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Healthy Play with a Size Difference

Posted by gooddogdc on May 31, 2014 at 8:15 AM

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Remember that article in the Post from last week?  It got me thinking about healthy play and how few videos are there promoting healthy play in the dog training world.  My two dogs don't play a lot, but they do occassionally they do.  Last night, I was lucky enough to have my iPhone close by to catch the end of it!  Their play is, what I would consider, healthy play. 

The reason that this is healthy play is that both dogs participating equally.  Neither one is being overwhelmed or bullied.  The GSD is self-handicapping by staying in a down position.  They do a lot of mirroring of each other.  I love when at the end, he paws her and she paws him right back!

Even though, this is healthy play that they both really enjoy, their play didn't start out this way at all.  My little dog has a strong history of dog aggression, so her tolerance for other dogs is low to begin with.  My GSD has very strong chase/hunt/herd instincts.  My little dog also looks just like a bunny when she runs (she kicks her two back legs up behind her at the same time and sort of bounces).  This combination was a management nightmare for awhile.  They had to be constantly supervised so that my GSD didn't get to practice any bad habits.  Once he stopped wanting to chase her as much, she started to trust him a bit more and attempted to play with him a few times.  However, my GSD goes 0 to 60 in 1 second and that didn't go well either. 

We actually started setting up "safe" play sessions between the two of them with him on leash.  I would make him stay in a down and encouraged my little one to come over.  Initially, this only worked for a couple seconds before he would get too excited and we'd have to end it.  However, now they can go a couple of minutes without him going over the top.

As painful as it is to do, I actually intervene in their play.  I end it on a good note.  I ended this video just as my little one sat up.  That is usually a sign that she is getting too excited!  After that happens, she will sprint off with her bunny hop to grab a toy and he inevitably will chase - not good.  So, I painfully end the cutest play ever because I know that in the long run I am building a stronger relationship for the two of them and that's what really matters.     

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