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Let’s talk about proper puppy play!!

I’m sure you have all heard how important it is to socialize your puppy with other dogs. But what is even more important is knowing socialization is more than exposure.

We want to introduce our pup to others and then let them play, but we need it to be a positive experience. Ever hear that phrase “oh just let them figure it out”? Ya, it’s garbage. Puppies need us to referee and interfere when play gets out of hand or one pup is not enjoying it.

But puppy play can be messy and clumsy and maybe it’s your first dog so how do you know what is proper play and what is not? 

Here are some guidelines!

  1. Proper play is equal. For example, chase is ok if I chase you and you chase me. Pinning is ok, if I pin you then let you up and you pin me. If I am just chasing you or not letting you up, play is not equal, I’m being a bully and an owner needs to interfere and stop play. 
  2. Proper play is relaxed. The body of your puppy should be loose, bouncy, wiggly with a relaxed wagging tail and a big silly grin. As soon as that body stiffens and the tail tucks or straightens (even if still wagging), an owner needs to interfere. 
  3. Proper play includes play bows (front end down, back end in the air)! This is your puppy’s invitation for the other puppy to come play.
  4. Proper play is fun and your pup will keep going back for more!
  5. Proper play can include biting (mouthing) each other. This is ok unless a puppy bites too hard causing the other puppy to yelp and DOES NOT let go. Sometimes they bite too hard by accident, it happens they are learning, but they must let go!

Also here are some definite red flags that you should stop or interfere with play. (Note, interfere may be stopping play or pausing it for a moment)

  1. Calm relaxed play starts to become too intense (faster, louder etc)
  2. No humping! It’s rude. Humping isnt a display of dominance but rather of over stimulation or over tired and most dogs do not like it!
  3. No hair pulling! Again it’s rude and not fair play to our long haired friends.
  4. No barking in another dog’s face when the other dog is not engaging. 
  5. No cornering or ganging up on our friends. 
  6. One dog starts to try to exit play (ex. retreats back to you, lingers at the water bowl, walks away from other dog)

 There is so much more to puppy play!

If you ever find yourself not sure of whether your pup is having a good time or not, or if your dog if your dog is being too much for the other dog, remember to do a CHECK IN.

Check ins are simple: hold back the dog who you think might be too much for the other dog. If the other dog goes right to the dog you are holding, game on! If the other dog stays where they are or moves in the opposite direction, they are done and play is over. 

Remember your puppy is still learning how to play and how to read other dog’s body language. We need to help them navigate their play so they can learn to play nice and everyone can have a great time! 

This Puppy Play Article Was Featured in Experience Delta