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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have another total dog noob question--I feel like I should probably just make my own thread by now so I can keep all my Dog Clueless questions in one place.

When dogs are playing together, how do you tell when play has gone too far and at least one party isn't having fun anymore?

I take Darwin to puppy preschool once a week, which is basically just a puppy playgroup where it's guaranteed that all the puppies are up to date on their vaccines, seeing a vet regularly, etc. These are supervised by people who know dogs really well, but I can't help but watch Darwin like a hawk and worry if he's roughhousing with other puppies that he might be bullying them? Because I literally have no clue what that would look like vs. just regular doggy play.

What are the signs that I should be looking for to indicate that I should intervene and pull him away from another dog?
 

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When Rukie was in puppy class there wasn't much play time but when there was, and one was down and one on top, the trainer would pull the top one back for a few seconds to see if the bottom dog jumped in for more play or was done. Rukie liked being the bottom dog because every time she pulled a dog off he would jump up and in for more tussle but always on the bottom. He is a total couch potato so he probably liked the laying down part.
 

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I take Darwin to puppy preschool once a week, which is basically just a puppy playgroup
Bad idea, your puppy is learning to be part of a pack and boding with them instead of you.

all the puppies are up to date on their vaccines
So are my dogs and they still got kennel cough, most likely while at the NARC in Mondovi

These are supervised by people who know dogs really well
I doubt that.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
When Rukie was in puppy class there wasn't much play time but when there was, and one was down and one on top, the trainer would pull the top one back for a few seconds to see if the bottom dog jumped in for more play or was done. Rukie liked being the bottom dog because every time she pulled a dog off he would jump up and in for more tussle but always on the bottom. He is a total couch potato so he probably liked the laying down part.
That makes sense. I did notice tonight that the puppy he was playing with where I was worried it might be 'too much' would come right back for more when Darwin got distracted by another pup.

Bad idea, your puppy is learning to be part of a pack and boding with them instead of you.


So are my dogs and they still got kennel cough, most likely while at the NARC in Mondovi


I doubt that.
I don't doubt that could be the case, but there are ten million schools of thought out there on how to properly raise a puppy. I'm doing my best, and in this case the vast majority of my reading was that this is good socialization for him. I've read a lot about trying to keep them apart if you have multiple dogs in your household to prevent just that, but we don't have any other dogs. I feel like it's important for him to be able to play nicely with other dogs. It's definitely not something he does over much. Just for about 45 minutes one night a week.

I appreciate your input, though, I respect everything I've read about the work you do with Jake. I know your methods work for you and your dogs, so I'm not doubting your expertise. Raising a puppy is complicated when you're doing it the first time. There is contradictory information all over, and I have no experience upon which to base a determination on who is right. I suspect it depends on the dog?
 

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When Archie went to Puppy Pre-K (he's now a big boy and goes to Puppy Manners where there is no recess 😢 ) the pups were able to have free play in between the trainers giving us newbs pearls of wisdom! The 2 trainers were out with the pups during free play and our job was to watch our pup and see how s/he played. After each play session we'd share our observations. One of the things that came up is that when 1 pup has another pup pinned, we should wait a beat to see if they work it out and then step in and gently break them apart. Many times the break distracted them and they jumped into play with another pup, but sometimes they came back together just because they were having fun. The bottom line was that even if they were having fun, we should break them apart and not let them play dominant/submissive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When Archie went to Puppy Pre-K (he's now a big boy and goes to Puppy Manners where there is no recess 😢 ) the pups were able to have free play in between the trainers giving us newbs pearls of wisdom! The 2 trainers were out with the pups during free play and our job was to watch our pup and see how s/he played. After each play session we'd share our observations. One of the things that came up is that when 1 pup has another pup pinned, we should wait a beat to see if they work it out and then step in and gently break them apart. Many times the break distracted them and they jumped into play with another pup, but sometimes they came back together just because they were having fun. The bottom line was that even if they were having fun, we should break them apart and not let them play dominant/submissive.
Thank you, I really appreciate this insight. I so badly want to get everything right! I know that I'll make (and have already made) mistakes, I just want to make sure I don't miss anything because I don't know what I'm doing. I've read a lot, but as mentioned, there are a lot of contradictions and I don't have the expertise to know how to vet sources in the dog world. It's an uncomfortable thing for me, as I'm used to academia/science where I definitely DO know how to vet sources!
 

