) consider a muzzle if you think it is warranted. ~ Hope these help! Cheers and woofs to you and your inquisitive canine!

  67. Myriah says:

    Hi my boyfriend and I just adopted two Sharpull terriers (Pitbull and shar pei mix) They are both 6 weeks old they are brother and sister. Sometimes when my female gets up in the males face he seems to get nasty to her but he’s never bitten her. Im just worried and wondering if this is normal for them. They play together all the time and they get ontop of each other and he never gets in her face. Ive been keeping a close eye on them but want to make sure it is nothing to worry about.
    Thank you

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Myriah, Sounds like usual puppy-play and that they are learning about and developing their inquisitive canine skills! Fun to watch, I’m sure :-)

  68. Lori Saliani says:

    I don”t think I’ve seen a post to address my situation. I have a 3 year old spayed Morkie named Mollie. I had a 7 year old Yorkie named
    Gracie who was always calm with Mollie who was only 2.2 pounds when I brrought her home. Gracie had already been spayed and was a three time mom (before I got her) and was only 3 years old when I got Mollie. Mollie could do anything to Gracie. About 3 weeks ago, Gracie had to be put to sleep due to sudden liver failure. Mollie started showing signs of depression about 3 days after Gracie was gone. Not playing, eating little, not playful and sleeping alot. Decided to get her a new companion. Found a lovely, female (not spayed) white Miniature Schnauzer (15 lbs) and named her Maggie. Unfortunately, Maggie went into heat for the first time the night she came home.(she’s 9 months old). Maggie was raised with three boys and so far she’s great with kids and cats. Mollie became standoffish when Maggie tried to nuzzle her. growling and a snap/yelp. Things have improved where they even attempt to play. Maggie wants to bounce her paw or paws on Mollie’s head, butt in the air tail wagging like mad. That is when Mollie barks and snaps at Maggie. Maggie backs off quickly then does the same thing. Mollie seems fine when they are just sparing with their mouths, it’s Maggie’s paw action that bothers/hurts Mollie and gets a bad reaction. They will eat and drink from the same bowl. I am getting Maggie fixed in a couple weeks. How much do you think her being in heat is effecting Mollie’s reaction to Maggie? Will spaying help? What do I do in the mean time? Want to be able to let them be together when I go back to work (am a Pre-K teacher.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Lori – thanks for the thorough description of your situation with Maggie and Mollie. Addressing your specific questions, in all honesty, it is difficult to say that being in heat is affecting the situation, although it sounds reasonable. Hormonally charged perhaps? Will spaying help? Again, hard to tell – I couldn’t find any specific studies indicating your concerns will be sorted out post-spay; each situation is different, and there are other variables to consider. As for what you should do in the meantime, I would create a happy play environment between your two dogs, reward for any and all behaviors you like and want, even when you didn’t ask.

  69. Jessica says:

    This blog is great – I read it from the beginning and love the advice included…thank you so much for continuing this for so long! I have done some research and have confused myself so I appreciate your opinion :).
    I recently adopted sibling texas heeler puppies (1/2 aussie, 1/2 cattledog) – one boy, one girl, 12 weeks old. They play fight pretty well together, but I want to make sure I encourage their individual personalities. I crate them separately, and to train them and walk them separately, but they are often distracted because they are so worried about the other dog. I feed them separately in their crates but I have to keep the doors closed or they will fight over the food – but if I walk away they won’t eat. I fear they are “too close” and it will hamper their growth. Is this a valid concern for 3-month old pups or am I being an overprotective mama?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Mama Jessica,
      Thanks for writing in, and for the accolades. We love and appreciate inquisitive pet parents such as yourself. Bravo for recognizing that each dog is an individual, and for taking steps to treat them as such. At this age I would continue with what you’re doing, including spending time with each dog separately (so each can gain some independence), along with monitoring them on how they develop. Continue doing what is working, and modify your own behavior when your goals aren’t being met. Maybe separate training classes? Increasing the enrichment activities at home to teach them “alone time”? Continue being protective to keep them safe, but allow them the freedom to thrive. ~Cheers to you and your inquisitive canines!

  70. sarah says:

    I have two dogs one is a 6month old husky the other is a 1 year old chiweiner. my 1 year old is fixed. my husky is not. they play fight like normal dogs do, but it seems as the husky gets older they both start to get more and more aggressive. could this be do to my husky not being fixed? or will this pass over times?

    thanks
    sarah

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Sarah, Thanks for writing in. Addressing your question, it’s difficult to say the reason for the intense play is due to your male being intact. There could be many reasons. The best thing to do is to continue to monitor and follow the steps outlined in the post. Cheers to you and your inquisitive canines!

  71. Emmalea says:

    We have a 1 and a half year old shih tzu (millie) and have resently got another puppy she is ridgeback x staffy only 8 weeks old (Karma) everytime karma goes to play with Millie she tries and nips at her , Millie runs from her of course she has growled at karma a few times but it doesnt seem to make much of a difference. Its like millie want to play with her as she waits around the yard but then runs from her. Millie has started to not go near her as much as she used to ( sniffing at her ect) she just stays clear. We are hopeing this is just a stage and they will get over it and get along but in the mean time is there any thing we can do to help !!!!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Emmalea, thanks so much for writing in and explaining your situation. This indeed might be a “stage,” for both dogs. Millie is still a youngster, Karma is a baby, and both are learning about life and developing coping and playing skills. What can you do? Reward with high value treats, petting, praise, and human interactions for any and all behaviors you like and want. These little acts of kindness let the dogs know that what they are doing is appropriate. (So they’ll do more of it). Interrupt when necessary, redirecting behaviors to more appropriate outlets, manage the environment when you’re not training or observing, and get them into force-free, positive reinforcement training classes :-)

  72. Amanda says:

    Hi, We have a two year old beagle at home and just brought home a 14 wk old GSD. My beagle Robin is having a very rough time dealing with her. At first she was fine because the GSD was timid. But once the puppies playful side came out Robin started growling, baring teeth, and barking at her. She will jump on the couch or hide behind us (the humans) to get away from her. She wont even walk past the GSD anymore without being forced to. What do we do????

