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It's All Fun and Games!

For this blog post we want to explore the idea of good play with puppies and young Danes, versus play that might not be so well thought out! This blog post can apply to Danes of all ages, but in particular we are talking about those who are still forming “norms” about their behaviors.Danes are cute when they are little – under 40 pounds – but soon they become the 150-200 pound new adult in the home.

We all hear these tales of how the dog was fantastic but now it is aggressive, it is not safe around children, or it has high prey drive. While not all dogs can be taught to be better behaved on all counts, many can. This blog is about positively identifying these behaviors early and reinforcing the good, not the bad.

If your Dane was taught these behaviors prior it is not too late but that will be another post. Best advice is to get a reputable trainer to work with you personally to form a program for dogs that have not had the advantage of a solid foundation of behavior management.

Puppy Play Rights and WrongsPuppies love to play, get the “zoomies” just like their adult counter parts and yes, they can get bored too. Some dogs are fine with a basket of toys and potential playmate dogs in the home, while others have some challenge in understanding boundaries.

We will be going through a few areas to be on the lookout for while you are raising your pup for good play habits:

Mouthing – it’s cute to have a puppy nibble on your fist or fingers when they are little, but those teeth and that jaw grow over time. If they feel it is okay to nibble on skin, they will continue to feel it is okay long into adulthood. Never let a puppy nibble on skin especially children’s skin. Yes it happens, but don’t make a habit of it or a “special time” of it like it is play time. The more they like it the more they will repeat it and it will become a problem later.

Jumping Up – so cute when they are knee high to a grasshopper but what about when they are 150 pounds or more? Jumping up is not only dangerous to adults and kids, but also the dog. We know that sometimes adults let a dog jump up for a photo or a hug. That is your choice, but encouraging it all the time will result in a dog with no manners. Someone enters your home he might tackle them to the floor and the person could get really hurt. Also in the case of kids, it is a no go from the get go with an adult dog. Keeping “4 on the floor” is best. The occasional Kodak moment aside!

Tug-o-War – this is a little more complicated than some give it credit for. Again we are talking about Danes that have the potential to learn something in youth and carry that on as a bad habit as an adult. Not all Danes will but this is one to be on the lookout for. If and adult or child does end up playing tug-o-war you better be sure they win; Not at all costs or harming the dog, but because for some dogs it is a way to show who is king of the hill. If the dog wins enough times, he will feel he is head of the pack and the results will be obvious. If your dog loves tug-o-war but you want to discourage it, get him another type of toy that does not seem an obvious tool for this game. A ball for instance is not a great tug-o-war opportunity! Again we are not talking extremes here, but by and large this can be a problem especially if children are involved and play this way with your dog too frequently. If your Dane starts to feel stronger and superior to a child, well some digs will continue to act accordingly as they get older.

Swapping Chewables – if your Dane, like so many, get into something they should not have never just swap immediately a bad chewable for a good. Do not take the pencil out of their mouth or ask from them to “leave it” and then immediately replace with a toy. They will connect the two. “So, if I get something I shouldn’t they will pop up and get a toy and we can play!” See what we mean! Instead, use “leave it” command and wait. Probably just a few minutes would be fine, but disassociation needs to take place between relieving them of the pencil, and giving them a proper chew toy.

Dog to Dog Play – again as a puppy it is best if they learn to play with “4 on the floor” but it is not always possible. Try to reinforce this whenever you can as dogs do not generally like other dogs on top of them in play. Some dogs will approach another and immediately jump up on them to play which is very intimidating to even the most well behaved dogs. It is best when play is silent (no growls or noises) and on the ground (no jumping, body slams, paws on heads/backs, etc.). Corrections immediately with a moment of separation should de-escalate the play. They will get the idea but supervised play for any puppy is a must. They are learning without a parent most times so you need to fill that gap.

Dog to “Other” Play – if you have cats or other small creatures in the home it is again an opportunity for the dog to exhibit instincts that might not be in the best interest of said creature! Some dogs simply have high prey drives and want to chase and maybe “play with” a smaller animal like a cat. This should never be tolerated or encouraged. This can be translated later to other dogs of similar size, or all other creatures if it goes too far unchecked. Correct immediately and firmly to avoid any altercations later. Besides, sometimes the cat will give the dog a good “correction” in the process of learning as well!

Remember nothing replaces great obedience training for life - start early and keep it going. It pays off in the end!

Overall puppie s and young adult dogs are so fun and amazing. Watching them become the adult Dane they will be is such a magical time. But like raising kids, do not forget there is still discipline required. If you keep things in control you will have a better shot at a well manner adult Dane in the future!

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