Rough Play

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Boxer Pal
I have an 18 month old Boxer, Abby, that I recently adopted from an animal shelter. She has basic obedience training, and I work with her daily to practice sit, down, stay, etc. and walk her twice daily.
My concern is the way Abby tackles my 9 year old lab. I "think" she wants to play, but she launches herself on his back, arms flaring, growling, and my poor lab doesn't know what to do. He growls a warning, but that doesn't phase on Abby. I have to yank her off. Is this normal?
Does anyone have any suggestions how to deal with this, other than keep the dogs completely separated. This launching business seems to happen when Abby gets excited - someone comes into the house, new snow outside and both dogs are outside, or if the lab happens to grab one of his toys. I really like Abby, but am concerned she may hurt Russell. I don't want to give her up, but I am VERY serious that I do not want this conduct to continue.


Super Boxer
By your description, I think you are right to be concerned. And doubly right to not want it to continue. But she is new to your family. So she needs some guidance on how to settle in.

However, it is darn nigh impossible to diagnose a behavior over the internet. :)

So my suggestion is to find a good trainer or behaviorist to come in and view the situation in person. Once they determine what is actually going on, they can advise how to proceed. Between now and then, I'd be inclined to keep your two dogs separate (crate and rotate), or at least under control when together (ie: new boxer always on a leash).

At the very least, (thank you for adopting) Abby is a rude overgrown puppy with a lot of work ahead of her. This is totally predictable, and basically normal for a shelter dog. Abby may never be OK with other dogs. Or, Abby will learn better manners, and good "doggy language," and how and when to give your old girl some space. But you are going to have to guide her either way. So you need some help.

Boxers do tend to have a boisterous and physical play style, but that doesn't excuse them from learning good manners. I adopted my guy from a rescue when he was about 1year. He's now two, and I still keep a close eye on him with other dogs because he can get over amp'd and when he does, he can get rude again (pushy, growly, and frustrated because he can't get the other dog to play body-slamming the way he likes). And when that happens, I call him off for a few minutes to settle down. If he does it again right away - then play time is over. Too bad.

He's learning. But it does take time. And you have to protect both of your dogs from a mistake that could cost more than just the vet bills ...

And keep in mind, if she does that to the wrong dog, she could get herself into BIG trouble. Your lab must be very patient.

In the mean time, look into some impulse control training games.
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Boxer Pal
Thank you for your comments. I have been keeping Abby on a leash, and you are right - the old lab is very patient. But he has snapped at her, from time to time, and she just keeps on roughing.
What are "impulse control training games"?
I've tried having the lab running loose outdoors, Abby on a leash, put her in a sit/stay and then call the lab over. Abby usually lunges at him, and I correct with the leash, but honestly, if that leash ever broke, I'm not sure what would happen ... Scarey, to say the least.
Abby came with 5 prepaid private training sessions. The trainer has known her pretty much her entire life. I'll talk to him about this again. His initial response was to keep the two dogs separated as you suggested. That's difficult to do in a small house. For the most part the dogs are fine. They even lie down together on the same dog bed.
Any more suggestions will definitely be appreciated!


Super Boxer
Two things I would immediately start researching - impulse control training, and leash aggression and how to avoid developing it.

Impulse control - these are fun exercises and segues well with NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) or Learn to Earn lifestyle.
The Learn to Earn Program: Developing Leadership in Humans and Impulse Control in Dogs | Animal Behavior and Medicine Blog | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

This is a great site for some games to make it fun
Impulse Control Training and Games for Dogs | ASPCA

As for the play issue. I would not try to do this alone with you and two dogs.

Re-directing a reactive dog, takes a huge amount of time - and if the reactivity develops into aggression because every time she's on a leash and another dog comes around, her play drive is frustrated ... and she is corrected... well... lets just say, you could create more trouble than you already have.
On-Leash Aggression, Leash Reactivity, Dog Aggression

With a reactive dog, the key is to discover her boundaries - where/when does she become reactive. How close does the other dog have to be before she looses her focus on you and turns to focus on the other dog. Day after day, training session after training session, you want to put her just shy of her limit of reactivity. You want to prevent that reaction from EVER happening. But if it does, that's OK - just take a step back to where she doesn't react and start again.

Always end on a good note even if that means having to go to the other side of the house where no dogs are in site.

I didn't have a reactive dog. I just had a rude one, with no recall. He was wonderful when he was on a leash. That really helped me. Made my work much easier.
The way it was explained to me was, you pick three levels of behavior.
One - good behavior, everything is fine.
Two - behavior that is rude but deserves a second chance and correcting or redirecting ...
Three - the absolute no-no. Play ends now.

Be sure to keep these levels and behaviors that fall into them, very clear in your mind.
Any behavior that falls into level three - you mark with a phrase or word - I use "Too bad." And you immediately remove the dog from the area. To a "time out". The time out is not quite the same as with a human child of course. Because a dog isn't going to think about what it did ... it's just going to link behavior #3 with being taken away and left somewhere that's no fun. Soon they learn that's not such a fun behavior - just like they learn that good behaviors get treats!
If your dog does something within level #2 - you call them off wait a couple of minutes and let them go back to play again once they've settled down. Maybe after performing a couple of things that they do know (ie: sit/treat, down/treat).

Now I know, it's hard to pull a dog out of the play when they are running full tilt across the park. So you first have to keep her on a leash and develop a strong recall. You don't start with anything until you have the basics.

For you, it will be the same, but you won't get as far as dog on dog play until you eliminate the reactivity.

