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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I adopted my first dog (mutt - probably Lab + Chow + something smaller) about 3 weeks ago. I like to say I won the dog lottery - she's even tempered, affectionate, and well behaved. After waiting a couple weeks due to kennel cough, the vet finally cleared her to play with other dogs.

She's super sociable, and loves to play, but it's hard for me to tell exactly when good, energetic play crosses over into something more dangerous. Thus far, I've been relying on the judgments of the more experienced owners, but it's really something I need to identify on my own. The problem is that the fastest way to learn to identify real aggression is to actually see it, which is the one thing I hope never to experience.

Because she was a stray/rescue, I don't know exactly how old she is. My vet estimates that she's around 1-2 (probably closer to 1) based on her teeth and her build, but it's hard to tell for sure. She still exhibits some puppy behaviors which are probably ok if she's 11 months, but probably not ok if she's 2+ years old.

Moreover, while she seems to like all dogs, she absolutely LOVES the big dogs. She's a skinny 38 lbs (her natural weight is probably around 45), but once she's off-leash, seems to always head directly for the neighborhood Danes, Shepherds, and Rotties. Fortunately, the ones we've met have been well behaved and socialized, but I can see problems down the road if I don't learn soon.
 

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Good play looks like this: An invitation is issued (a play bow...sometimes a full bow, sometimes a quick/slight one and sometimes it's just a look...especially with dogs that know each other); they practice role reversals (on top then on bottom...chaser then chasee); they practice all the life skills of take downs, 'kills', dominance/submission and sex. And, yes, it's sometimes very fast, furious and vocal.
The other big part of dog interaction is the socialization skills...knowing when another dog does not want to play or has had enough and respecting that desire....no bully/dominance behavior with dogs that are fearful or afraid. That can create aggression/a dog fight for both dogs. Watching for those signs and being able to recall your dog to head off trouble is crucial.
There are many good books that illustrate in picture form the body language of dogs. Knowing what fear, stress, aggression, playfullness and confidence looks like will help you. My personal favorite is Body Language by Roger Abrantes.
 

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Good play looks like this: An invitation is issued (a play bow...sometimes a full bow, sometimes a quick/slight one and sometimes it's just a look...especially with dogs that know each other); they practice role reversals (on top then on bottom...chaser then chasee); they practice all the life skills of take downs, 'kills', dominance/submission and sex. And, yes, it's sometimes very fast, furious and vocal.
The other big part of dog interaction is the socialization skills...knowing when another dog does not want to play or has had enough and respecting that desire....no bully/dominance behavior with dogs that are fearful or afraid. That can create aggression/a dog fight for both dogs. Watching for those signs and being able to recall your dog to head off trouble is crucial.
There are many good books that illustrate in picture form the body language of dogs. Knowing what fear, stress, aggression, playfullness and confidence looks like will help you. My personal favorite is Body Language by Roger Abrantes.
I think this is very well put. Great post.
 
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