Monday, December 10, 2012

Evolving thoughts on dog play

Thank you for all your wonderful comments on dog play for the past few posts; the insights were really helpful in figuring out how to manage this new rowdy dog situation I've got here.

Since I got Star, my thoughts on the topic have evolved and continue to.

At first, I was thinking that hearty play sessions with Fozzie were really my only hope of tiring Star out and that it was a healthy activity that they would regulate themselves without too much intervention.

I was impressed with how they would get so riled up, but then take time outs on their own where they just stood apart for a few seconds, or went and got a drink.

Then they got into that fight over a stick, and I got really nervous. The shelter trainer told me that she believes in intervening in potential scrappies early, and for a few days after that I didn't let the two outside together at all, preferring to avoid all the stress it caused me. I also thought that with dogs like this, it is better to not give them practice in wild, impulsive behavior--even if it is good-natured.

As I saw their friendly faces, licks, and body language toward each other though, I began to relax and let them have a romp or two. I found again that they separated on their own, so I began to relax my rules and let them engage in some wild running circles and wrestling sessions. When I get stressed out, I approach them with a squeaky toy or bounce a ball near them, and when I've done that Star has gone after the toy--which tells me that her mood and her intentions while she was engaged with Fozzie were all about fun, not conflict.

They have not had another fight since that one involving a stick, and I have been really pleased with their ability to take time-outs on their own volition.  You can just see from their interactions that neither is a dog who wants to fight, in fact they have shown a fair amount of skill in avoiding it. They both just want to have fun, and they are not subtle in how they express that.

I have to admit that I still feel my heart go into my throat every time the wild wrestling action begins, and I reserve the right to indulge my inner stress case  and not allow wild playing in the future. But for now I am learning a lot through this process, and I appreciate your letting me bounce ideas off you!


  1. What a great idea of using the squeaky toy to signal a shift.

  2. I think that as time goes on and you get to know more of Star's personality and her personality with Fozzie, you'll relax even more!

    With my pack, the play gets a bit wild with the deaf and blind not picking up on cues. Some dogs are just rougher than others but at our house, nobody gets hurt, they have fun and that's all that matters.

  3. We know someone that used squeaky toy, this lady here, and it works
    Benny & Lily

  4. That toy distraction is a great idea. I remember years ago, reading a post by Kenzo the Hovawart about what to do when confronted by a dogfight. Almost immediately after reading the post, Georgia got into her first and only bloody dogfight which ended her friendship with that dog. The fights can start so very quickly and we don't always recognise the signals.

  5. I've had a busy few days and haven't kept up with every blog, but reading this has warmed my heart, it's so challenging for you, but you sound as if you're doing brilliantly, strength and hugs from us xx

  6. It is hard to sit back and watch if it's not something you are used to, but I'm glad you've found a way to not only help them, but help yourself as well.

  7. Very smart with the toy! Madden gets overstimulated during play and I don't like three playing at once (always ends up with one pup being ganged up on obviously,) but luckily Madden is toy obsessed and if Hades and Braylon are going at it playing I can usually get Madden interested in a ball or Wubba instead.


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