Personally, I think it will be better for you to do this with a trainer who has a great deal of experience working with reactive dogs in a positive way. If this "free" trainer has known this dog all it's life - that doesn't bode well, if all he said was to keep the dogs separate. He should have explained a little more history than that! Haven't they worked on her manners yet?

You want to find a trainer that is going to help you teach her what TO do, in place of what NOT to do.
ie: you want to avoid a fail. Do things that will allow her receive praise. If you push so hard that she fails and does the wrong thing, you've pushed too far. Lead her away from it with no other reaction and give yourself the correction.
That's a joke. But not really.
I do believe in corrections BUT only after the dog knows what you want. Right now, your girl has no clue what is expected of her. So you're starting from scratch. You have to develop a bond where she trusts that you have her best interests at heart. That you want her to succeed, and you are going to show her the path to that success, not just punish her for doing the wrong thing.
See what I mean?

Is this free trainer a member of APDT?
I might start here to find a good trainer in your area.
Association of Pet Dog Trainers - Dog Training Resources


Boxer Pal

Sorry that I have been out of the loop for a while. I live in the "ice storm zone", and spent over a week without internet access.

I have been working diligently with Abby, and found a personal trainer that will work with us. She seems to be catching on about manners, and we have been going to nearby villages and such to practice basic obedience in different settings. She listens, and recently I had her in a sit/stay while another dog was walking past us. She held the position. I know I have a lot of work yet, but I do feel somewhat encouraged.

With respect to my Lab, things are going fairly well. When I was exercising the dogs with lots of walks, things were much better. Now, we are all going a bit shacky whacky. Not only is there a layer of ice everywhere, but we are also experiencing brutal cold, so distance walking is not an option. Indeed, walking the length of my driveway is a hazard. Even the yard is covered in a sheet of ice, so letting the dogs run is not a safe option either. Warmer days ahead :)

Thank you for the web sites. I shall definitely check them out.


Super Boxer
That's great! Definitely progress.
Sorry about the cold. Believe me, I understand...

This is real temp from last winter - not wind chill! lol.

And this is what we looked like when we'd go out in it for a few seconds to potty (this is a pic of my last boy, Buddy RIP 2012 - my current boy looks about the same but we don't have a pic of it yet)! It takes longer to get dressed up than it does to go out, potty and rush back in again!

So you don't have to explain to me about the cold.

You just have to be extra diligent in working their minds (rather than their bodies) indoors.


Boxer Pal
Great Pics

Thanks for sharing those pictures. That put my "Ontario deep freeze" temperatures into perspective. We are supposed to go tropical on the weekend (7 degrees Celcius on Saturday), so we shall be resuming out 3 walks a day soon.

In the meantime, we'll keep on with the training indoors. I bring the lab into our sessions as well, and Abby handles it pretty well. Occasionally, she does snap at Russell, but it appears to be a playful move, which Russell does not view as cute, of course. But she's not making contact with him, and I get the impression that my lightning-fast Abby could easily connect with him if she wanted to. She doesn't have that "how to meet and play" with another dog skill it seems.

I do feel that I am making progress with Abby. Spending time with a skilled trainer in one-on-one sessions has been most helpful and informative.

Group classes begin for Abby later this month. I am hoping that will assist her social skills somewhat. Her basic obedience is getting sharper all the time. Now we must expand our horizons!


Completely Boxer Crazy
That's great that she's making such nice progress:)

If you haven't already, you may want to look at some videos of boxers playing on youtube. Boxers are very vocal and pretty rough at times when they play. Not all dogs enjoy playing with a boxer, lol. In his younger day, your lab may have enjoyed her craziness but now she's too amped up for him. Both of my boxers use that snapping action to get each other or our puppy to play; I think it's pretty common for a boxer.

Hoping it warms up and the ice storms are over:)


Boxer Pal
One day at a time

Just when it looks like things are going better, we had yesterday. Do Boxers suffer PMS? :) Abby snapped at Russell 4 different times yesterday, and I didn't see anything unusual going on that might have precipitated it. She just seemed in a bad/snappy mood.

I am getting more and more aware of her body language, and can usually divert her, or use a training command (i.e. "sit") to get her to snap out of it before she snaps/lunges. Not so yesterday. She was lightning quick.

She never actually made physical contact with Russell, though, so once again, I am not convinced of aggression, but am leaning towards bad manners. Neither is acceptable, of course.

....but she seemed to be in a "mood". I did not notice any physical indications of health problems though. Even when we were walking though, she seemed more difficult to keep on a loose leash. She just seemed off somehow. I guess we are all entitled to those days, hmmm?

Today, we are back to normal. The ice is even starting to melt. The snow wouldn't hold Russell (100 lbs. +) without him breaking through. That is the first in weeks. Whooo hoooo! January thaw here we come...

Thanks for listening.


Super Boxer
Aww crap well I've been chastised for being too hard on new this time I'll ask questions first.:)

I'm assuming that the usual dog to dog intro was done, neutral ground dogs meet and all goes well? The new dog comes into the home and is "given" almost immediately free access to all the resources, free roaming of the house, food, water the yard ,toys etc?

You may or may not have noticed or paid attention to who goes out the door first, gets petted first and who's allowed on the furniture (if that's the rule of the house).

And dominance doesn't "really" rear it',s head till the dog reaches maturity somewhere in the 18 to 30 month range. And dog ages from rescues are educated guesses at best.

Guess that's how did I do? :)
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