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How rough is too rough?

1215 Views 6 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  hanksimon
Back in April we adopted a pit/terrier mix from a local rescue.. He's about a year old now and just shy of 40 lbs. There's another dog down that street that is almost always outside, off-leash and unsupervised. He is also some kind of pit mix and just a bit bigger than my dog. The other dog is very friendly though. He and my dog absolutely LOVE each other.

Almost every time we go for a walk they see each other and want to play. So I usually let them play for a few minutes before continuing on the walk. I've never had any problems with this. No fighting or anything like that. Thing is, they play VERY rough. At least IMO it's rough. They tackle and throw each other to the ground. Some light playful biting/nibbling. But the whole time they're both just smiling and wagging their tails. Seemingly having the time of their lives. No barking. No latching.

So my question is, should I be discouraging this rough play or is this just how the bigger, more active breeds play (I've only had small dogs before... Daschunds and Shih Tzus)?
As I said, everything's been fine so far. But I just don't want it to escalate into a fight or anything.
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Sounds pretty normal to me. Chester plays like that with other large dogs (he controls himself well with smaller dogs) and I usually break it up in the house simply to save my house or to keep them from hurting themselves against the floor, table etc.
Lots of tackling, bodies slamming into the ground, play biting (open mouths, nibbling), play barking or talking, grabbing each other's legs etc.

I watch for and stop it if one dog starts to overly dominate the play (continually pinning down the other for example), they quit taking turns in who is being the play aggressor, if one yelps and the other doesn't immediately back off, if one gets a stiff body or whale eyes or if either seems stressed OR getting too into it and losing bite inhibition from excitement.

Usually, there are lots of play bows, taking turns rolling on the floor, taking turns backing a step away and then pouncing and such.

I don't really look at tail wagging so much unless I know that it is that dog's personality to stop wagging his tail when things aren't cool for him. Chester has no tail anyway. I have met dogs that were fear biters and being defensively aggressive while still wagging their tails. Same with barking vs no barking-- lots of times they get barky and talky in that happy way while a very silent dog can be stressed and ready to snap at the other.

Note that I am talking only about "average" dogs and not actually dog-aggressive dogs. Just big lugs that can occasionally play a little too rough but will stop with a tug on the leash or stepping close and clapping my hands (or making a quick "EEK" or other odd noise)
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If you believe it is getting too rough then go ahead and step in and stop them.
It's all up to you.
Dogs don't usually have any trouble letting another dog know when enough is enough. If they're not ending up fighting, I'd say they just play rough. Some breeds are known for that, particularly the "pit" breeds.
When my pups were younger, I would stop them before it got beyond my comfort level. A few times it went too far and there were some hurt feelings among them, but they are really good with each other now.

Sometimes I still stop them still- by using recall ("COME!")- but when they started to wrestle really rough earlier this week when we had guests, including my friend holding her toddler- I said "Stop!" and they turned and looked at me like 'What? Stop what? Do you need something from us?'

It did take some adjusting on my part. I have a pitt mix and a rotti mix.

I like the info SHell gave you.

I do want to point out that if at some point it went beyond play and the other dog got 'serious' it would be hard to step in as the other dog is nto yours and does not have an owner around to help.

In that scenario I would be very cautious and err on the side of less rough.
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I have a pit/lab mix - 60+ lbs. she loves to rough house. She had this "best friend," Axel back in Colorado where we just came from, and they LOVED to play rough...they would toss each other around and (playfully) bite each others legs and ears, nothing ever too much, the pit bulls just like to play rough.

There was one time when my Jenny got too rough with Axel (who is about 20 lbs lighter then her) and left a small gauge just above the eyebrow. Axel told Jenny she was being too rough with a little yelp and Jenny backed off immediately, and then they were right back at it in less then a minute!!

If your dog or the other dog thinks its going too far, they will let each other know.
As Shell and JennyBird said, if one dog looks unhappy, then you may have to settle them down for a short period. However, I think it's terrific and very important to find a dog that will play with compatible energy.

My Lab-GSD would wrestle with a Lab-Rott for 30 min. or more offleash in a large fenced field, then continue fighting, lying down on their sides panting. Other than wanting to "kill" each other when they came to class, they were both very calm and gentle otherwise. Note: there was also a lot of bloodshed, b/c they might bloody their mouths... but it was an excellent lesson in what dog aggression was Not!
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