Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Puppy Playgroups

Melissa has been busy meeting many two footed and four footed friends. This past weekend Leslie Nelson of Tails U Win training center in Connecticut was in the Albany area for a two day seminar. It was a great opportunity for puppy Melissa to meet different sizes and shapes of dogs.

At 11 weeks of age, I want all her encounters during this critical socialization period to be positive. A scary experience at this time in her life could have ramifications for life. So I am careful as to what dogs she meets and who she plays with. She has played with one or two puppies at a time. She has played with stable adults who have good social skills.

By allowing her these opportunities, Melissa is continuing to use the social skills she learned from her dam and siblings. She is also learning how to use her mouth softly. Puppies play rough and tumble games, they have mock battles, they use their mouths...a LOT. By playing with other puppies and adult dogs they learn just how hard to bite...this is called bite inhibition. Should Melissa bite too hard on a playmate, they will move away and end the game or they might bite harder, communicating to Melissa that she went too far using her mouth.

Just this weekend Melissa did not heed the warning from an adult Toy Poodle who had wanted to greet Melissa but puppy Melissa moved too fast. He turned his head, a message in dog language to slow things down a bit. Melissa did not heed his message, she pushed right into his face, she wanted to play now! The Poodle escalated his communication. He growled at her, he was telling her politely to back off. And she did, she offered a play bow, slowed things down a bit and then they were off playing. It was a valuable lesson for Melissa, she learned another dog-dog communication skill. I know the owner of the Poodle, I knew the Poodle has good social skills, I knew it was a safe learning opportunity for Melissa.

In the past few days Melissa has played with a 20 week old Doberman named Jules, a 14 week old Collie named Darrowby, and 14 weekend old German Shepherd named Bessie, a 7 month old Australian Terrier named Lily, a year old Beagle named Pip, a year old Lab called Lucy and our 12 year old Borzoi Catera. Each with different play styles, each offering Melissa valuable play time while enhancing her social skills.

Playing with other dogs and puppies not only teaches our dogs social skills it tires them out and helps develop muscle. Whether you opt for a small group or a large group of dogs, choose her playmates carefully. When your pup offers the famous play bow you know she is ready to have fun.

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