Safe dog play happens when we as guardians pay attention to how dogs play.
Dogs love to wrestle. When your dog finds a great play mate to wrestle with, they grab each others neck, wrestling like the best of them. This is fine and it’s perfectly normal. However, to be on the safe side, please, take off their collars! It is very easy for them to get caught in the collar. This is all too common and dogs have strangled each other by panicking while trying to get loose. The more they try, the tighter the collar becomes causing strangulation.
My little dog Timber came to me because of this exact scenario. She belonged to a client of mine, who got Timber as a playmate for her adult dog. While she was in the shower, she heard screaming dogs downstairs. She ran downstairs to find her dogs hooked together by the collar. Timber had her bottom jaw caught in the other dogs collar and the more they both tried to get away, the more the collar tightened. The other dog’s tongue was blue and her eyes were bulging. She was frantic because just getting to the collar to undo the clasp, she thought it might tighten even more. When she finally was able to release the collar, the dog who was choked began gasping for air and as soon as she was able, she attacked Timber with in a fury. The guardian was beside herself and didn’t feel she was able to manage the dogs safely asking me to take Timber so everyone could get over this traumatic event. I agreed and in the end, it was best for Timber not to go back. I kept her and had a ton of rehabilitation to do to help her through her fear of dogs. It took a while but she now loves playing with all friendly dogs. This is after at least a 5 minute greeting so she knows she’s safe and then the play is on.
Safe dog play means that you are supervising well mannered dogs who are a good match. Know the body language of stressed dogs and intervene when necessary and only when necessary. For the most part, dogs learn to play fair if they’ve been properly and well socialized and will not intentionally hurt one another. Make sure that you are in a safe place for them to play off leash and collar free and let them have at it.
Fun and safe…. couldn’t be better.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer and dog body language expert loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. It’s available in iTunes and Google play. Jill has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients and their dogs for 40 years, to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She also does online dog training, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page