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Amanda, Thanks so much for writing in. We totally understand about sibling rivalry, as do many other inquisitive pet parents. As a matter of fact, you can check out this post where we cover tips on how to help with many of the issues you’ve brought up. http://inquisitivecanine.com/fido-fundamentals/training-tips-for-dog-eat-dog-sibling-rivalry/ Heading down the training path of “creating positive associations” will be key for building trust in the relationship. When your GSD is around, and you throw a party for Robin, he will start to associate happy feelings, instead of wanting to run and hide. Read through the tips on the other post, and follow-up with any other questions. ~Cheers and woofs to you and your inquisitive canines!

  73. Charlene Strauss says:

    Hi there

    we have a 6 month old Bullterrier boy who loves other doggies, he is not yet neutered but he plays with our neighbors pekinese male almost every day. I have noticed that he constantly wants attention from other doggies and he is very submissive. we have now decided to get a little beagle boy (7 weeks old) we will be collecting him on Friday but I am not sure how to introduce them – please could you help with some tips.

  74. Deborah says:

    Hiya from sunny Liverpool, England. I adopted a dog 4 years ago from the RSPCA. He was 12/18 months and had been rescued from a barn with 80 other dogs!He is a mixed dog, people often mistake him for a young staffie. He’d never lived in a house before and we terrified of everything. He is still extremely anxious when going for walks although the loves the idea of walkies. One year ago I adopted a 7 month old jack Russell. After a careful introduction the dogs are now best of friends. The problem is when Blue (5 yr old) initiates play he continually pins Rex ( 18 month jack russel) by his neck. He bites and pulls him by the skin. I immediately stop this but Rex just runs back to him! Rex has very little hair on his under side and he often has scratches and bite marks. They’ve never pierced the skin though. I’m starting to think that I need to separate them when I am out of the house.just wondering what you would recommend. Thanks in advance.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Deborah,
      Lovely to have you joining the conversation, especially all the way from England! Haven’t visited your neck of the woods yet, but hope to some day.

      You’ve outlined your situation beautifully – I thank you for that. (And thank you for rescuing your staffie from what sounds like a dreadful situation). Addressing your specific question, I would say go with your gut instinct. Their play behavior does sound appropriate and consensual – however, as you may have learned from personal experience, or reading through this thread, horseplay can lead to tragedy. So, you’ll want to take extra safety measures – plus it’ll put your mind at ease, yes? Just make sure you tire your dogs out, and leave enrichment for them so they enjoy “alone time.” You could also tire them out and leave them on their own (together) for a short period, but again, I’d go with your gut feeling. ~Cheers to you and your inquisitive canines.

  75. Kim says:

    Hi there. I just got a new puppy 2 days ago. We got an 8 week old male English Labrador. Currently we have a 2 and 1/2 year old female English Bulldog. My bulldog has never had another dog in the house or really played with any other dogs before. So as I’m sure you can imagine, I was very stressed about introducing this new puppy to our adult dog.
    They have done pretty well considering it’s only been 2 days. My question is this. When they “play” it seems really rough. But I do see my bulldog being pretty patient and gentle for the most part. She gets excited very easily and then starts running all over the house with such force and gusto and then proceeds to mow the puppy over in her high speed sprints. I’m so nervous that my bulldog will hurt the puppy just on sheer size alone. My bulldog weighs 50lbs and my new puppy weighs 9.4lbs.
    Also, when they play there is a lot of leg biting going on. I’m afraid my bulldog will inadvertently dislocate my puppies leg or something of that nature. When I have intervened at times when unfelt like the play was getting too rough, I would hold my bulldog and wait to see what response I would get from the puppy and the puppy just went at my bulldog for more. I’m just really afraid of accidental injury for my puppy but at the same time, I know that this playing is vital for developing their relationship together. The puppy will often try and bite the Bulldogs cheeks and nip at her neck. My bulldog in turn will raise a paw and hold the puppy down. Is this a sign of aggression? Often I will see the puppy turn on his back in submission but the bulldog continues to “push” the puppy with her snout. And today for the first time, the puppy (who is male) started to “hump” my female bulldog who is spayed. Is this a sign of dominance on the puppy’s behalf or of sexual maturation? Thank you for any help you can offer. I’m just a huge worry wort and want to make the best living environment for everyone human and canine in our household. I’m a newbie and have never had 2 dogs at the same time.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Kim,
      Thank you for the thorough description – and, congrats on the new addition to your family!
      From what you’ve described, the play sounds “normal.” Both dogs are using their innate skills to figure out the situation. However, your point about weight and power differences are valid for being more of a “worrywart.” Using a human analogy, you might have the motivation to want to play basketball, but going up against players in an NBA game vs a pickup game at your local YMCA could result in a trip to the ER. With that, I would definitely monitor play, rewarding your English Bulldog for playing nicely (allowing her younger sib to run amok all over her) and intervening before things get out of hand – or paw, so to speak.

