Dog Training Tips for Managing Your Puppy’s Play with Other Dogs
We were up with a potential Dog Guard Out of Sight Fence client yesterday in Fort Myers when the neighbor approached us with a question. He didn’t have an underground dog fence question, but a question about his new puppy. He had his first dog, a little Golden Retriever puppy, for about five months and he wanted to start to let him play with other dogs in the neighborhood. He said he had tried this once or twice but it looked like the dogs were starting to fight. He wasn’t sure what was “play” and what was “bad” and wanted to get our ideas.
We told him that socialization is a very important part of any dog’s life experience. His puppy’s ability to understand how to play and communicate with other dogs is critical and allows his puppy to establish his communication skills, canine interaction, and physical well being.
Puppies, as with all dogs, live in a “canine world” of absolutes and clear social roles. In their world, there is the leader and there is the rest of the pack, or the followers. There are things that each group can clearly do. Everything is absolute and unambiguous. In order to help understand this, there are natural games that puppies play.
Puppies play games such as:
- “King of the Hill” is a game that puppies play where one puppy gets to the top of something and defends it by posturing, barking, and nipping. The other puppies will try to challenge “the king” by getting close, but they will always back off. Sooner or later the puppy on top will jump off and a new puppy will become the leader or “king”.
- “Tag, You’re It!” is where one puppy chases the other until the follower jumps on the leader and sometimes gives a little nip. The act of “tagging” flips the roles where the leader becomes the follower and the follower becomes the leader.
- In “Follow the Leader”, one puppy runs as fast as he can as the rest of the puppies chase and bark at him. Eventually the leader will stop running and looks back at the rest of the pack. Another puppy will now take off and everyone will now chase him.
Even though these are all activities that demonstrate submission or dominance, they are still only games. Just like we used to play games like Cops and Robbers, we understood that they were only games and we played them just for fun. Our puppies also understand that these are just games. After about thirty or forty minutes, the puppies will all be drinking out of the same water bowl and then fall asleep… exhausted.
So we should encourage and let our puppies play these games. We should also monitor these activities so that our puppies are learning the right things. Here are some suggestions for monitoring playtime:
- Don’t have big puppies play with smaller ones. When a big puppy rushes up to a small puppy, it might scare and intimidate the latter. We don’t want to cause a possible fearful trait in the smaller puppy.
- Take your play outside in an enclosed, grassy area. This allows them the most freedom to run and not “get into trouble”.
- If one puppy is becoming fearful (tail between legs), remove him from the main play area. Let him watch from a safe distance and allow him to decide if and when he might want to join the group.
- Always keep your eye on the entire group. If one of them is constantly jumping on another and the other is whimpering or growling with no release, the play has gotten out of hand. Separate them for a few minutes. When everything is relatively calm, let them reengage.
- Make sure that there is always plenty of water for hydration. Puppies can become overheated very quickly.
Allowing our puppies to play together is a large part of our puppies’ socialization and our being “good parents”. The line between exuberant, healthy play and aggressive bullying is quite fine. If you are ever unsure about a situation, remove your puppy and let things start again. If you have any questions about this or out of sight dog fences, please contact us at The Best Out of Sight Dog Trainers in Fort Myers and South Florida.