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When Archie went to Puppy Pre-K (he's now a big boy and goes to Puppy Manners where there is no recess 😢 ) the pups were able to have free play in between the trainers giving us newbs pearls of wisdom! The 2 trainers were out with the pups during free play and our job was to watch our pup and see how s/he played. After each play session we'd share our observations. One of the things that came up is that when 1 pup has another pup pinned, we should wait a beat to see if they work it out and then step in and gently break them apart. Many times the break distracted them and they jumped into play with another pup, but sometimes they came back together just because they were having fun. The bottom line was that even if they were having fun, we should break them apart and not let them play dominant/submissive.
Thank you, I really appreciate this insight. I so badly want to get everything right! I know that I'll make (and have already made) mistakes, I just want to make sure I don't miss anything because I don't know what I'm doing. I've read a lot, but as mentioned, there are a lot of contradictions and I don't have the expertise to know how to vet sources in the dog world. It's an uncomfortable thing for me, as I'm used to academia/science where I definitely DO know how to vet sources!
I’m a total newbie to dog ownership. We have always been, and still are, cat folks. So like you, I research and then try to distill all the schools of thought into what I think will work for Archie, David and me. Total trial and error!! For example, we totally blew it because we never cut the fur under his paws, so when we attempted it yesterday, it was a definite No Go! He didn’t get mad, he just kept pulling the leg back. And of course we had no idea what we were doing. I held him and David cut…one hair at a time…so slowly cuz he didn’t want to hurt him that Archie would be 10 by the time we were finished 😩🤣. We just threw in the towel on that one. I found a wonderful groomer right in my little town and Archie is going for a bath, foot and under the tail trim. I’m just going with the mantra “I’m doing the best I can and when I learn better, I’ll do better”!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I’m a total newbie to dog ownership. We have always been, and still are, cat folks. So like you, I research and then try to distill all the schools of thought into what I think will work for Archie, David and me. Total trial and error!! For example, we totally blew it because we never cut the fur under his paws, so when we attempted it yesterday, it was a definite No Go! He didn’t get mad, he just kept pulling the leg back. And of course we had no idea what we were doing. I held him and David cut…one hair at a time…so slowly cuz he didn’t want to hurt him that Archie would be 10 by the time we were finished 😩🤣. We just threw in the towel on that one. I found a wonderful groomer right in my little town and Archie is going for a bath, foot and under the tail trim. I’m just going with the mantra “I’m doing the best I can and when I learn better, I’ll do better”!
This is EXACTLY where we are. I've had cats forever. We started looking for Darwin when our oldest cat died last year at 18-20ish? We have two other cats that are both 16. I keep reminding myself I didn't know what the heck I was doing when I first got them, either, and that someday I will feel as confident taking care of him as I do with them.

Good tip on the foot trimming! I got some grooming scissors and have been meaning to try trimming his feet. I'll get a move on so hopefully he'll let us do that easily for life. He's pretty good nail trims, which I have been keeping up on! I just need to figure out how best to trim his feet ... probably outside? I really want to get a grooming table but our apartment does not have a ton of space for additional furniture. Especially not with a growing Golden needing that room to run around!
 

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I'm just glad you both have come over to the dog side....Charley and Lola used to play and it sounded like a grizzly bear fighting a wolverine...all the growling and curled up lips and teeth. It took us a while to get used to it but if they're grabbing and releasing and nobody whines or squeals, you're probably ok. If somebody hollers or 1 holds onto another too long, it's time to break it up. Murphy and Lola play the same way now...we monitor but let them play up to a point.
 

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@Selkie I just wanted to tell you that you are doing a great job and I have been where you are. However, I agree with Stan that puppy play time is unnecessary and potentially detrimental to future training. And this is not just for competition dogs. There is a huge misconception out there that puppies need to play with other dogs to be well adjusted canine members of human society, but this just isn't true. We are trying to teach another species how to thrive in our species' society.

Also, Goldens were bred to work individually with humans, not in a pack like beagles and foxhounds. Goldens don't actually need to play with other dogs to satisfy some innate canine desire. Goldens just need their people. But you can turn a Golden into a pack dog really quickly with things like puppy play time, doggy day care, and dog parks.

