Puppy buds playing too rough- missing hair patches!

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EJohnson's picture
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Joined: 2014-02-07

Pet Profiles

Hello! 

It's been quite a while since I've been on the forum. I caught a bit of criticism for getting two puppy dobermans a few months of each other this past winter. :) Theodore, now seven months old, and Della, now six months old absolutely love each other, as well as respect and love my boyfriend and I. We've had minimal problems with littermate syndrome; they aren't from the same litter, but similar in age. They frequent the dog park, as well as doggy daycare.

Anyway, recently we have noticed they have become more and more rambunctious in their playing. We all know the Doberman play style--lots of teeth gnashing, wrestling, and squealing. Or at least that's how it is in our house. One morning I noticed a few small patches of missing hair on Della, the younger female. My boyfriend said he saw this happen while they were playing, and that they got too over-zealous and ripped hair with their play bites. The area looked as if the hair had been pulled, with little spots of blood near the skin. We phoned my boyfriend's father, a dermatologist for dogs, who told us it's a pretty common occurance for young pups growing up together. Weh vowed to keep a closer eye on their playing, and to end it before is escalated into a full-out wrestling match.

A few days later we noticed another, larger spot of hair missing from Theodore's butt. This one was angrier and bigger looking. Where the heck this happened, I'm not sure. We can only assume they get too intense in their playing. The only time they are generally free without supervision (relatively speaking) is when they are in the back yard doing their business. They don't fight very often, and even when they do, it stops with a warning growl. So, we know they aren't actually fighting one another. 

I put neosporin on their wounds (directions of the dermatologist vet) and have been keeping an even closer eye. No new wounds, but it is still troublesome.

Has anyone else had experience with something like this? 

Thanks!

Emily 

Max's Dad's picture
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Joined: 2013-01-16

If you're getting to the "warning growl", it's going way to far.

I used to think that the barking, chasing and the funny looking stuff was great while watching Max and his buddy Rome play. Max is around 90lbs of lean solid muscle. Not large looking Dobe, slender and tall. Rome on the other hand, is 115lbs, a little fat, but a big Doberman overall. Not as tall as Max. They play regularly together. Max chases some, Rome runs. They stop by the "adults" (humans) and rest. Rome will bark in Max's ear, and they will "box" each other some.

Until one day. Rome had grown up a little bit more since Max saw him last. They were playing, and then Rome started pushing Max around a little with his shoulders. It looked like he was possibly going to mount him to show dominance. Then a growl came. I had never heard Max growl before. Then the Doberman mohawk came. And I yelled at Max, and it was to late. They were locked and loaded. They got into a little tussel, and I grabbed Max and Rome, pulled Max back. Rome tried to come forward at him again, but I gave a firm barked "NO!". The know who the bosses are, and my friend held Rome, which was his Dobe. And I check Max over. He had a little gash on his back, but nothing serious. Rome on the other hand, to put it bluntly, got his ass kicked. Max has NEVER been an aggressor, and never tried to be. But he showed me that day, that he doesn't take lightly to being pushed around. Rome was fine, scared and shaken up a little bit, but he was licking Max in the face to "apologize" a short while later. 

They are past the "puppy play" stage. It'll start turning into a dominance thing. They need to realize who the dominant one is. And it's the humans in the house. Encourange light fun play, but don't allow the real hard rough housing. It only takes one accidental nip in the right place, and you could be the one stuck with two Dobermans trying to hash it out. The only reason I was able to break up 200lbs of angry Dobe, is because I'm a big guy. If that would have been my mother, fiance, or younger siblings, they wouldn't have been able to spilt the two apart. And dog fights get ugly before they get pretty. With the example I gave you, that happend faster than 3 seconds and didn't last longer than 4 seconds, and they were banged up pretty good. 

I hope I brought it to light a little. Just allow play outside, and make sure you're out there, or someone is able to keep an eye on them. If it starts getting to rough, try getting their attention with treats or a toy. A tennis ball calmed my situation out.

Best of luck to the brood!

Oz Dobe's picture
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Joined: 2014-03-25

I'm sure you've been informed about the problems that can arise in your situation.

If your dogs are drawing each others blood, the play is getting too rough. Something is wrong here because if around other dogs, the other older dogs should be teaching them not to be so rough. So this makes me think that your dogs work as a team a the dog park. The other dogs are unable to put them in their place, so the lesson is going unlearned. This is a very dangerous place to be if it goes unadressed. Its critical these dogs learn to use a soft mouth. If they dont do this with other dogs, they wont do it with humans.

Another aspect to consider is that just because a dog is docile around other dogs, it doesn't neccesarily mean it is happy. Dogs can be overwhelmed around others, and can 'shut down' which can be mistaken for a well adjusted, placid canine. You really need to pay attention to your dogs body language and behavior while being around other dogs.

I'm sure you've heard this before, but in case you havent, you need to train, walk, socialise, feed these dogs seperately a greater part of the time. I really need to stress the socialisation issue here. Your dogs need to go to doggy daycare, and the dog park on their own for a while. This may make life difficult for you, but this is what can result when getting to pups of the same age at the same time.

Another thing I would really focus on is desensitising your dogs to being restrained by the collar. I've mentioned this in other posts but I'll go through it here. Call your dog, take it by the collar, mark and treat. Release the dog quickly with 'go play' (or 'free dog' or whatever you want). Same again but get it to sit. Release with 'go play'. Same with the down. Gradually try to lengthen the time you are holding the dog by the collar. In your situation I think this would be a really valuable technique you should be concentrating on. You need this because you need to be able to reach in when the play gets rough, and seperate these guys, and put them in a sit to calm down for a while before letting them play again. Time outs may be required too.

With two big dogs like these you cant afford to be lax. The 'average' dog can bite five times before a human (a fit young human with reflexes at their peak) can press a button. Imagine how much damage these guys can do when you are ten feet away. Twenty feet. So if they are out the back doing there business unsupervised, what are your chances of stopping something if it gets started?

Theres not really enough info provided in this post to be able to say just what is happening here. I'm going by the fact, as I mentioned above, that although your dogs are around other dogs, Im assuming of various ages, and yet they still havent learnt how to play safely, this is a warning sign that points to me that they are too closely bonded with each other.

Their are two American bulldog x Staffys that are regulars to my local dog park and they are littermates. You can see what bringing them up together without being individually trained has done to them. The male is quite boistrous, jumps the dog park fence regularly, rarely comes when called once out side the fence. He's very placid when you get to know him, but air snaps all the time at other dogs. It has taken my dobe months of getting to know him to work out how to play with him without him getting too rough with her.

The female on the other hand resents any dogs playing with her brother and is completely dependent on him. If he tries to play with other dogs (especially females) she literally grabs him by the collar and drags him away or hangs off his collar while the male drags her along. The female stresses when the male is beyond her reach and beside when the brother jumps the fence to be with other dogs (which drives his sister crazy), she will never be more than a few feet away from him.

I dont know if you recognise any of these types of behaviors in your dogs and maybe not being actual littermates might dilute the behavior a little, but you need to observe what is going really closely to keep track of where your at whith this situation.