  76. Sandra says:

    Our boxer has been the only dog 3 years old.It our sons.our other son bought us a Shit tzu1 year. Went to intduce them ,the Shit tzu was on my lap. Both on lese. The boxer came over and bite the shit tzu on the nose.we afraid the boxer will hurt her. What can we do. My son will not bring his dog over any more. The boxer was here all the time. Please help us we all want to be together again. My son miss his dog, he will not bring her in case the boxer hurts the shit tzu. Please help use we all miss Dash. We are all sad.

    R

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Sandra,
      Wow, I’m sorry to hear about these unfortunate circumstances. This type of question would involve an answer that is a bit lengthy and more involved than a simple post. For a few helpful tips, check out this previous post about an owner who was trying to figure out how to get sibling dogs to get along: http://inquisitivecanine.com/fido-fundamentals/training-tips-for-dog-eat-dog-sibling-rivalry/ I would also check into finding a certified professional dog trainer in your area who practices force-free training methods. The CCPDT http://www.ccpdt.org has an extensive list (just search by postal code). Another option is virtual training, which I offer, as do many of my colleagues. In the meantime, you can condition your boxer to wear a muzzle, to help protect your son’s dog, use a crate or X-pen to manage each dog separately, until you’ve done the training to help them enjoy each others company.

  77. ashly says:

    My mom just got a 11 week old puppy. Who drives my 6 year old dog crazy. My dog has been pretty calm with him. Untill tonight. My dog pinned the puppy using his mouth on the back of the neck. And pushed him across the floor. The puppy was not hurt but a little scared. Is this normal? Was he being agrresive or domant? He was growling when doing it.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Ashly, bravo for asking such a great question, and for being a wonderful observer. Is this type of behavior (older dog reacting to younger pup) “normal”? I would venture to say yes, it’s pretty common. This is how dogs communicate with one another, and is considered acceptable. It’s a shame that the situation had to get to that point, but it does happen. As for “aggressive or dominant,” I believe the older dog had reached his threshold of puppy energy and said, “knock it off!” Remember to provide age-appropriate activities for each dog, reward each dog for behaviors you like and want, and to manage the environment when humans aren’t around – prevention is key!

  78. Melody says:

    Hello,

    I was wondering if I could get some advice! I have two dogs, Major (a Doodle) who just turned 2, who we’ve had since he was 4 months, and Dublin(some sort of poodle mix), around 9 months old, we think. We don’t know much about Dublin, as he is a rescue. We’ve had Dublin for about three weeks now and I am concerned about his behaviour. He constantly bites at Major’s feet, and neck, and will charge him head first and try to knock him off his feet. He takes toys right from Major’s mouth, and pushes him out of the water bowl when he is drinking. I have three water bowls out but Major waits for me to drink his water now so Dublin doesn’t bother him. Dublin is constantly pushing Major out of the way of everything. I have been correcting the behaviour and seen some improvement, as he is learning to wait his turn. However, he continues to charge him head first, when Major is just sitting or sleeping, and will bite at his feet to make him drop thinkgs he has in his mouth, or will jump up and grab at his throat. He will listen when I tell him stop, but then will just go back to it. How can I correct him from charging and biting at Major’s feet, and taking his toys? Major is very passive, and never corrects him. I feel bad for Major because he used to love running around with me and playing fetch. But now he’s subdued and doesn’t want to play with anything because Dublin will just take it from him. How can I teach Dublin to play fair?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Melody – Wow, what a story! I too feel sorry for Major, without even meeting him. He does sound like quite the “gentleman.” As for Dublin, it sounds like you’ve got quite the adolescent on your hands. Cute as a button I’m sure, but my first thought is to get him into a training class so he can learn some manners – especially those that would be titled impulse control! Concentrate on skills that teach him to wait, understand boundaries, be patient, and to share his stuff. You could even take both dogs, so they learn to have fun together. Also, finding other doggy friends for Dublin to play with, that match his play style, could help redirect some of this over-the-top energy. Above all, concentrate on the behaviors you DO want Dublin to perform, and reward him for those! It might help your sanity too :-)

  79. alec berg says:

    My female dog is 2 1/2 and plays with a 1 year old female the same size. The other dog is the aggressor the entire play date, non-stop. My dog never takes the dominant role. My dog plays with another dog and there is more switching between dominant and submissive roles.

    I’ve been considering stopping the play dates because the other puppy seems too aggressive to me. Any suggestions? Thanks for the great website.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Alec, thanks for contributing to the conversation. Here’s my question: does your dog think the other dog is “too aggressive”? If your dog is telling her pal to knock it off, or trying to hide/escape, then the younger one might be coming on too strong. However, your dog might just be a great pal reading the other dog’s body language, enjoying being pummeled. We all have our own play styles – look at your dog and determine if she’s had enough. You can always help to interrupt, giving them a break before things get heated up. In any case, it’s nice that she has other friends to play with.

