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Can't play with bigger dog, tries acting tough

  1. #1

    Can't play with bigger dog, tries acting tough

    So, some background:

    3 rescues...oldest is Eli (around 3-4 years old, Rot/lab mix, more rotty than lab from the body shape), middle is Jayne (male lab, around 2-3 years, high energy, very friendly, deathly afraid of loud booms) and Sam (male Bull Mastiff/Rotty mix.)

    My wife and I had Eli and Jayne, and they had a great time playing together. Jayne would run circles around Eli, often literally. Eli loves chasing him. Jayne likes to get Eli to play by grabbing him by his collar and pulling...that'll usually get Eli to re-engage, wagging tail and having fun.

    When we got Sam about a year ago...things seemed mostly fine. Lots of sniffing around, a little growling, but within a few days, Sam fit right in.


    Jayne is beside himself with happiness. He and Sam roughhouse all the time...sometimes I've seen Jayne trying to *drag* Sam around by his collar, but given how much larger Sam is...he doesn't have much luck.

    I've watched how Sam and Jayne play. One thing that Sam will do is put his paw on Janye's back (or reach out for him) which will trigger Jayne and they'll go off and play and roughhouse.

    I've seen Sam try to do the same with Eli...Sam's tail is wagging, it's clear that he wants to play...but Eli *freaks* out. Lots of growling and snarling with Eli getting away from Sam. They have actually fought once or twice, no damage aside from a few tufts of hair from Eli...but the freak outs continue to this day.

    Additionally, Eli is *extremely* posessive of his tennis ball. If Sam comes near to investigate, Eli will do his normal growling/backing away/etc. I throw tennis balls for all three dogs, but Eli's the only one that likes them. Sam and Jayne will play with one for about 20 seconds and promptly lose interest.

    Any thoughts on how I can calm Eli down? I have no doubt that he'd have fun roughhousing with seems like he *wants* to participate, as he'll hop around and bark at his brothers when *they* are doing it. I thought about getting down there and roughhousing with both of them, but Sam is...well...a moose.

    It's not always like this. Sam will often crawl right up to Eli, and Eli will start grooming him.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    It just sounds to me like Eli may not be the roughhousing type, and I although I know that dogs will play this way with each other (I've had my share), it's not for every dog. I am also not fond of people wrestling or rough playing with their dogs...but that's another thread, lol.

    I think Eli, being the older family dog, was more comfortable just around Jayne, kind of a one on one situation where he felt some balance and control. Now that Sam's in the picture, and also a big rowdy boy, Eli may just be acting very naturally, defending himself, his property (tennis ball) and watching out for his own safety. Eli watches and barks excitedly, but doesn't necessarily need to physically play with the other two, especially is Sam is big and may cause a dominance problem for him.

    I'm surprised they all get along so well, are they all neutered? I think that Eli will bond with and groom Sam, when Sam is chilled out and mellow. That makes a lot of sense to me. I don't see a problem here with Eli, to me he's behaving quite normally, and if he doesn't want to get into the rowdy mix with the newcomer, he's probably the wiser. I'd let things go on naturally. Eli seems to be a good boy, I'd let him exhibit his own likes and personality.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    When you are saying "paw on the shoulder" does it look like a play thing or does it feel like a challenge?

    Sometimes, dog wrestle in a play for dominance. The top dog is usually the one at the top while the loser is at the bottom. This isn't actually a big deal for most dogs as this seems to come naturally (just like how Sam and Jayne are). However, there are instances that when one assumes the top dog position, they end up overriding the elder dog's rules. Basically, what Eli is doing is warning Sam not to mess with him. So even if Sam instigates a play session, Eli won't have any of it as he prefers doing it at his own time.

    I think you should leave the rough housing to the dogs. Just keep a close eye on them as they might end up breaking skin and that's a big no no.

    Eli acts like my Rin. She hates playing, but she does groom all of our dogs. And she seems to prefer being left alone... unless I go to her and stroke her back. But that's probably because she's 9 years old and all her companions are younger than 5.

Please reply to this thread with any new information or opinions.

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