Raising Litter Mates



I don't know too many people with litter-mates, both males. I know a few people who have raised two or more puppies ( usually a few months apart from one another) but from what I have observed - it isn't quite the same. Just a warning that this blog could be controversial!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Aggression or Play-Fighting?

My neighbours can tell you that sometimes it sounds as if there are bears in my backyard! There aren't any bears - just Taro and Kratos.

Taro and Kratos were born about an hour apart from one another - Taro being the first born. People in the neighbourhood know them as the "twins". These two (2) dogs have not been separated since birth - and they play daily with one another and very frequently with other dogs.

They went to their first off leash adventure at Heritage Park which is frequented by many dogs, giant breeds, toy breeds and everything in between! When they were barely 12 weeks old they began their outdoor/off leash socialization. I remember some days they were intimidated, some days they were bullied, some days they played without incident - in any case there were times that I wanted to pick them up and cuddle them when an older dog (at that time most were older than them!) "put him in his place" but refrained from doing so because I knew that my dogs needed to find their place within a pack without my assistance. At the same time, having said that, I do believe that this only happens with well adjusted, well socialized dogs who understand that the handler/owner is alpha - Heritage Park is an awesome place for that! I can't speak for the afternoon group ( I have only been out there once in the afternoon - not too busy) but the morning group consist of good owners and wonderful dogs.

The reason for this blog is because a few questions/comments have been directed at me when my dogs are engaged in their "play-fighting". This is where I should insert a video - I will try to get one soon!

Even at an off leash park - Kratos and Taro wrestle with each other, chase each other through the tall grass, they pull on each others face/neck/tail - nothing that ever escalates into a fight. As they were growing up, I did separate training, separate walking and they had ONLY supervised play time up until about 7 months of age. During their playtime it was important that one wasn't dominating the other - if I felt that play became too rough - play was stopped immediately for a "settle" session. Play was then resumed - and usually without another incident. It didn't take long for them to start alternating their play session dominance and ultimately I think it has taught them to "play nice". Having the cats around has helped as well. Both dogs play with the cats very gently. The dogs growl/play bark and get into their play stance - they mouth the cats gently around their scruff, their back legs, sometimes the entire cat head is inside Taro's mouth - that is how gentle he is. I think that having interaction with smaller animals (cats) has also taught them a little about size! I truly believe that sometimes they think they are as small as they were when we first brought them home!

How to Determine Play-Fighting vs. Aggression

Dogs are social animals and enjoy playing with each other - especially litter mates! Whether it be chasing each other in circles or engaging in normal rough-housing there is ALWAYS a chance of one getting stepped on, rolled over etc. which results in yelping. This doesn't mean one got attacked - this means that most likely the other quite innocently may have lost their footing maybe just bit down harder than anticipated, sometimes it happens when two dogs run after a ball one nips the others jowls/flaps while grabbing the toy. If the playing stops - it's not aggressive. You will find that most dogs resume play as normal seconds after the incident. Usually it is the "yelpee" that runs back for more!

I too had a difficult time determining whether or not my litter mates were being "too rough". Step back and observe. Watch your puppies play : do they stop when one yelps? Do they have their fair share of one another? In other words, do they let each take turns being gnawed on, or chased? If they do, they are playing! As long as they are both happy and both engaging in "play" I don't see anything wrong with it.

Being "loud" doesn't mean they are fighting!! I often find people who aren't familiar with the boys, give me dirty looks because the dogs are growling too loud. If you think that is loud - you should hear them in my backyard! My dogs don't play with just any dog this way - they play with each other this way. They don't engage in full on wrestling with strange dogs - they do it with each other and on occasion a few dogs they go on adventures with almost every day. Molly is the head of their pack, they don't mess with her. They are also very gentle with 6 month old Jade and 3-4 month old Jake. Jake is the one stepping all over gentle Taro!

I often find that they take each others frustrations out on one another as opposed to other dogs at the park. I am more than okay with this! For example, this morning I could tell that Taro's play bark was intimidating the other dog's owner - the dog didn't mind all that much by the looks of it - but the owner immediately had his guard up (dogs pick up on this) and began trying to get between Taro and his dog, Taro started becoming more pushy, NOT AGGRESSIVE, I quickly called him to me and had him down-stay to calm down, gave him praise then released him. He went straight for his brother Kratos to take his frustrations out - not another dog.

I am confident that Kratos and Taro can enjoy the company of any size dog. I change up their routine often - we walk some days, we try to visit a few different areas throughout the week to change things up. They meet new dogs and new people weekly that keeps them stimulated and brushes up their manners with others and keeps them on their paws!

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Off Leash Dog Parks - What to Expect.

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