  80. Clara says:

    Hi, we have two wonderful 2 year old yorkies. One male and one female. The female has not yet been spayed but the male is neutered. We got a female husky/german shephard 8 week old puppy and she has only been here for about a day. I find that my female yorkie is avoiding eye contact and constantly keeps her back towards the husky. Whenever the husky tries to play or approach her she wll either run away or try and hide behind me or my husband. I dont know if we are to sensitive towards our yorkie babies who were here first and not giving it enough time for all the dogs to adjust to the change OR if we might have made a mistake by taking in a puppy who will be unpredictable towards smaller dogsone day and that just doesnt fit in well with the family. The male will still sit with me as always and is attached to me as he has always been but it seems as if the female yorkie is constsntly trying to avoid the new puppy and is just not interested. Please help or give some advice.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Clara – I would give it more time. Allow each dog to set the pace as to how quickly they want to get to know their new sibling. Create positive situations where all of the dogs are experiencing fun and enjoyable encounters with one another, reward all of the dogs for being polite, brave, and “listening” when their brother or sister is expressing themselves. Dog and puppy classes for all would be a good idea – each can learn new skills while engaging in fun experiences with one another.

  81. Willow says:

    Hi, I was reading through all the comments hoping to see my situation and then I wouldn’t have to ask a question. You have been so kind to answer so many! But anyways…
    We just adopted a dog from our SPCA, he is a black lab cross about 1 year old named Gus. He is very friendly with people and other dogs, it doesn’t appear he has an aggressive bone in his body:) We live in the country and a neighbour dog has started coming over and has made friends with Gus. We have a very large fenced area and have let Max in a few times as he seemed to want to play with Gus. Today they were playing in a very nice way: chasing, gentle wrestle, play bows, etc. Gus’s excitement level continued to increase and then play changed. He started racing around the yard at top speed, weaving in and around Max (who is older and couldn’t keep up) and then started snapping in Max’s direction. Both dogs looked happy and as though they were still enjoying themselves but the snapping concerned me. Gus seemed almost too excited and I wondered if he would continue to escalate, so I shut down the play session and asked Max to leave. Afterwards I wondered if I overreacted and if this was a normal thing.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Willow – thanks so much for reading through the comments and joining in on the conversation. Hopefully I can help provide a little comfort and insight. You’re wondering if you overreacted? Hmmm, I’d say, better safe than sorry, right? You were learning about your own dog (congratulations), the neighbor dog, and the whole situation. So bravo for taking the safer approach until you could gain more intel. It sounds like both dogs were giving consent, AND Gus was redirecting his over-exuberance in an appropriate way – I think. What do you believe the snapping was about? Was Gus telling his friend to back off? To egg him on to play more? Or, just air snapping in general, which could be part of his preferential play style. I’m all for “coaching” play and refereeing when necessary. Obedience breaks, water breaks, cuddle breaks etc…then allowing play to resume. One option to help you ease into monitoring play, is to start with short but more frequent sessions.

  82. Amanda says:

    I apologize if this has already been answered, but we have two rescues that are far apart in age. We adopted a 1-yr old Terrier mix almost 3 years ago when our Shepherd/Sheltie mix was about 9yrs old. Now they are about 4yrs and 11yrs. Our older dog had been around dogs before, but she wasn’t an overly social dog. Very tolerant, just not overly playful with other dogs. She’s usually more content to look out the window by herself. Our younger dog was fostered with her brother and other dogs in home and is very playful and social. We had them meet before adopting and didn’t have any obvious issues. In the beginning, they wrestled in the house and chased outside initially, but that tapered off. My older dog never initiated play and had to be goaded into it, so the younger dog eventually stopped trying to play with her and usually just plays with us instead. The issue now is that our older dog barks at us when we play with the younger one. It almost seems as if she wants to play but doesn’t really know how, so she gets riled up and barks constantly. She has now earned the nickname “Mrs. No-Fun” and “The Fun Police”. So my question is partly two-fold – 1. How do you a teach an “old dog” how to play? and 2. How to turn her barking during play into a better activity? Prior to adopting the younger dog, she would play fetch sometimes, but definitely one of the more mellow dogs I’ve had in my life.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Amanda, Your question hasn’t really been addressed, so thank you for taking the time to join the conversation. My first question is have you taken your older dog in for a medical exam? I’m not a vet, and medical topics are outside my scope of practice, but my initial thought is could your Shepherd-X be experiencing changes in hearing and vision, and the motion and noise from play could be causing her some stress? Another “senior” related possibility is that physically she isn’t as active (arthritis?), but mentally she is and becomes frustrated when she can’t run amok like everyone else? I would take her for a wellness check. As for training, redirect her energy to enrichment toys (stuffed food toy, chew bone, scavenger hunt), reward for being quiet (when she comes up for air and isn’t barking), teach her to hold a toy in her mouth, then reward her for that. You can shape her to want to play by rewarding small increments of the desired behavior: looking towards you/play session, walking towards the play session, offering a play bow or paw raise, and any other motion (yes, even the small ones) that seems playful. And, give her a new nickname to help you all look at the situation differently. How about “Miss. Paw-sitive” ;-) Maybe she’s been acting as the cheerleader all this time, and not the referee.

  83. Alicia Monis says:

    Hi Joan

    My neighbour (we live on the same property) have two medium sized male and female dogs,bout 2 years old. Recently, the female gave birth to a litter of about 6, four of which have found new homes. The two remaining pups are both male, and the one is definitely, more skittish and shy than the other.This morning, I heard a whimper, and discovered that the female and the other pup were playing with the more “introverted” puppy. However, it sounded as if the skittish pup was more in distress and was not enjoying the play. He actually tried to escape through a hole in one of the fences that separates the cottage from the pool area. I separated them, but I few minutes later the skittish pup was in trouble again. I am concerned of the mom’s behaviour, and obviously concerned that the other puppy will learn this unwanted behaviour.

