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We rescued a dog a few months ago we think she is a rottweiler/Swiss mountain dog mix. She was sick and between her ACL surgery getting spayed and several virues she hasn't been on too many walks. Normally she is a very sweet and loving dog with zero agression towards people.

But around other dogs she can get very defensive and may growl if I pet someone else's dog. she is big (about 130 lbs) so I am worried she might hurt other dogs.

How can I tell the difference between fighting and playing? often times she will jump up and it appears as if she is biting at another dog. She sometimes bares her teeth or growls but almost never barks how can I tell the difference?
 

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From my observations, usually fighting involves very loud, intense, non-stop growling, whereas playing involves much briefer, more intermittent growling. "Biting at" another dog may just be playful nipping. Maybe you can have an experienced dog owner go with you to help you decide.
 

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Play is almost always started with a play bow (invitation to play)...rump in the air/head down low. During play the dogs bounce around (bouncy, bouncy motions). Good play has role reversals....on top/then on bottom, chaser/chasee. Play can look rough because they practice all the life skills...chase, take downs, 'kills' and even sex.
 

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Playing might seem like fighting ..... but a real dog fight is unmistakably a fight, you would never think it was play. Ferocious.
 

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In my experiences, both playing and fighting are very loud. But fighting is a lot more scary...and my dogs hair stands up on end when they fight whereas it doesn't when they are just playing.
 

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My dogs' playing sounds like a pack of tasmanian devils trying to rip each other to shreds, they're very loud. On the rare occasion we had a real fight (always was between Nikki and Trey) it wasn't near as loud. Trey can be scary scary when he fights and it's usually a quick, quiet showing of the teeth and then he's into it. It's a lot easier to prevent things witha dog that is big into growling and warning beforehand. Even then, there's a big difference between a minor day to day snark and a FIGHT. My dogs snark, growl, nip, even lay teeth on each other occasionally. They're not always happy with each other and that's okay. I don't intervene unless it gets serious or looks like it's getting serious as they generally work it all out with mere displays.

I'm not sure how you can describe on the internet the difference. I know a lot of people would think my dogs are fighting when they're really playing. I'd recommend finding a trainer or someone knowledgeable to observe your dog's behavior.
 
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