How rough is too rough?

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ShibaDobie's picture
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Joined: 2010-11-11

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Hey guys, sorry I've been off for so long, my little redhead still seems to hate my computer...something about dragons or some such nonsense...

I have read (even on here) that dobermans play a little rougher than most. Dexter and Ginger run around like crazies all the time, but as Ginger has gotten older, and less submissive, she has started "fighting back". It used to be that Dexter would nip at her heels and the back of her neck and she would just hit the deck and freeze and Dex would leave (what I percieved as a dominance thing). Now, when dex goes to nip her, she will whip around growling and barking while dropping her paw on his head. It seems playful, but she barks and growls so visciously it worries me. Dexter can hold his own (he is about 35 lbs. with his winter love handles), but i just dont want to encourage bad behaviour...

So, i guess to pull my question down to the bare bones:

1.) should I step in as soon as Dex behaves this way and seperate them to discourage it?

2.) should I just monitor and make sure it doesnt escalate? (which it never has)

3.) Am I just being overly worried?

DJ's Dad's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-04

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Personally, I dont think you're overly worried at all.  I had a similar chain of events when Ziva was growing up.  We had just gotten a little terrier mix (rescued from an abusive situation, thought we were just going to keep her till we found her a good home, but she ended up staying) and she was about 5 months old when we brought Ziva home...2 month old dobie pup.  Lilly, the terrier, was bigger than Ziva, and they played and wrestled, and played tug-of-war with ropes, toys, blankets, anything they could tug on, with each other constantly.  Lilly would always instigate rough play by showing her teeth to Ziva, but she really was playing---that was just her way of playing with a big puppy.  Ziva quickly outgrew Lilly and Z, like Ginger, got fed up with Lilly pushing her buttons and she would use her big paws to hold Lilly down, or even sit on her to hold her down.  Well, Lilly didnt like the way the game rules had changed, so she nipped hard at Ziva--actually biting her. Ziva reciprocated with her little anger thing and they got into a big snarley battle---looked and sounded a lot worse than it actually was, though.  I didnt want to have to worry about them hurting each other (well, at this point, Ziva was about 50 lbs to Lilly's 16 pounds, so I worried more for Lilly than for Ziva) so we stopped ALL tug games between the two of them. Tug games had gone from fun and play to "I'm the boss of YOU" for both of them.  We jumped in and stopped any tooth games they played with each other, got really strict on their play time together, and stopped even letting them outside together unless they were supervised fully.  We kept this up for over six months.  Now that Z is over a year old, she has somewhat settled down in her rough play, and so has Lilly.  I can trust them to play together now, and I can let them outside together long enough to pee and come back in.  If they are out for any longer than that, I go outside with them to keep an eye on things.  Better safe than sorry.  It wont hurt Dexter or Ginger either one at all to learn to play gently with other dogs without turning things into a growl-fest, or worse. 

jeshykai's picture
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Joined: 2010-09-02

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For me, that gut reaction of worry is more likely you picking up on cues you can't articulate into words.  Obviously the play is worrisome, so to me, I'd end it before it started.  Just so you don't have the "I should have known" later... if nothing else.  

Steve's older brother got into this phase where he played rougher and rougher with the dogs they let him play with and it got to the point where he was only focused on taking the other dogs down and not playing, but dominating.  It took them months to break him of it.  I personally would have ended it right away and not had the headache later.  If Steve starts playing too rough with Axel (the rottie I babysit the most) I break it up and give them a toy to tug.  There is no aggression in their tug, both of them enjoy dragging each other back and forth and so long as play stays that level I let them stay together.  If they go back to rough wrestling I give Steve or Axel a 2 minute time out to calm them down and then let them play together again.

My other two dogs no longer want anything to do with Steve and Dexter may be feeling the same way about Ginger.  So just keep an eye on them and if they don't play together, it doesn't mean they hate each other.  They just aren't comfortable on that level.

ShibaDobie's picture
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Joined: 2010-11-11

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Thanks so much guys! I have been keeping an even closer eye on their play now, and have been putting a stop to playtime (giving short time outs) when Dex starts nipping or when Ginger starts barking. It has really seemed to help, and lessen the growling and such. My heart stopped this morning when I walked into the living room and saw blood on two or three of their toys...I almost started freaking out on my fiance (who was watching them), until I looked closer at Ginger and realized she had lost one of her last baby teeth. *whew*  

KevinK's picture
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Joined: 2010-07-15

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Dogs play rough.  How rough is too rough is up to you to decide.  I tend to not look at vocal, or expression so much as total body language.  If both dogs are playing, and happy, and have a playful body language, I see no problem at all with rough play.  When dogs are similarly sized, it's one thing... But, when one dog is significantly bigger, faster, stronger, and all around tougher than the other, that's when you have to keep a careful eye, because accidents can happen, even if it's 100% play.