    Can you please provide advice on how to stop this.

    Sincerely, Alicia

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Alicia,
      Sounds like you’re a wonderful neighbor. My question to you: is your neighbor going to try to find the pups a new home, or are they keeping them? Either way, this situation calls for tight management and consistent training. If the skittish one isn’t into roughhousing, then do all you can to protect him from getting beat up, but reward him for being brave and initiating any play. Allow him to set the pace on how involved and social he wants to be. Provide play outlets for the more outgoing pup and his mom, reward them for playing nicely and listening to the skittish one. And of course, puppy classes to help build confidence and life skills. As for management, set up their environment to help prevent unwanted get-togethers.

  84. Mike says:

    I have 2 Labs; Polly, who,s a 3 year-old, and Fern who,s almost 11 months. They play fight, usually mouthing, indoors, and chase each other in the small garden. Fern always has to be first to everything, and usually Polly gives in. Polly regularly humps Fern, and will lick her vulva. They would often lie with together in the same dog bed when fern was smaller.

  85. rick says:

    my 2 english bulldogs 8 months old brother and sister not fixed are allways fighting over toys or chew bones. they both have thair own but one allways wants the others. also , i feed them 2 times a day 2 cups a day but they are allways hungery WHAT TO DO?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      My quick two cents: training for both (teach them life skills), independent training and activities (so they learn social skills with others), food toys for meals (give them enrichment and enlighten their minds), manage environment when resources are present. Yay for puppies!

  86. Steve says:

    Thank you for a very interesting article. I have recently got a new cocker spaniel bitch puppy who is 16 weeks old. I already have a 2 year old neutered male cocker. The majority of the time they play really well together. Lots of rolling around, mouthing, biting and growling but it is obviously play.

    The problem starts when the puppy runs away, not because she is scared but she loves to be chased. The older dog will catch her, pin he down and get very rough. There is lots of growling and shaking but no biting but to me it looks aggressive. If I stop them the pup will come back for more though, so it doesn’t seem to bother her.

    Is this the ‘feed’ part of play that you mention or something more serious.

    Thank you.

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Steve – wow, love the description and your attention to detail! It certainly does sound like the behaviors fit the latter part of the predatory sequence – but with a side order of restraint. Think: grab, shake, kill, ingest as the abbreviated sequence. Your older dog is offering up the beginnings, but no doubt knows it’s play. Have you offered up interactive food toys to address the latter part of the sequence? This might be another fun option for both inquisitive canines. Happy training!

  87. Leanne says:

    Hi I have been reading the articles and responses. We recently lost one of our pair of miniature schnauzers at age 8years. Then we have a new male pup we have introduced to the house including to our 9yo schnauzer. The older one is very placid neutered female and happy to hang out with other dogs. The younger one is full on now 5months old and she is his number 1 entertainment. He follows her, licks ,tries to mount, grabs her neck. We have some refuges she can escape to but then she is stuck there while he has free reign. A couple of times she has turned the tables and pinned him down and grabbed his neck but 99times out of a 100 he is the aggressor. We got a professional trainer to our house . He is concentrating on making the little one listen and obey. He uses a circle to make our pup recognise unacceptable behaviour. But yesterday I was nearly in tears as our little pup was being swung by the collar in circle with no feet on ground at some points…have we strayed down the wrong track? I want him to be healthy and trust us, not be fearful and sore. What to do???

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Leanne – Sounds like you are just as uncomfortable with this training approach as your puppy is – at least emotionally. So let’s see if we can get you to a trainer who can help move things in a more positive light? Not sure where you are in this great wide world, but here are a few links to help your search. My alumni, Academy for Dog Trainers: https://www.academyfordogtrainers.com/find-an-academy-trainer# and CCPDT for here in the States: http://www.ccpdt.org/dog-owners/certified-dog-trainer-directory/ Some trainers, such as myself, offer virtual coaching, should you be in a more remote area with limited resources. Please keep in mind you’re doing all you can with what you have – berating yourself for previous decisions can use up too much energy. Go hug your dogs, and learn all you can. This is how we evolve as individuals, and as a species :-)

  88. Rachelle Pierre-Louis says:

    Hi, I have a 1 year old western terrier/miniature schnauzer mix, he’s not neutered. I got a new addition 8 week old Irish terrier December 4th who is also not neutered. Both are male. I introduced the two and they welcomed each other with open paws as they tails were wagging with excitement. The first day they met my 1 year old tried to hump my 8 week old pup. The next day my pup tried to hump my 1 year old. I separate them when I see this behavior. I know humping is a sign of dominance, should I be worried about my pup exhibiting this behavior at a young age?

