Over the last few days on the Clean Run list there was lots of discussion about puppies being allowed to play with adult dogs, and about puppy socializing class. Since interactions with nnp and my own adults is also on my own mind I thought I would share my thoughts about puppy interactions with family dogs.
I use only suitable dogs as puppy playmates. Not all of my adult dogs do well with puppies. Riot hates them until they are at least 6 months old. Panic tolerates them, but he is apt to leave the room if they get too pushy, he won’t correct them, he just tolerates and then leaves. I don’t want my pup to learn that he has that much power and I don’t want to torture my adult dogs.
My husbands dog Swift and my Wicked are perfect with pups. They are playful with them, but never let the pup get too pushy, or control all the toys/bones. The pup is gently rolled or growled at or mouthed over the muzzle if they act like a jerk. They will usually not tolerate a pup taking a bone from them, but do let them take some low value toys, and they will tug with them and they entice the pup to play and chase them. Neither of them will harm the pup, but they do not tolerate biting or lunging or jumping on their heads. They are gentle play police. Just exactly what my pup needs to learn dog to dog skills. Some of our other dogs are pretty good with pups as well, but I prefer the dog who will play but act like an adult not a puppy.
In any case, no unmonitored play is allowed, I am always there to watch that the adults don’t get too rough, and that the puppy is not turning into a bully.
My dogs also really dislike groveling pups or adults. Being careful which adults do the puppy playtime hopefully ensures my pups don’t get overly submissive, which in my dogs’ world is as bad or worse than over pushy.
I let my pups play with these adults one or two at a time AFTER I have had a play session with my pup and he is a little tired and into playing with me. I don’t want to turn my adults into babysitters, but admit it is useful once in a while to have an adult who will entertain the pup for a few minutes. The play sessions are usually in a reasonably small environment like my living room or front yard, and only with dogs that are obedient and will recall or lie down when I ask. I spend lots of time tugging with the pup when adults are around. Sometimes I will tug with a pup with one hand and an adult with the other.
I don’t introduce any big field chase and play for quite a while. My pup will learn soon enough how exciting it is to run fast and play/chase and I don’t want to let him obsess on visually targeting a running dog. I need him to be able to be ringside with me and not get cranked to chase-fever when he sees a team running.
When exercising my pup with the adults, he is beside me on leash, tugging and getting treats for hanging with me, while the adults run free. I am always in control of my environment with a pup. Fenced field, or on leash, or the adults are under my voice control and will down at a distance on my cue. If I lose the pup or choose to let him have a romp I can get him back easily as no one will break a down and the pup usually runs to the pack.
I work to teach my pup manners around the adults. Border collie pups are pushed to the back of the pack where they belong when I am handing out treats to all. My own border collies all have a nice pack order with the youngest being the farthest away from me, and behind the adults when everyone is off leash together for exercise. This is very common in a group of border collies that know each other.
This instinctual behavior plays havoc with your puppy recall from a group situation, that is one really important reason that I don’t give open field time to a border collie pup. They should rightly be learning to respect the adults and it can take a while until a pup (dogs from the herding group primarily) learns to move through the pack, from back to front on a recall, as it is going against their instinct. They need to ignore the dogs who are in front of them, and recall through the group to get to me. Eventually this is a great environment for proofing your recall, but with a young dog it can be more distraction than they can handle.
I love border collies because they have lots of energy, usually like to work and often have complex personalities that is there for all to see. This one certainly does!
Hope you are enjoying your pup as much as I am mine.
(Cute top photo from Marcy Mantell, middle one from yours truly)