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Teaching a toy-oriented dog to wrestle

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Aed is 6 and basically he never really learned to play without toys. We only ever hung out with other dogs in open areas where they'd play beside each other or run around (like on a hike) but never actually wrestle. These days living in the city some of the only open areas are dog parks and he just doesn't have any idea how to play with other dogs it seems. He used to as a puppy but has clearly lost the talent and often just gets frustrated and snarly for no reason.

So a couple of questions for y'all. 1, do you think there would be any benefit to teaching him how to wrestle with me? Any carry over? I don't have any friends with dogs to practice with unfortunately. He doesn't understand it at all right now and goes running for a toy as soon as I engage, or just starts barking a lot if I hide the toys first. Question 2 is, I guess, just in general if other people have had this experience and if they managed to solve it or never bothered? He seems to want to engage with other dogs but he's so socially awkward in dog parks right now.
 

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Border collies' and some other herding breeds' play styles are often pretty different from many other types of dogs. It's one of the reasons they often don't do well at dog parts. Once they've reached adulthood my dogs have pretty much lost interest in playing with other dogs unless it's other border collies who play like they do. Let a border collie who's pretty antisocial with most other dogs loose in a field with other border collies they've never met before and it's instantly game on!

My dogs have always wrestled or played bitey-face with each other in the house, but outside their game of choice has been a chase game. It actually has rules and has nothing to do with actually catching or being caught by the other dog. They'll full out run, maintaining a specific distance from the other dog and then abruptly switch places and the chaser becomes the chasee.

Is there any possibility of trying to find some other border collies who speak Aed's language to play with rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? Is there a Meetup or similar social interactive group in your area?

 

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Finding other border collies about Aed's age is a good idea. Gibbs will play with me for a while, less now that he's a senior citizen. I took in a roommate/tennant a couple years ago, and he and Gibbs took to each other. Roomie gets down on the floor with Gibbs, shoves him around gently, Gibbs gets excited and barks at him, then rushes back to be shoved again. I call it wrestling, and Gibbs has really taken to this style of play. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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God I wish we had any border collie groups here! It's the first thing I looked for, it would be the ideal for sure. I think at this point my best bets are just to try to go during times that there aren't many dogs at the park. It's a shame because he always was unusually social for a bc but between the play styles and his confusing super snarly play growl I think you're right that his chances of meshing with other breeds are pretty low.

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I'm not necessarily saying to look for border collie groups per se, but to consider social media as a way of finding other people who have border collies, even if it's only one. Search FB, look for Meetup, Nextdoor, Reddit or any others that I may not be familiar with. Look for agility or even obedience trainers who may have had some border collies in their classes and ask if they can give the owners your contact info. Are there any kennel clubs in your area? Ditto.

In my experience that snarly play growl is usually understood by other dogs, especially dog friends, as play. There are exceptions, of course, especially in dogs who don't have good dog/dog communication skills, but most dogs have a fail-safe behavior that's integrated into rambunctious play. They'll suddenly stop in their tracks and offer some sort of appeasement behavior, often reciprocal sneezes, that's essentially saying 'this is just fun; we're not fighting, right?' After a few seconds when they've agreed it's all good they go right back to playing.

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If it is any encouragement, I have a friend who has a female border collie.  This BC was attacked by an off lead dog when she was quite young, and as a result, has been pretty submissive and has never really played with other dogs.  She has never really socialised much with other BCs. 

A while ago, in the Beforetimes, we met up for a play date with my four boys and this little girl called Navi.  We had not long adopted Buddy, who is not yet 2 and who loves to play and wrestle.  It did not take long before Buddy and Navi were play bowing, wrestling, jumping up on each other and having the time of their lives.  My friend was absolutely dumbfounded because she had never seen Navi be so playful.

I think that BCs can be breedist, in that they tend to react best to other working dogs, and BCs best of all.  I am sure it has to do with them speaking the same language.  Sometimes it just takes meeting the right dog.

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13 hours ago, Lawgirl said:

I think that BCs can be breedist, in that they tend to react best to other working dogs, and BCs best of all.  I am sure it has to do with them speaking the same language.  Sometimes it just takes meeting the right dog.

I have found it to be true in general with the border collies in my life that they are only interested in playing with other border collies. In his whole life, my Jester had no use whatever for other dogs unless they were border collies, and he could play all day with a whole field full of border collies. There was only one notable exception, a golden retriever belonging to someone I was visiting. Those two hit if off  so well and played so beautifully I wanted to take the golden back home with me to be Jester's playmate. If I could have, I actually would have.

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Wondering if anyone has a bc who loves puppies? Gibbs adores them. He plays very well with them, corrects appropriately, then goes back to playing with them. I know it's not just me, a couple different kennels I've left him at have reported, with some surprise, 'You weren't exaggerating about the puppies!'

It's very sweet to watch. And none of my other border collies liked pups. They'd ignore them or growl even.

Ruth & Gibbs

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14 hours ago, Lawgirl said:

I think that BCs can be breedist

Mine have absolutely been! It's pretty funny really. Unfortunately some ppl are offended when my dogs aren't interested in theirs, but there's nothing I can do about it.

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23 hours ago, urge to herd said:

Wondering if anyone has a bc who loves puppies? Gibbs adores them. He plays very well with them, corrects appropriately, then goes back to playing with them. I know it's not just me, a couple different kennels I've left him at have reported, with some surprise, 'You weren't exaggerating about the puppies!'

It's very sweet to watch. And none of my other border collies liked pups. They'd ignore them or growl even.

Ruth & Gibbs

My Kit dog was friendly to everyone. But when I brought home a very young border collie mix puppy as a foster dog, and she realized the dog was staying a while, she hated the poor thing. I couldn't leave her alone with the puppy for fear she would hurt her, so I took the puppy with me every day to work. One day after about two weeks I brought the puppy home from work and somehow, between morning when I left with the puppy, and evening when I returned with her, Kit had decided she loved the puppy. It was strange and amazing. All of a sudden, the puppy was HERS, and she fed her, groomed her, played with her and was constantly checking with her to make sure she was OK. Simultaneously my male border collie made a similar transformation, going from snarling at the pup to allowing her to climb all over him. 

After the puppy left to be adopted, both dogs were more friendly with puppies and more tolerant of them, although we didn't see puppies very often. I have never been able to figure out what made that sudden transformation happen.

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