  89. Janet says:

    We have a male shihtzu who is nearly four and we have just adopted a two year old female shihtzu. My male is neuted but the female isn’t spayed. We have had her nearly three weeks now and I really thought my male shihtzu would just love a companion. Don’t think so!!! The new girl is constantly chasing him, biting his legs, his tail and also his neck, she has made him yelp a few times. I really feel Ive made a huge mistake is taking another dog on now as my male seems to look so fed up all the time and just seems to want to hide form her. She also tries to get on my knee when he is on and he snaps at her, she then goes on my husbands knee to keep the peace. I honestly don’t think they are ever going to get on and Im having sleepless nights over it. I don’t like leaving them on their own for long because of this. Also, when I come home through the door they fight for my attention, its driving me crazy! HELP!!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Janet – Sounds like you’re up “Shih-Tzus creek.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist). Okay, back to professionalism. Couple of things to keep in mind: 1) it’s been only three weeks, so it’s still new for everyone, 2) different play styles, 3) different preferences, 4) different bonds with you and your husband. Your female is the new kid on the block, still trying to figure everything out, but is probably beyond thrilled to be in a loving home. Right now I’d keep your female directed on other activities to give her brother a break, while developing better life skills. How about enrolling both in a training class? Not only will everyone learn these skills but it will also help create some fun bonding time. And, remember to reward the female for playing nicely while letting the male set the pace on how quickly he wants to befriend his sis. As for entering the home, I would teach each dog a “station behavior.” Train them to target their own mat/bed/throw rug when you come in so they’re not bombarding you at the door.

  90. Nicole says:

    I have a 6 year old boxer/lab mix, a 5 year old boxer, and recently adopted a 5 month old puggle/ bulldog mix. The puppy has an extreme amount of energy. She play fights with both dogs, but the boxer/lab mix nipped her right after we got her so she doesn’t mess with her anymore. But she is constantly biting my boxer. The boxer doesn’t bite back, and just seems to take it. The had broken skin on numerous occasions. I have tried telling her no, splitting them up, tapping her on the butt and nose, and nothing is seeming to help. I’m not sure if they are playing or not. The puppy bites very hard. Please help. Thanks

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Nicole – Ah yes, those needle sharp teeth are wicked! Okay, seems there are a few variables to be considered. Different aged dogs, different play styles, different level of younger-sibling tolerance, different quality of bite-inhibition, just to name a few. There’s a few things you can consider. Find more appropriate play-dates for your puppy. Enrolling in a puppy or adult Manners class. This can help with learning appropriate play as well as get some of that youngin’ energy out. When it comes to playing with your other dogs, I would focus on rewarding her for making good choices! Proper play, self interruption, “listening” to her siblings, etc. If she does something the other dogs don’t like, and isn’t backing off, then you can intervene politely with an obedience break. Then allow her back in to play. If it continues, give her a 30 second time out, but then let her back in to play, rewarding for what you want. This way she’ll learn to make good choices :-) Cheers & woofs to you!

  91. Geoff says:

    Hi, thanks for this blog – it’s reassured me considerably regarding my two! We have a big Border Collie boy – about 4 years bold and have been fostering with a view to adoption a 2 year old BC bitch. She is about 9 kilos (20 pounds) lighter than him but much faster. We’re lucky as we have a field to play in with woods and rough pasture to charge through. their play with in the house is “normal” play fighting – mouthing, humping and general rough and tumble with the big boy always the boss. In the field the girl is the chaser, it’s loud, fast and appears violent. I can stop it with a sharp “come here” as they shoot past and get them to sit and take a training treat calmly before all hell breaks loose again! as soon as we get back into our garden they calm right down.

    My query is this, battering each other in the privacy of our field is fine but how can I calm down the level of play violence if we go (for example) to the beach where they are likely to meet other dogs? before we got the bitch our boy’s behaviour was more or less predictable but she has ramped up the excitement levels considerably.

    Many thanks,

    Geoff (In the UK)

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Geoff! Lovely to receive comments from across the pond. ;-) I appreciate your backstory and query. Sounds like your two dogs have a nicely matched style of play. And bravo to you for being able to help with positive interruptions, before things get too heated up. I would continue to do this, and more frequently, to help shape their behavior to the point where they are offering more interruptions and check-ins with you. This will help transfer to public locations. Speaking of, when it comes to meeting and playing with other dogs, remember to reward for being polite/brave. Monitor your own dog’s behavior’s/body language as well as other dogs too. They might end up making friends with other like-minded inquisitive canines. Seems you have a nice recall should things get into a zone of uncertainty. Cheers and woofs to you! And, remember we invite our inquisitive canine friends to post pics/videos on our Facebook page.

  92. Kathleen says:

    Hi Joan, I have read through the amazing comments and replys and I thought I would ask a question too. My partner has a half yorkie half shizu who’s 2 nearly 3 years old. He’s a very quiet dog and doesn’t have much socialisation skills with other dogs, when looking out the window he barks at every dog,l especially the postman, on the lead he goes up to bigger dogs and sniffs them and then just walks away as if he has no interest.

    Recently my partner and I have moved in together and decided on getting a new addition to the family. We decided on a half husky half akita a girl who is 10 weeks called Kleo. When they were introduced they were very shy and didn’t bother too much. Then Bou began to try and mount the pup continuously, we broke it off but the first night Bou didn’t even sleep as he was always watching the pup and trying to mount her what ever chance he got. Eventually he has stopped this behaviour but since then the pup has become very hyper, possibly because she’s well settled in now. All she wants to do is play, and Bou just doesn’t.
    Kleo is very stubborn she would test us such as she’s biting on the edge of the sofa and I tell her No she would just kind graze the sofa again with her mouth as if to go “I’m still going to bite it if I want to and I’ll stop it when I want.” and she can be quite rough to Bou, she would grab his wee shizu tail and tug on it trying to get a reaction from Bou. We intervene when the play gets too rough or when Bou seems it’s too much for him, we tried distracting Kleo with toys and treats, she would take them run to the other side of the room, then charge back at Bou. Then a few days ago Bou began to growl and show teeth at the pup when ever she went near him, but she doesn’t back down, this is him finally telling her to stop as before he would’ve just run to one of us. There are times they do get along and just lie beside eachother so calmly and we can’t separate them either because they both cry after eachother.

