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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all!

Looking for advice on how to adjust our older dog’s playing style so that she can get along better with two new puppies in the house. Our older dog (2.5 year old bernedoodle, Gormley) has always been a rough and tumble kind of player. Until these new dogs showed up, we would go to the dog park pretty much daily. Perhaps due to that, she plays on the rough side. Never aggressive in the slightest, but she likes to jump around. She will latch onto other dogs’ legs to get their attention and get a rise out of them. She’s also quite vocal when she plays, just making a lot of noise, and if her intended target isn’t giving her attention, she will stand there barking at them.
This hasn’t been a problem up to now, as she’s always found buddies at the park with whom she gets along really well. But we’ve recently picked up a couple puppies (a now ~6 month old terrier mix Gelabrous, and a ~4 month old Pyredoodle Kratos).
Gelabrous came first, and when it was just him, they got along pretty well. Gormley would come on a little strong sometimes, but Gelabrous was happy to play with her for the most part. A couple months later, Kratos showed up and he was not into it. He’s a confident dog, but he’s a little intimidated by Gormley. I attribute that to her being bigger than him (for now), and her being so vocal.
Gormley will do her thing where she latches on to his leg, and he will just stand there kind of waiting for it to be done. It’s gotten to where he’ll just run away from her when she’s wanting to play. He’s not fully terrified of her - he is always happy to see her in the morning and will cuddle with her when napping. But as soon as she’s in play mode, he wants no part of it.
Further, Kratos and Gelabrous get along really well, so now Gelabrous has begun acting the same way towards Gormley as Kratos does.
This really bums me out.. one of the reasons we decided to get more dogs was so that Gormley would have buddies to play with.
Long story short.. any tips on how I can either adjust Gormley’s playing style to make it more palatable for them? Or adjust their expectations to make her playing more enjoyable?

Any help would be appreciated!
 

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The play you described while at the park is rude, trying to get a rise out of dogs and barking at them when they ignore her is inappropriate play and has perhaps been reinforced by you allowing it. Sometimes a dogs warnings are slight and going to parks requires close observations for these warnings, and if your dog is not respecting those warnings it's your job to intervene and correct it so the other dog is not stressed. Your responsibility to other park goers is to remove your dog if play interactions become inappropriate, and this is going to be the same at home. Keep a short traffic lead on Gormley at home and at the park so you can easily gain physical control of your dog when needed and correct the behavior.
 

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I agree that Gormley's play behavior is very rude. Honestly, I'm surprised she hasn't been on the receiving end of some serious dog 'corrections' and gotten herself in a fight before now. That sort of behavior might be tolerated by well known dogs (best friends, if you will) but to pull the leg grab maneuver on a stranger is just asking for trouble.

I agree that you should step in & remove her from any play situation that seems to be stressing the other dog out. If she initiates play, and they don't show interest in reciprocating, you need to call her away or, if she won't come willingly, then physically removing her for a bit of a cool down is in order.

If the other dog follows & seems to want to interact with her after you've brought her away, then it's probably OK to let her go back & engage with them. If they continue to ignore her or walk away, then she needs to learn to understand & respect the other dogs' boundaries.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Ah I do want to be clear - she always attempts to initiate play by bowing and giving a couple friendly woofs. I don’t mean to paint a picture where she’s running around terrorizing everyone at the park. When I say she barks at dogs to get their attention, it’s usually while she is play-bowing. She will never do the leg grab until they’ve actually begun playing. But she does take it a bit far and can stray into being rough.

That being said, you are not wrong that it can be rude. She is not very good at recognizing when another dog is done playing with her (or doesn’t want to start) - that’s when the barking usually comes in.

I guess what I’m looking for is specific tips on how to encourage her to find something else to do if her chosen target is not interested. I think that’s the difficult part - she is successful in initiating play with these methods more often than not. So I think she thinks it’s just a matter of time until they start playing with her.

Appreciate the replies and advice, thank you!
 

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Unless you're lucky enough to know someone with that rare dog who doesn't tolerate rudeness but also delivers extremely fair, clear, appropriate, and consistent corrections, you have to step in and interrupt rude play any time it happens. This could be blatantly rude play - like the leg grabbing - or play that's 'rude' because the other dog is clearly not interested and she's not getting the hint, even if it'd be fine with other dogs.

I'll be frank here: doing this at a dog park is gambling, because there's every chance that one day she'll do this to a dog who will respond with a serious correction or fight, and dog park fights can get nasty if/when other amped-up dogs decide to join the fray. Now the kind of dog who will go after a rude player has no business being at the dog park, don't get me wrong, but you can't control who brings which dogs to these public places, and sadly there's a LOT of fear-aggressive, dog-selective, or even outright dog-aggressive dogs who show up in dog parks. When I was using them there was always at least one person who could empty the park when they showed up, because the regulars all knew their dog would start trouble. I've since stopped using dog parks entirely unless they're completely empty and I just want to let my boys run, because I've realized that they very rarely lead to happy, positive, dog-social experiences and were just allowing my dog to practice rude behaviors and get stressed over the chaos.

But the same rules apply at home. Interrupt rude behavior. Enforce breaks. Make sure each dog has a 'safe space' they can retreat to - like a crate - where the others aren't allowed. Enforce those safe spaces, even when they're not being used by their 'owner'. Interrupt play that's really intense and amped-up, even if both parties are willing participants, because that kind of interaction increases and encourages rude behavior and lack of inhibition, and - just like two young kids getting really amped up and wrestling - will only end in tears. Make EXTRA sure your younger dogs have lots of uninterrupted naptime and that your older dog isn't waking them up to play, because babies need lots of sleep and you'll again see more irritable, rude, or overaroused behavior if they're too tired.

Everyone still needs to be getting one on one time with you as well - walks, training, bonding, etc. - so they don't fixate only on each other. Multiple puppies, even staggered a little as yours are, are often 4x the work of a single pup because of this. With Gormley, I'd spend at least some of this time working on relaxation and zen exercises, as well as a really strong "focus on me" cue so you can (eventually) call her away from rude play instead of going to physically retrieve her every time.

It's possible that your dogs will never really be best friends - just like people, sometimes personalities just don't mesh. That's always a possibility when you bring a new dog or puppy home, and lots of households have dogs that sort of tolerate each other rather than being close pals and playmates. You're likely to have better luck if you make sure each dog has their own space and own time to do things they like, and not be so wrapped up in making sure they love each other that they start to resent having to spend time together and interact.
 
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