Not every dog plays the same. Take it from me!
I have had many dogs in my home, from a greyhound who thought dribbling a tennis ball in front of him with his mouth while he ran full speed around the yard was awesome (Seriously! This guy could have played for the Harlem Globetrotters!), to a bull mastiff who loves to bowl you over while he plays soccer with his basketball, to a mini poodle who’s idea of ruff play is standing on his hind legs and batting at you with his paws like a cat! It is important to know what style of play your dog thinks is fun when introducing playmates or new games. If I had let my mini poodle play unattended with the bull mastiff, there would have been bloodshed (most likely from the poodle biting the mastiff!) and broken bones (from the mastiff flattening the poodle on the way to the ball!).
Even if play styles match, it is important to supervise
Sometimes there is a thin line between play and aggression. The Pomeranians in my house- there are three- have a game that we call Pomeranian Fight Club(We aren’t supposed to speak of it, so don’t tell them I told you!) Usually it happens at the end of day while I am cooking supper. I can hear them revving up, starting slow with some tap-dancing toenails and happy whines. Out of the corner of my eye I see them roll in, a tumble of poms taking turns jumping on top of each other and scooting in underneath to playfully grab at toes. This is very exciting, of course, and after a minute the little one- Sprout, of the tiny four-pound body and two hundred pound attitude- begins to growl because nobody is listening that SHE is the boss of the game. This doesn’t go over with the others, and the noise and chaos amp up to epic proportions until I call out to catch their attention with a word- or a quiet question, “Who wants a cookie?” and the game comes to a screeching halt. They break apart, shake it off, sniff, eat a cookie, and then go back at it on a much calmer level. I always opt to call them away from their game, instead of wading in and scolding, because doing so could escalate things even more and send them over into aggression. This way, it is their idea to stop the game, and hey! Mom gives us a cookie for it! Happy, happy, win, win all around, right?
Games are fun! But remember, just like kids, dogs need a little help sometimes to keep things fun and fair. Cheers!