    Kleo is still waiting for her vaccines so we can bring her out on walks and meet other dogs. We know from her previous owners she was brought up around kids, dogs and even a cat, Kleo is far from vicious, even to strangers, it just seems to be poor wee Bou gets all the abuse. We let them into the yard and Kleo runs up to Bou and tries to get him to chase her, he takes a few steps after her teeth bared and growling and then comes back to us. But Kleo is determined to get a good chase from Bou.
    Me and my partner are scared that the behaviour from Kleo won’t change towards Bou especially once she gets a lot bigger and maybe more rougher? We wouldn’t be able to get rid of her because she’s just so loved and part of the family now plus I know Bou would miss her the most! We would just like to know is there anything we can do that would help our situation.

    Many thanks

    Kathleen
    N.Ireland :)

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Kathleen!
      Wow, all the way from N. Ireland! We’re honored to have you here with us. After reading through your post, these are my initial thoughts: 1) Get Kleo into a force-free puppy training class to help teach her life skills and to provide her with dog-play outlets to release some of that puppy energy, 2) engage in play with her BEFORE she starts going after Bou. Seems she has you and your partner trained to pay attention when she is doing something you don’t want – time to change the order of events, 3) reward both dogs (especially Bou) whenever they are getting along, whether it be play or snuggling, 4) provide appropriate puppy-outlets for Kleo including chew bones and enrichment food toys, giving her something “legal” to chew on, as opposed your couch, and 5) catch both dogs in the act of doing something you like and want – then reward them for it! You can never say “Thank you” enough :-)

  93. Karen says:

    My momma shitzu plays rough with pups now 12 weeks , why does she do that what is she trying to teach them

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Karen – Sounds like she is a good teacher and that she’s decided to “Home School” her babies :-)

  94. Michelle says:

    Hi there,

    I have a 4.5 year old 40lb dog (we think she is a collie/shepherd) and a 7 month old pug mix. They play fine at home but when I walk them..they play fight as soon as I step into an intersection (becoming very dangerous as I can barely make it accross the road during the green light) please help!!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Michelle,
      Thanks for joining the conversation and sharing your situation. You caught me in the middle of constructing a post on The Art of Shaping and how it applies to dog training, which is apropos of your situation – so, good timing!

      This is the general outline of what I would do in your situation, in order to shape your dog’s behavior for walking nicely on leash: teach each dog, independently to walk on leash (not at the same time); divide the entire walking process into separate behaviors (walking on loose leash, eye contact, sitting or standing at intersections); begin teaching in your home with no distractions, adding distractions little by little for a smooth transition to crowded crosswalks; bring both dogs together, repeat the process of easy to more difficult, with the actual busy intersection as your final goal. If you have an additional handler for the second dog (when going together), that would also be helpful.

      Cheers & woofs!

  95. Amy says:

    I have a malamute mix (Ashes) who is 7 yrs old he is pretty laid back and has the softest mouth ever. We just got a 8 week old malamute mix (Ember) who Ashes seems to get along with, he will give a little growl and walk away if Ember is doing something he doesn’t like but over all seems not to mind him and will even play with him about once a day on his own. We have had the puppy Ember for 2 weeks now and Ashes has started to butt into play if I am playing with the puppy while he is say…resting on the couch or eating. He still doesn’t hurt the puppy but he does tend to be rougher. It’s not every time the puppy and I are playing and I’m not sure if Ashes just wants to be part of the attention or if he is getting jealous that the puppy is getting attention from me. Should I discouraged this or just get up and let the 2 dogs play?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Amy – Love the names of your inquisitive canine’s. Sounds like a fiery group (hahahaha). Anyway, your question is concerning you stopping Ashes interrupting play, or you getting up and allowing the two dogs to play? I would suggest that you first decide on what it is that you do want? Do you want the dogs to play nicely? The focus on those behaviors and reward them. If you want to engage with the dog(s), then reward each one for displaying the behaviors that you want. For instance, if Ashes is being quiet on the couch, acknowledge him for doing that – before he gets up and plays referee. Remember, “rewards” don’t necessarily equal food – although this is one on the list. You can use petting, lots of praise, toys, the opportunity to play, belly rubs and chin scratches. Communicating to both dogs what it is you want is key in shaping their behavior – and, sometimes it’s all in the details. ~Cheers and woofs to you!

  96. paula bell says:

    hi my name is paula
    we have a 2.5 year old rottie and 14 week rottie, when they play fight she gets really rough with him and bites his legs, face etc and at the same time makes really loud aggressive sounds and gets quite full on for a puppy – can you please advise if this is normal behaviour

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Paula – nice to meet you. Thank you for stopping by our site. You ask if this type of behavior is “normal.” Hmmm, I would venture to say it’s “common.” Remember, dogs are born with these innate play behaviors – helps them learn about corporative relationships etc. It sounds like your youngin’ is learning about how to be a dog with her older sib. Like some humans having louder, more boisterous personalities, some dogs tend to be louder than others – barking, growling, grunting, howling etc. A couple of quick tips: 1) keep an eye on your older dog – does he want to engage in play, or escape? (read through previous posts on what to do in each case), and 2) enroll your youngster in a humane, reward-based puppy class so he’ll learn about socializing with other dogs. This will help broaden his play-skill set. ~Cheers to you and your inquisitive canines!

