Q: Can you talk about dog dominance. I have 2 dogs, the younger is a male Lab mix, the older is a female boxer pitbull mix. Every time I buy them toys the male has to take her toy and they end up playing aggressively. I don’t know what to do anymore because I don’t want them playing with other dogs like that. Every toy becomes a tug of war. I even make sure I get 2 of the same toy, same color, scent, and style. Also every time he sees her after they go potty or even just while they are playing he’s always jumping and nipping her and barking a lot. Any suggestions?
A: How dogs play in the pack is entirely up to them (with some exceptions). If your pit is ok with this behavior from your Lab, then the behavior is acceptable. Your male may try to play with other dogs like this, but they will soon correct him and let him know what is acceptable, as I’m sure your pit will do eventually. It’s just your pit has a very high tolerance, which is fine. Some dogs don’t, which is also fine. You can not define the pack order beneath you. It is the next in line’s right to take the resources if they want them (toys included). As far as their playing tug, that is a very important game to them. Your pit is teaching your Lab how to kill prey. All these games they are playing is practice for the hunt.
Just because you cannot define the pack order (excepting that you come in at top) doesn’t mean you have to always allow this. Suppose they decide to engage in this behavior during a dinner party. Or you’re trying to watch tv. Or you truly want your pit to have something and your Lab to leave it alone. Then it becomes unacceptable. You need to calmly “tell” them to stop without adding energy. Meaning, don’t yell, don’t shout, don’t even talk. This is where the PAW Method comes into play. Get between them, facing your Lab (since he’s probably instigating). Standing up straight, walk into your dog until he backs away and disengages their from your pit and/or her toy. You are “claiming” her. Repeat as necessary (this could take a few tries). You essentially need to give your dogs body language that conveys that you are leader, you recognize they are asking if they can play, but your answer is “no”. It might take a little bit, but keep at it, and it will work.