Canine play without appropriate social learning should always be carefully observed here’s why.
Dogs that humans have not interfered with are generally, socially balanced. Wild or feral puppies learn how to behave in a way that’s socially acceptable, from older, socially competent, usually kind dogs. This leads to generations of dogs that are socially aware and can read/respect canine communication and body language.
With human intervention, many puppies are isolated from other dogs, or exposed to dogs that have poor skills of their own. Lack of dog taught guidance can easily result in a growing puppy that can’t recognise calming signals or obvious requests from his own species.
Dogs are all different and like people, they can be shy, introverted, friendly, extroverted, confident or lacking in confidence. Just as we are affected by our peer group, dogs are affected by the behaviour of other dogs, their own peers.
It’s a common misconception that dogs will “sort themselves out” in a world where we raise them as socially inept. Some dogs can’t “sort it out” just as some people can’t stand up to a brash, socially lacking human that won’t let them speak. It’s not a flaw or a fault in the case of the gentler animal (or human for that matter) it’s just social overwhelm.
When a dog is overwhelmed he will ask to be left alone. If the other dog has not learned social skills, he is likely to ignore that request and continue pushing for interaction. The behaviour may progress to bullying.
Canine Play Management
Canine play management means that we watch each dog carefully. We can’t go on a group walk and ignore dogs, assuming they will sort it out. We look for calming signals, miscommunication, pushy behaviour and ganging up. We check in regularly with the dog or dogs we are responsible for, that they are happy, not being harassed and are not trying to hide away.
We also watch our dogs for pushy behaviour. Are they harassing, bullying, humping or overwhelming another dog? If so, we intervene because to do otherwise would be allowing a gentle and worried dog to be intimidated or feel helpless.
Dog guardianship is a fine responsibility and a mixture of communication, observation and love. Let’s not let them down by assuming they can be assertive when they can’t. Let’s show them that if we need to, we can protect their gentleness by learning their language and keeping their environment safe and enjoyable.