  97. Alex says:

    Hi Joan! We have a 5-year-old dog who grew up with two older dogs that have since passed away. We decided to get a new puppy, but when the pup approaches him, he growls and sometimes lunges at the pup. I don’t think he’s hurt the puppy, but we’re concerned that he’s being overly aggressive. After all, the puppy wasn’t jumping on him, just walking towards him. As well, when the puppy is in his kennel, the older dog is wary of even walking past the puppy. We’re unsure if he’s jealous, or over-protective of his family, or if he’s just asserting his dominance? Any advice?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Alex – Thanks for commenting and sharing your story. You’ve painted a very clear picture. My immediate conclusion, based on what you’ve described, is that your older dog is “upset.” I would avoid using labels such as dominance or jealous, and try to maintain an objective view. My suggestion would be to consult with a certified professional dog trainer or an animal behaviorist who use only force-free training methods, to help you and your dogs develop a harmonious relationship. You can check out CCPDT or IAABC for trainers in your area. In the meantime, take a look at the steps I’ve outline in this post on sibling rivalry: http://inquisitivecanine.com/fido-fundamentals/training-tips-for-dog-eat-dog-sibling-rivalry/ and make sure your allowing your older dog to have his space.

  98. Megan says:

    I adopted a 2yr old pitbull that I can tell really wants to play with other dogs. When we see other dogs on our walks he whines and wants to go to them. Occasionally when we we’ve come across dogs I’ve tried to let him just be curious but I believe he comes on too strong. He never growls or barks but sometimes he’ll make a sudden movement or even jump on the other dog which always leads the other dog to become defensive and to the other owners I’m worried they’re thinking my dog is attacking theirs. Even when the other dog would become aggressive because they’re on the defensive he keeps trying to play, but in a manner of jumping. He’s never snapped at, barked or growled, but I can tell his actions make other dogs anxious. How can I work with mine to not to come on too strong?

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hi Megan – Good question. What great observational skills you have. Does your dog have doggy friends who enjoy playing with him? I would start there, rewarding him (praise, happy talk, a few treats here and there, petting etc…) to help shape his behaviors on acceptable play behaviors. To you he might be playing, but as you said, he might be coming on too strong – or just have a different play style altogether. You might also want to enroll in a class so he develops manners in a more organized setting, learning impulse control, and how to be around other dogs without the opportunity to run willy-nilly. Seeking help from a certified professional dog trainer who practices force-free methods might also be a good idea- they can help you analyze your dog’s body language and play style. Thank you for your dedication to your dog’s – and other dogs – welfare.

  99. Venessa Sierra says:

    Hi I have a new puppy about six months old male chihuahua and a male yorkie mix about three, the puppy humps my yorkie, constantly smells his genitals, and does this stance where he leans on his head, he even peed on his head a little the other day. We are scheduled to have the puppy fixed in a few weeks, my yorkie is fixed. Anyway the way the puppy acts has my yorkie very sad, he hides in his kennel, runs away from him, slumps to the ground and eventually will do a high pitched scream in the puppies face although not often at which point the puppy backs off. I keep trying to intervene but the puppy is obsessed with my yorkie, the puppy could care less about my other two dogs. My yorkie has always been a very submissive dog and I don’t want this to isolate him! The puppy seems to stop when I am watching and correct him no, but when I am not there i.e.; potty time he is again following my yorkie around. I can afford a trainer right now as my wife was laid off a few days ago, any suggestions

  100. Mackenzie says:

    Hi! I just had a quick question for you about my dog park experience today.

    My dog Bennie is a 7-month old lab/pitbull mix. He is extremely submissive, always the first one to roll over on his back. He’s super sweet and loves to play with other dogs. Today at the dog park he was immediately approached by a boxer mix who’s a year and half. The boxer mix would not leave Bennie alone, and would stand over him and not let him up. Bennie has played with other dogs that would stand over him but they would take turns. This dog chased him and Bennie would run under the picnic tables to try to get away from him – with his tail under his legs. Then the other dog started grabbing on to Bennie’s neck pretty hard (Bennie was crying) and I intervened. Bennie seems to usually be the target of the dominant dogs because he is so submissive and doesn’t stand up for himself. I don’t want Bennie to fight, but I want him to defend himself when another dog tries to hurt him. What should be my reaction/approach to the other dog and his owner when Bennie is getting bullied like that? It just worries me that Bennie isn’t fit for the dog park because he is so submissive. We left immediately because I didn’t want Bennie to get hurt, but the other owner and dog should’ve been the ones to leave, I think. Anyways just wanted your advice and to help me determine if that was aggressive play (because the other owner seemed to think it was fine). Thank you!

    • Joan the Dog Coach says:

      Hello Mackenzie – Ugh, what a challenging situation. I applaud you for observing what was happening, and ensuring Bennie was kept safe. From what you’ve described, it sounds like the other dog was being a bit of a bully, since he was continually going after your dog and not listening. And, no matter if it was “aggressive” or not, you had made the request to the owner and no one listened. That’s just rude human behavior. Keep in mind that Bennie is young, and that confidence comes with age and experience. If you are so inclined, arrange playdates with dogs who possess similar play styles. You can also enroll in a class (obedience or sport) to help build his learning skills (and confidence). As for dog parks, I would only spend time in those where you feel comfortable. Maybe making arrangements with doggy friends to meet up at certain times, in specific locations.

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