You are your puppy’s guardian!
Observe your puppy when interacting with another puppy and call back if your puppy is showing any anxiety signals or if your puppy is causing any stress to another puppy. Don’t be embarrassed by your puppy’s behaviour, all puppies are different and need to learn. Adult larger dogs can be great teachers but be mindful who you allow your puppy to interact with as they can be easily frightened by boisterous youths. Unfamiliar dogs also may not tolerant puppy behaviour readily. Once frightened at this impressionable age, negative associations are formed and harder to eradicate.
When puppies interact; it is how they learn each other’s dog to dog body language signals which will help them to become a more balanced and confident adult dog. If they nip too hard or play outside the rules they may get told by the other puppy with a verbal squeal, the other puppy may walk away to stop play. This is why it is better that they interact with a similar age and size of puppy so no major harm comes, interactions should be kept short and sweet, so high arousal is kept at bay with opportunities to engage and disengage. This applies to adult dog play too.
Puppies will have learnt some skills from their mother and siblings but now they are on their own and meeting non- family member’s so it is a time for experimenting with their greeting style. This is where you come in as puppy parent to help guide them and help make play a positive experience.
Interrupt any play sessions every couple of minutes to let arousal simmer down before play continues. Use toys to prevent puppies ragging and bullying each other and encourage they play tug, chase to retrieve a toy and foraging and searching treat games. Even the best play partners can get so excited that nice play can turn to not so nice! Always praise and reward puppy on returning to you call.
It is your job now to help teach your puppy what is nice acceptable play.
Green Flag – Puppy Play
- Mirroring each other’s play style
- Taking it in turns to chase or be chased
- Having little time outs for a breather (which you can teach)
- Play bows
- Mouthing, this can be noisy
- Toy tugging, toy chasing, toy retrieving, toy carrying.
- Food searching and foraging
- Puppy moving back to a play a partner to play again
- Noises such as soft play growling are fine as long as no red flags signals are showing at the same time
Red Flag – Puppy Play
- Continuous chasing with the other puppy fleeing and seeking safety rather than having fun
- Tail position lowered or between legs
- Ears pinned back, tightly closed mouth
- Curled lip
- A puppy pinning another puppy down for more than a few seconds where it is quite evident the other puppy is frightened. Note: It is important to watch the whole play picture. If the ruff and tumble is quick and the puppies are mirroring each other, taking turns to be lower than each other this is normal friendly play
- Biting and hard nipping rather than mouthing
- Squeals, excessive growling and overly excitement
- Puppy trying to hide behind an object or hide between their owner’s legs