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Nipping other dogs at park while playing

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Nipping other dogs at park while playing
  • Our approximately 7 month old female German Shepherd mix loves to run/chase other dogs at the leash free park.  Quite often, 5 or 6 dogs will chase one dog in particular, before changing up and going after another in the running group.  Our girl will sometimes be chased, but most often is the chaser.  It is great physical exercise for her, however, part of the chasing behaviour includes nipping at the chasee's neck which really upsets some owners.  I have never seen evidence of an actual penetrating bite, and her scruff is often covered in other dogs saliva as well after she has been chased.  Is this normal behaviour and/or considered aggressive and something that we have to curb? 
     
    Thanks for any input!
     
    p.s.  The 'chase' has never escalated into any kind of a fight.  Often they will all stop and stand around together and pant.  Our girl will lunge forward and bark and/or nip at another one of the dogs, almost as if asking to be chased?
  • I'm not really up on German Shepherds in general, but to my uneducated ears it sounds like herding type play behavior. While playing, my Sheltie loved nothing more than to nip at people's/dogs'/anythings' heels while running around and making ferocious noises, particularly when she was a puppy. We chalked it up to sort of imitation herding behavior and gently taught her to be more respectful, at least of human feet. I'm sure some of our German Shepherd experts will come along to give better advice :)

  • Thanks Cita, I appreciate you sharing your experiences.  She never nips at the humans at the park and luckily most nights the humans think it is great and stay out of the way, but we have exchanged 'words' with a few concerned folks.

  • That is definitely herding play. My aussie does it as well and I also get some owners that ask me to call off my dog. Those owners that understand herding style play don't mind.

    You have to be mindful though. Neiko, my aussie, has a best bud at the dog park who he plays with daily. Because he's always nipping at the same spot, he caused some sores to develop on the other dog (I had a border collie pup do this to my husky as well. She got sores on her ankle from the pup). So, I have now started working on Neiko to "Leave it" and "That's enough" when he starts to get too nippy around the neck.  It takes some really tasty treats though to call him off of his best dog buddy mid-play.
     

  •  Snuffa is always on the receiving end of this behavior.  I do understand that it is herding style play, but sometimes the other dog will get kinda rough with him.  I don't know if it is because he is not responding the way their dog would like, or what.  I kinda assume that he isn't reacting correctly and the dog herding him gets frustrated. I don't mind, as long as everyone is happy...but I have left the park before, because Snuffa was obviously scared, tail tucked between his leg, and running from the aussie who would not leave him alone.  In this instance I wish the owner had called their dog off.  I think some dogs react differently to herding play than others, I also think some herders are more aggressive than others. 

  • This sounds totally normal to me - the telling part of the story for me is that your dog's scruff gets covered in saliva as well, different dogs are being chased, and there are self imposed breaks where everyone catches their breath. 

    My dog (who is part herding breed too) participates in this type of game all the time, with herding and non-herding breeds alike.  If it looks like there is too much ganging up on one dog, the humans call everyone off and if it goes on for a while without a break and starts escalating a little, we impose a break... 

    Other than that, I say, dogs play with their mouths, bitey face, bitey neck, bitey ears - if no one is yelping, there are no tucked tails and dogs running away in fear and the dogs are taking turns, I would have no problem with this type of play - which without seeing it, does not sound at all aggressive to me...

  • as long as the chasee doesn't seem scared, fine. Sometimes when a group of dogs goes after one dog they can get a bit rough with the chasee and scare him, that's not acceptable. It's normal for dogs to grab other dog's scruffs with their mouths during play and be totally soaked with saliva after a good wrestle.

  • Now imagine that play and wrestling going on NON STOP while running at 25 or 30 mph and whipping around in 180 and 360 degree turning leaps.  That's play!  That's how pharaohs play.  Running wrestling is the most popular game, with wrestling coming a close second.  

    Like MP says, it's perfectly normal, as long as the other dogs don't take offense to it. 

  • Definately herding behaviour. I know some people don't like it and/or don't understand and you have to respect that at a dog park. When my Aussie was young, he did this a lot. For quite a while I would take a ball or a small stuffie with me to the park and I would give it to him when people would get concerned. He loved having the other dogs chase him for the ball. He had an awsome bob and weave so no one could ever steal the object from him and he would never drop it. The ball in his mouth kept him from nipping the dogs necks. If you try this just be careful about the possibility of the dogs fighting over the ball.  

  • I have an Old English sheepdog with plenty of herding instinct.  But I've also left the dog park more than once when several dogs were "playing" a bit too hard.  If the dog is not having fun and obviously scared, why stay?  I think you acted perfectly correctly.  the dog's safety should always come first. Just my two cents!

  • Oh grief!  You should see my german shepherds play!  An outsider would think that they are trying to kill each other!  But, they play and they play rough.  Much of this is herding behavior, an it truly doesn't sound like there is any issue in what you've described.  If other owners are concerned, then of course, call your dog off, but I'm thinking that once they see that this is the way the others play without your dog, they will be a bit more at ease.

  • Sometimes dog play can look like dog fighting to people who don't know how to read dog body language. What you're describing sounds like typical dog play to me. Don't assign the aggressive label to it, and don't let anyone else do that either. There's a big difference between playing with its' included growls and nips, and aggression. Also, Shepherds have gotten a bum rap, as have several other breeds, as being more aggressive than other breeds. This isn't true at all. Any dog, regardless of breed, can be trained to be aggressive; aggression isn't genetic.

    There are a number of excellent books out there by Patricia McConnell, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, etc. that should be read by all dog owners. Below are some links to get you started in learning how to read a dog's body language.

    http://www.diamondsintheruff.com/diagrams.html

    http://www.doggonesafe.com/dog%20communication.htm

    http://www.deesdogs.com/documents/talkingdog.pdf

    http://www.bobmckee.com/Client%20Info/Behaviour/Dog%20Play.html

    http://www.animalfriendsrescue.org/dogbehavior_fightorplay.html

    http://www.clevelandapl.org/pdf/Can%20My%20Dog%20Play%20With%20Yours.pdf

    http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/AggressiveDogInformation.htm

    http://www.wagntrain.com/BodyLanguage.htm

     

  • How else do you expect them to play tag?  Stop and tap them w/ their paw?  LOL 

  •  Like this? *evil grin*

     

    My dogs play like that all the time, and I mean ALL the time, and they're best buddies. Dena would be doing it right back, but Keef likes to pick on her when she's got a ball in her mouth and can't get him back. Not to worry, she loves to dominate him around the house. Wink

    It's totally normal herding behavior. I could see how some dogs could be intimidated by it, but as long as the dogs are having fun the owners shouldn't freak out. If the other dog clearly ISN'T having fun, you should break it up yourself. That's why I like the parks I go to - the owners seem pretty dog savvy and don't get all excited by normal doggy play behavior. If my dogs do anything *I* don't like, I'll step in and stop them and move along. Or if someone else's dog starts up with dominance type stuff like putting their head over my dogs' necks or attempting to hump them, I'll stop that too. They're really social, but Keefer in particular doesn't appreciate other dogs doing that to him, and I'd rather be the one to decide it's gone far enough than for it to go on long enough for him to be uncomfortable enough that he feels the need to take care of it himself.

  •  do hearding dogs ever nip and hurd a dog and than get snapped at for their behavior?i have always wondered if anyone has had that experence, or do the dogs take the nipping instride