Life is not all work for Future Leader Dog puppies, inside or outside. It can be helpful for puppies to burn off energy and learn bite inhibition by playing together. But there are some important rules of play for safety and to help prevent a common reason for career-change later: too dog distracted.
1. Puppies should be well-matched. This can mean puppies of similar size or age, or with temperaments or physical traits that even the playing field.
Chippewa FLDs August and Sammy, while within one week of age, were not close in size when they were younger. Even though Sammy was much bigger, August was faster and more agile, so they made nice playmates.
2. Puppies must be calm before being releasing into play with other puppies.
Puppies must never play together when they are on leash. Working bandanas and/or jackets should be removed. Puppies should be able to sit calmly while the leash is unclipped and wait to be released into play.
3. One puppy should not control the play. Puppies should change positions. For example, one puppy should not always be "on top."
Playing puppies can get very noisy; Labs are especially vocal. When Chippewa raisers were just getting to know FLDs August and Sammy, they were concerned that Sammy's play was inappropriate. In November, when Deb and Tammy and I traveled to Baraga to check out the facility, we took the two pups with us - not only to show them off to the potential raisers in Baraga, but also to evaluate their play behavior.
We let August and Sammy play in our large hotel room in St. Ignace the night before heading to Baraga. As mentioned above, we determined that the two pups actually played quite well with each other.
4. Puppies should not get overly ramped up; they should be able to be called out of play periodically.
It is good practice to call puppies out of play before they get too excited. A reward for "settling" can be a re-release into play.
In that St. Ignace hotel, something interesting developed during puppy play. A much older and larger FLD Harper (who was also with us) started to roughhouse with August. Their energy ramped up. It was clear that Harper was calling the shots. Sammy, who had been pacing around the periphery of the action, plodded calmly into the fray and forced his stocky Lab body between Harper and August.
Sammy - the play police!
PUPPY WRESTLING AT BARAGA
January 10, 2014
Deb demonstrated safe and proper puppy play with the Baraga pups and FLD Jedi. She suspected that Bear's handlers would be apprehensive about letting him loose with Axel and Jedi, both of whom were a bit larger, so she talked the men through releasing Axel and Jedi into play first.
|Deb oversees the play of FLDs Jedi and Axel while the inmate raisers observe.|
|FLDs Axel and Jedi duke it out.|
After some play time, and calling away and calming time, Deb had Bear's handlers release him too. Axel and Jedi made a beeline for Bear, almost smothering the tiny guy.
Deb reminded me of FLD Sammy as she practically body-blocked Bear's three inmate raisers from coming to his rescue. "Let them work it out," she said confidently.
"I'm shaking here," one of them said.
Before long, Bear got into Jedi's face. He meant business. Jedi backed off and headed for the door. "I'm not really scared of you," said his demeanor, "I just have to pee." An inmate took him outside. Axel took over in his place. Much to everyone's surprise, sweet little Bear growled and shook himself away, stomping off as if to say, "I showed you!"
"You see," Deb said. "Bear had to show Axel that he couldn't be bullied."