With the caveat that Rocket and Eevee have different temperaments and come from different lines, I'll use them as examples. When we first got Rocket almost 6 years ago, we thought that we were supposed to let him greet every human and every dog we saw on walks so that he would get along with everyone. He went to puppy socialization time and when old enough, dog parks. All of this very strongly reinforced his desire to greet literally every dog he sees. It turned from something we thought we were doing right into a nightmare. He quickly developed an opposition reflex to his leash and I have spent literally years trying to correct his leash walking behavior. For awhile, it was almost impossible to go on walks with him in the neighborhood. It's still difficult. And as much as I would love to walk both of my dogs at once, I cannot do that.

Eevee on the other hand, wasn't allowed to play with other puppies at all. And I mean that she literally didn't play with any other dogs besides Rocket until she was much older. Like 10 months old, and that was my in-laws' dog in a controlled environment. She went to puppy classes and she learned to focus on me despite the chaos. Puppies were not allowed to play with each other at all. When the instructor was talking, we were teaching our puppies to be calm and to settle.

To shamelessly brag on her, she was the star of S.T.A.R. puppy class. A lot of that was good breeding, but a lot was also that she was never allowed to do anything out of control. She wasn't allowed to greet other dogs on leash at all and she is only allowed to greet humans on leash with permission. We did struggle a little with greeting humans when she was younger because she is so people focused, but she never learned to pull on her leash so hard as to choke herself and then get what she wanted. She does not have an opposition reflex to leash pressure. She will yield to the correction and her default behavior is get in heel position and sit.

The consequences of not playing with other puppies is that she can walk on a leash. She can go to a dog show with literally thousands of other dogs and not constantly pull on the leash to be near them. And yet, she has good manners around other dogs when she is allowed to play with them. She prefers Goldens, incidentally. LOL She is a much more well-adjusted canine member of human society than Rocket is. That really sucks for me to admit, but it's true. I can take her almost anywhere out in public and be confident that she is going to be under control. I typically don't take the dogs out in the general public though because 1) they don't actually need it and 2) other people are the worst. I would totally take them to breweries and patio bars if I was confident that the other humans there would respect my boundaries. Spoiler alert: They don't. They will just walk up and pet your dog without so much as a word to you. And sometimes they will just give them food without asking.

Anyway, I hope this helps some. Most of those schools of thought on puppy play time don't come from people that are actually in the Dog World. They come from internet certified trainers who just want to make money off of Pet People. Unfortunately, it's often people like you (and me with Rocket), who are doing their very best to do right by their new puppies, but don't know any better. I think a lot of it also comes from people who try to force all breeds into the Golden mold. They want their Rottweilers to be as friendly with other dogs as Goldens, but that is not breed appropriate, and honestly, I think it makes things worse for those types of dogs more often than it makes things better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@ArkansasGold Thanks so much, that is definitely food for thought!

How do you know that your dog is going to be friendly with other dogs if they aren't around them? Is it just that it is the expectation that Goldens will be so if well bred and trained? Or is it that the problem isn't so much being AROUND dogs as it is having your dog directly play with them? I suppose it makes sense that BEING around dogs without being aggressive is really what I'm aiming for. Although I think Darwin could be good for me in terms of being an icebreaker for my frustrating level of shyness around people I don't know, I'm not sure I will ever be someone who wants to hang out with a ton of relative strangers at the dog park. And the dog park is a whole nother kettle of fish in terms of different schools of thought. I've read so many horror stories here of someone whose Golden became (totally understandably) dog reactive after being attacked by another dog.

I have a tendency towards worrying too much, so there is definitely an extent to which I am trying to figure out what is reasonable worry and what is my brain being my brain (thanks anxiety disorder!) I don't think that in this case the situation is motivated by greed of the trainer, just because it is super cheap. $40 the first session pays for his participation until he 'graduates' which would equate to months of sessions for next to nothing. That said, just because someone's heart is in the right place, doesn't mean they're right.

Also good to know about Doggy Daycare. I was just looking at options in terms of him staying home in his crate vs. going to doggy daycare. In two weeks I will have to go back to working in the office one day a week, so there will be one day where we have to do something with Darwin. This makes me feel better about leaving him in his crate (I'll be coming home on my lunchbreak to run him around for 30 minutes and give him a potty break.)

Phew. Learning how to raise a dog is some serious work! ;)
 

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Raising a puppy is complicated when you're doing it the first time. There is contradictory information all over, and I have no experience upon which to base a determination on who is right. I suspect it depends on the dog?
This is so true: it is complicated when you're doing it for the first time. Especially in the social media information overload era.

