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I'm looking into getting a new pup, but there's one thing that I'm unsure about, and that's taking it for walks and meeting other dogs. How do I tell if they're just playing, what signs should I be looking out for?

When I was growing up we had two dogs, mother and daughter, they got on until we moved house and then they had major fallings out, which ended up in them having to be kept seperately, a few minor injuries and a broken leg. This has made me nervous about dogs meeting each other, the daughter was terrible for walking and still is, since we moved house, she is very aggressive towards other dogs.
I have moved out of my parents house and miss having a dog around, it just doesn't feel right and empty.
 

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Signs of healthy play... play bows, wagging tails, tongues lolling out, "smiling". Roles should reverse now and then: the dog that wrestles on top also wrestles from below; the dog who chases also sometimes ends up being chased. Not one dog doing the chasing all the time or one dog on top all the time. It can get scary with a lot of growls, snarls and gnawing at each other, but usually that's fine.
http://diamondsintheruff.com/playingorfighting.html

Look out for when they get quiet, when they lock eyes, when their ears go far back, when they start baring their teeth or growling. If that happens, remove your dog from the situation immediately.

When it comes to making sure your dog is safe with other dogs, NOTHING is more valuable than socialisation at a young age. That is a surefire way to make sure your dog is confident with other dogs (save hereditary dog aggression which is common in some breeds).

Make sure your puppy is separated from her litter and mother no later than 8 weeks. Buying from a reputable breeder will ensure this. Before your pup turns 8 weeks old, she has to learn valuable social skills on how to project and recognise body language, how to play well with other dogs, how to figure out when a dog wants to play and doesn't want to, when another dog has had enough of playing, how to resolve disputes... etc. It sounds like a lot, but her mother and siblings will take care of it as long as she gets to stay with them. The process of making sure your dog is stable around other dogs continues as she goes home with you; you need to get her out to meet new dogs so she learns to play with them and isn't fearful or defensive around them.

The same goes for strangers, skateboards, bicycles, buses, people in wheelchairs, elevators, kids... your pup needs to be exposed to all these things at a young age so she doesn't grow to fear them as she gets older. There is a very extensive list of things to socialize your pup with here: http://diamondsintheruff.com/socialization.html See if you can get all of them!
 
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