Play Fighting Between Puppy and Older Dog Gets Out of Hand
The play fighting immediately gets out of hand.
Four month old Labrador puppy Harvey ‘attacks’ Bertie.
Bertie, age ten, doesn’t get cross. He joins in.
The lady breaks the play fighting up eventually. She says otherwise they would never stop.
Now call me a killjoy, but I think this should now be curbed. Where could it possibly end? If the dogs were children it would probably tip over into real fighting if left for long enough.
‘It will end in tears’ my mother used to say when my brother and I got too rowdy.
Also, what kind of life lessons is the puppy learning for interacting politely with other dogs? They may well not all appreciate being jumped on by a puppy who believes play fighting is the way to interact with another dog.
The temptation is to get cross and shout NO in order to break it up.
The two dogs are so aroused when play fighting – Harvey in particular – that No can only make things worse.
The play fighting can’t just suddenly switch off.
Harvey needs to be directed away from play fighting with Bertie to something else, something that helps him to calm down.
I suggest however that it’s not allowed to reach this stage anymore. This may mean that the dogs spend little time loose together for now, with a gate between them or with Harvey on lead.
After a couple of months of this uncontrolled and aggressive-sounding play fighting, it is now be a habit. A habit now to be broken.
Two things will really help:
Give Harvey more enrichment on his own – using his food. They can prepare several Kongs and let him eat his meals that way.
As soon as the rough play fighting starts, they can call him to the other side of a gate and give him the Kong.
This will prevent a sudden ‘switch-off’ and allow him to unwind.
The second thing would be to scatter feed kibble all over the grass, for the dogs to go hunting together. That would be lovely.
The two will now have quality time doing something companionable – something very different from play fighting.
With positive reinforcement, Harvey will be taught the new rules. The very agreeable and patient Bertie will get some peace.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help