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Question about "puppy play"


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Hi...my sweet adorable little Callie is almost 5 months old. There is a new dog park that opened nearby that I have been bringing her to for the past few weeks now. They have a section where the larger dogs play, and she was very uncomfortable there the couple of times I let her in that area.....walks around with her tail down and acts a little nervous when approached, though she does allow the dogs to sniff her and she never raises her hackles or growls or barks at them...she just looks scared. In obedience class and at the ON LEASH park we also go to, she rarely acts scared with other dogs, even the large ones. On leash she isn't as fearful about approaching other dogs..big or small.

Of course when I saw how uncomfortable she was in the big section of the off leash run, I brought her to the "smaller dog" area. There were a few very small and toy sized dogs there, and her tail immediately started wagging and off she went to wrestle with them. My concern is that even though she is playing...no biting, no growling, she is actually very quiet, tail wagging the whole time..she has a habit of towering over the tiny dogs...she straddles them, sometimes standing directly over them, and sometimes she lays on top of them and pins them! None of the dogs she does this to seems to mind, but to me it looks like she only wants to play with these tiny dogs that she is able to dominate.

In class, there is an adorable Pit mix that is pretty evenly matched in size with her, and she does love to wrestle him too...but he usually winds up on his back too, even though he is taller than her. He has pinned her maybe once or twice...but she is usually the one that is on top of him. All the dogs she plays with in this way seem to enjoy the play and so far no one has gotten upset with her or acted as if she was being too dominating, but I am wondering if this could lead to a problem if she continues to play this way...always having that upper hand. If this is something that needs to be corrected, how do I do that?

Or is this acceptable play for a pup her age?

Also, do you think she will become more comfortable around the bigger dogs at the park given time? We do have another dog, Buster, who is a 70 lb BC mix and pretty tall...and she has no fear of him at all...even tries to wrestle with him..but he isn't interested in letting her do that...he loves to wrestle but I think he is waiting for her to get bigger before he plays that way with her...he just chases her around sometimes right now. He's very paternal towards her..so cute! He's an angel too!

Thanks!

Janet

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None of the dogs she does this to seems to mind, but to me it looks like she only wants to play with these tiny dogs that she is able to dominate.

 

It might not be "domination" so much as she is more secure on all fours than she would be going down on the ground.

 

There will be a lot of different opinions on this, but personally I prefer to let dogs have some time to play in the ways that they choose. As long as hackles aren't rising and real bullying isn't going on, I like to let the dogs work things out amongst themselves.

 

If I had a puppy that was comfortable with smaller dogs and fearful around bigger ones, I would let her play with the smaller dogs off-leash and be comfortable and socialize her with the larger dogs in more controlled, on-leash settings.

 

Like people, some dogs have preferences for who they want to socialize with. In informal settings, I like to allow my dogs the freedom to choose which dogs they want to hang out with and which they want to avoid. Different dogs also have different play styles - the fact that she doesn't allow herself to be "pinned" may not be a dominance thing at all, but just her personal style of play. And it might be that the smaller dogs suit her style of play better.

 

Not sure if that helps, but it doesn't hurt to look at the situation from a different perspective.

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My foster puppy is pretty similar - very overwhelmed by other, larger dogs despite being outgoing on lead and a wrestle maniac with Maggie. I let her go at her own pace and only break up an interaction that is escalating to another dog sitting on her, being a bully, or some other situation that has her on the run with tail tucked. She went to daycare today and did well and she loves playing with my coworkers large dogs as well.

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It might not be "domination" so much as she is more secure on all fours than she would be going down on the ground.

 

- the fact that she doesn't allow herself to be "pinned" may not be a dominance thing at all, but just her personal style of play. And it might be that the smaller dogs suit her style of play better.

 

Not sure if that helps, but it doesn't hurt to look at the situation from a different perspective.

 

Thanks Kristine...thinking about what you said, I think she definately feels more secure on all fours...something I hadn't thought about as a possible connection until reading your post.. even as a tiny puppy, she never really liked to be picked up "baby style" and cuddled by me or anyone else. She loves to be petted and snuggled with, but not cradled in my arms. When I try to cuddle with her cradled in my arms on the couch, she has always squirmed away, especially if she is on her back. Yet, she does not mind if I pick her up and carry her upright against my shoulder.

I noticed that when she plays and wrestles with other dogs, if she does wind up on her back on the floor, she immediately squirms to get right back up. The only time she stays on her back for any length of time is when I am giving her belly rubs. She does love that, though it must be a funny spot for her because as soon as you rub her belly, her left leg starts kicking.

I will definately keep her in her comfort zone with the pups she enjoys playing with. I want her to like going to the park and I know if she is uncomfortable or overwhelmed, that certainly isn't fun for her.

Thanks for your insights! Much appreciated.

 

Maggiedog...thanks for your advice too. I always keep a close eye on Callie when she is playing, and I will definately keep watching for any signs of bullying on her part. I just wasn't sure if her straddling or standing over the dogs is what could be considered bratty or bullying behavior, if none of the dogs she does it to seems to get upset.

Janet

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Best way to evaluate play EVER: pull the dogs apart, hold for a count of 5 and release - if they go back to playing all is well, if one runs away, you need to separate them for longer. :rolleyes:

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Best way to evaluate play EVER: pull the dogs apart, hold for a count of 5 and release - if they go back to playing all is well, if one runs away, you need to separate them for longer. :rolleyes:

 

Thanks..I actually have done that. The other day she was playing with a small teacup Yorkie that had a balance problem...every time that dog went down on her back she had trouble getting back up. The owner said it was ok for her to play and that it was a neurological problem the dog had...poor thing...stupid pet stores..another topic altogether...lol.. anyway, I was nervous letting my pup wrestle with her because she kept standing over this little dog and the dog couldn't really get up ...so I separated her from the dog, but the other dog (slowly) got up and kept hopping around us trying to get Callie to play some more. lol

Janet

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