Regarding the puppy playgroup, I'm in the "potentially harmful and not necessary" camp, I'm afraid. As Arkansas Gold said, the main goal of training should be to teach the dog how to function well in the human world. For puppies, that starts by bonding with their human family. The puppy class I've attended with our last three pups (two Goldens and a poodle) doesn't include "puppy playtime". The pups are allowed to interact for very short periods (a few seconds), but the whole point of the interaction is to teach the recall: the human calls the pup, uses the leash to reel him in, and engages in an activity that is more fun than puppy playtime. The pup learns to prefer time with the human over time with another dog.

It doesn't really depend on the dog, it depends more on what you want out of your relationship with your dog. I train competition dogs (agility), so it's clear to me that I want my dog to choose me over anyone else, and to love working with me. But competition dogs are also (and mostly) companion dogs, and the goal there is pretty much the same: I want a dog that thinks I'm the centre of his universe, and that won't try to drag me across the road to greet another dog when we're out for a walk.

Yes, it's nice if the dog gets along with other dogs, but you can't force that. Some dogs are canine social butterflies, others simply don't enjoy being part of a group of dogs. The group play sessions seem like a good idea in principle, but in practice they can actually be detrimental because they force the dogs to interact whether they want to or not. The potential for negative experiences is high. IMHO it's better to identify a couple of friendly adult dogs owned by people you know, and organize short one-on-one play sessions with them. I have access to off-leash trails, and when I first got my current pup I invited friends with tolerant dogs to come on walks with us. Even as a pup, my dog preferred to "do his own thing" on those walks: following scents, exploring the forest, retrieving a ball, etc. The other dogs were there, and he was ok with that, but he would have had just as much fun without them. He's the same today (at 5 years of age). We still walk with those same dogs, and he still prefers to explore rather than play or interact with them.

Regarding your question about rough-housing, you have to know the pups concerned and be able to see when they're uncomfortable. Also, different breeds interact differently and have variable tolerance levels. Not least, to an inexperienced human, puppy play can look and sound like fighting even when it's not. In general, though, pups tend to be pretty good at sorting things out for themselves. If you consistently intervene unnecessarily, or if you don't intervene when you need to, you can create problems. Another reason to avoid group playtimes IMHO.

The best training schools are usually attached to some kind of competitive activity in which the trainers are involved: obedience, agility, hunt, whatever. I'd recommend looking for this type of school. If you post an approximate location, someone here may be able to make recommendations. In addition, a lot of schools these days are now offering online classes, courtesy of the pandemic - ours does this. So you can have access to great teaching resources even if they aren't local.

Your pup is lucky to have such a caring owner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
@ceegee

And thank you to you as well! What you are saying makes sense. I am certain there are people who do want to socialize at the dog park WITH their dog, but that isn't really me. I was thinking I would do it in contradiction to my own personal preferences for social situations because I thought it would be good for him, but maybe that isn't the case! If I were wanting what most would consider a standard pet dog, then it would probably also be useful for him to be social with other dogs, or at least it wouldn't do any harm. But I do want to do competition with Darwin in Obedience & Rally and I honestly don't care if he LOVES playing with other dogs as long as he is not reactive/aggressive to them. I'd be perfectly fine and probably prefer it if he wanted to hang out with me and could take or leave other dogs. I do hope that he'll like other dogs enough that I could add a second in three or four years (don't tell my husband, I haven't broken it to him yet.) ;)

Luckily there is no puppy preschool next week, so I have a few weeks to really consider my options. I do think if I take him back, it will be with a strong resolve that I will participate on my terms and my understanding of what is best for him. At the very least this conversation has given me confidence that I at least have SOME sense of what I'm doing, for someone who has never done it before!

The good news is that he is already enrolled to start Puppy Kindergarten (an actual obedience class, not a play group) at Sandia Dog Obedience Club. I did the earliest one I could get him into once he had sufficient shots under his belt. I've already been in email contact with the Obedience Registrar there, and with the instructor of his class because she is also authorized to do Trick Dog Title tests. I'm hoping to get Darwin his TKN before Kindergarten even starts. SDOC does obedience, agility, conformation handling (I believe?), scentwork and rally classes and is an AKC member club.

That will probably help both Darwin and I on multiple levels--I definitely do worry about other dog people/people in general being a bad influence on him because they don't expect the same behavior of him and of their own dogs that I do. I expect that is less likely to be the case with the people I might meet/befriend at SDOC.
 

