Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The tricky topic of play ...

Sampson can be extremely rough when he plays with Sally. Sally brings out both the best and the worst in him it seems. They can lie and gently mouth each other, making dramatic and funny sounds or he can get so wound up she  tucks herself in behind me until his 'fit' is over. He never does it to other dogs. Our theory is he likely NEVER met a dog between leaving his litter mates and arriving in our back yard. Hank also played too roughly at times (with many dogs). Interruption and redirection are your friends in these circumstances. Ideally you have two dogs of similar play styles.  Our foster Gus could play with Hank forever as they both were extreme players. 
Sally is a gracious,  gentle play girl (although she paws Brody in the  head when he comes out of doors- not at all appreciated by him!)

Just playing nicely here - the top picture was actually much rougher .. interesting eh?

Sally has a  lovely way of adapting her play to the other dog. Bitey face, chase games, mutual stick chewing, parallel racing whatever makes the other dog happy makes her happy.

I am very careful about who Sally gets to play with - if the other dog is rough I call Sally out of the melee and play with her myself. A rough dog is not aware of its strength generally and may be so over the top (thinking of Sampson here) that it's ability to think and respond to settling cues may be minimal. When I was worried about Hank and Gus I ALWAYS had toys and food on me and would put short tag lines on both dogs so I could reach in and catch either one without fear of an unintended grab. (Watch out for other dogs dragging the tag line around though). I use very light weight lines on dogs a lot actually, I completely understand the vision of a perfect recall and that a line can develop a reliance on management over training but around here management is a reality -not a failure!

Rough playing dogs can hurt other dogs with body slams and hard grabs but it's even more likely they can scare other dogs into not playing, not just with them but with all dogs. It makes me sad when Sam gets loopy and starts making it obvious he has lost control of his ability to play with Sally - I sometimes call him to me and get him focused on  me other times I call Sally to me and engage her. Identifying the triggers that put Sam's play over the top has been an important part of getting my timing correct so that positive methods work effectively.  For him getting overtired, getting wet and heading back to the truck can all do it. Timing is, as with so many other elements of dog wisdom so critical.

Once it's done uploading I'll post a very cute clip of Sally and Wyn playing .. nice of them to give me such excellent footage for this topic!

1 comment:

Sara said...

I love watching dogs play! Their dynamics are fascinating.