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Puppy Training - Play W/ Smaller Dogs

417 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  DaySleepers
We have a 5-month-old Labradoodle, he is very calm and is socialized quite a bit at day cares and with other dogs from friends. However, he struggles a bit with playing a bit rough on smaller dogs. He isn't aggressive or trying to hurt them. However, he is going to get up to about 65 pounds and there is a Pomeski puppy in the family that he will be interacting with a lot that he needs to be able to control himself around.

What are some good ways of teaching him to play with this smaller dog but in a way that supports them being safe and not getting hurt? All play is always going to be supervised, we just aren't sure how to supervise it other than just separating them when they start wrestling too harshly.
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"Teenage" dogs are notorious for being quite obnoxious, ignoring dog social signals, and not understanding their size and strength. It is something they typically grow out of with time once they understand they need to handicap themselves to play with smaller dogs, but until then you do need to separate the dogs when play is getting too rough or if either of the dogs are signaling they aren't comfortable with the interaction anymore.

Control comes with time, and unfortunately there is no quick fix for that. A separation to cool down is the best method here.
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FWIW socialization is badly named and letting your dog play with other dogs is NOT what socialization is about. Socialization is getting the dog out in different environments and NOT letting people pet him and NOT letting him meet and greet other dogs. Socialization is getting your dog used to different environments and teaching him to focus on you and that the safest place to be is with you. When other dogs and other people come along the job is getting his attention on you and not on those other dogs and people.

A few KNOWN dog friends and play dates are fine but dog parks and day care and all of that is really very much unnecessary. NOT letting him play with smaller dogs is the answer.
While I agree that avoiding unnecessary interactions where this pup can practice rude behavior towards small dogs is a good idea, it's totally understandable to want to figure out ways to help two dogs who will be seeing each other frequently (as is the case with the Pomeranian/husky owned by a family member) interact politely.

I would definitely only allow these two to interact under close supervision, and be ready to intervene at any sign of rude behavior. It might be helpful to have your dog drag a short line or traffic lead so you can easily grab that if you need to redirect. Keep interactions as calm as possible, and keep physical barriers between them when there's exciting things going on or no one's available to supervise them. Lillith is right about this being a difficult stage for many dogs, where they struggle with impulse control and reading or respecting other dogs' body language, so keep in mind that there may be some days where your pup is just too amped up or overstimulated and they need to be separated until he's in a better mental place.

I highly recommend parallel walking with them, where they're both on a leash and handled by separate people, then walked in an interesting area (parks or trails are great) far enough apart that they can't interact, but can get used to being around each other and doing polite, calm activities together. If possible, I'd suggest starting each visit with the two of them with a short walk like this, so they work off some of that over-the-top greeting energy in a way that doesn't mean your pup jumps all over the little one. You can also do calm parallel training, where you and a family member are both doing some low-key training games with your respective dogs where they can see each other but not interact, which can be a little more indoor friendly.
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