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How do you know that your dog is going to be friendly with other dogs if they aren't around them? Is it just that it is the expectation that Goldens will be so if well bred and trained? Or is it that the problem isn't so much being AROUND dogs as it is having your dog directly play with them? I suppose it makes sense that BEING around dogs without being aggressive is really what I'm aiming for.
Eevee has been around other dogs her entire life, but she was not allowed to play with them in a free for all style. She is no way dog aggressive or fearful and she is not leash reactive. She mostly just doesn't care about them, she cares about me, and this is what I wanted. She has two other Golden friends that she is allowed to play with as an adult, but again, this is in a controlled, supervised environment. Not a free for all with many more puppies than hands.

Both of my dogs get along just fine with others and they are the best of friends with each other. Both are asleep under my feet right now. When we go back to Arkansas to visit family, we usually stay at my brother-in-law's house. He has a GSD, a Weim, and a Catahoula. They all generally get along, but they don't really play with each other. They just kindof exist together in the same house.

I do want to do competition with Darwin in Obedience & Rally and I honestly don't care if he LOVES playing with other dogs as long as he is not reactive/aggressive to them.
If this is your goal, then I would find a new place to train or skip the puppy play time. You want your dog solely focused on you, not other dogs and other people. He doesn't need to play with other dogs to be normal around them. His chances of becoming dog reactive go up the more he is allowed to play with other pups in a free for all style. Especially if there are several different breeds that aren't as easy going as Goldens. Knowing Darwin's pedigree, I don't think you are going to have worry about him being dog aggressive naturally. But he could become dog aggressive if something happens to him at this young age.

And don't worry about crating him while you're gone. He will be fine. I did that with both dogs and my husband and I both worked outside the home 5 days a week back then. One or both of us came home during lunch every day until they were 6-8 months old and could hold it for longer. Once they were big enough to hold it for the whole day, we transitioned to keeping them kenneled for the entire day. We were careful not to work over time - or at least to come home to work the over time. Neither could be trusted outside the kennel until they were about 2 years old.
 

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Sorry haven't read through all the responses, but I wanted to give you one very easy piece of practical advice, which won't cover every moment of play but is a good rule of thumb. No matter how vicious the play seems to be, if you sit back and watch, and the dogs are taking turns back and forth who is the aggressor, then it's just good play. Polite playing dogs take turns being the "top dog." But some dogs really love being top dog, and some dogs love being the one who is chased or reacting to the aggressor, so you have to watch for those dynamics, too. Even with those, there will be moments of break, and seeming to "change sides" even if just for a split second. General rule is that as long as that is going on, the play is healthy and both dogs are enjoying it, no matter how vicious it seems to humans.
 

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That makes sense. I did notice tonight that the puppy he was playing with where I was worried it might be 'too much' would come right back for more when Darwin got distracted by another pup.



I don't doubt that could be the case, but there are ten million schools of thought out there on how to properly raise a puppy. I'm doing my best, and in this case the vast majority of my reading was that this is good socialization for him. I've read a lot about trying to keep them apart if you have multiple dogs in your household to prevent just that, but we don't have any other dogs. I feel like it's important for him to be able to play nicely with other dogs. It's definitely not something he does over much. Just for about 45 minutes one night a week.

I appreciate your input, though, I respect everything I've read about the work you do with Jake. I know your methods work for you and your dogs, so I'm not doubting your expertise. Raising a puppy is complicated when you're doing it the first time. There is contradictory information all over, and I have no experience upon which to base a determination on who is right. I suspect it depends on the dog?
Read from Patricia McConnell's books. She's the very best dog behaviorist in the world.She would say that it's good for your dog to be socialized. Dogs aren't wolves, and there are many podcasts out there by PhDs that understand and have studied dogs for decades. Sounds like you're doing a good job.
 

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Sorry haven't read through all the responses, but I wanted to give you one very easy piece of practical advice, which won't cover every moment of play but is a good rule of thumb. No matter how vicious the play seems to be, if you sit back and watch, and the dogs are taking turns back and forth who is the aggressor, then it's just good play. Polite playing dogs take turns being the "top dog." But some dogs really love being top dog, and some dogs love being the one who is chased or reacting to the aggressor, so you have to watch for those dynamics, too. Even with those, there will be moments of break, and seeming to "change sides" even if just for a split second. General rule is that as long as that is going on, the play is healthy and both dogs are enjoying it, no matter how vicious it seems to humans.
She's right.
 
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