Ray’s play buddy?

When Ray moved in with us in early 2013, two of his obvious issues were a lack of any social skills, and a distinct problem with other dogs.

We both had significant reservations about letting him play off leash with other dogs (albeit in an enclosed area) because there seemed to be a very fine line (to us not trained in these matters) between aggressive fun play… and simple aggression! We were not confident that we could tell the difference.

We were fortunate to have an indoor, and supervised, play area for dogs fairly close by and so we approached them regarding Ray’s circumstances. They invited us over and, after assessing Ray’s personality, paired him with a Leonberger to play with. The Leonberger immediately put Ray “in his place” and, having established the rules of play, they both seemed to have fun.

Sadly, Ray tested positive for heart worm shortly after that and so the priorities changed. Ray had to be kept as calm as possible during his treatment which prohibited any more play.

We recently had Ray playing again but, this time, it was in a small fenced area and his “play buddy” was a male Great Dane pup (Zeus) ! Zeus was (clearly!) significantly larger than Ray, but as we knew the pup and the owner, we thought it an opportunity to be explored. They played relatively well together for around 10 minutes and then things appeared to start deteriorating as Ray seemed to be getting more and more frustrated with this huge pup! We’ll try again another day.

Ray and Zeus3Ray and Zeus4







We filmed a couple of minutes of play and, just recently, walked Ray to the Humane Society where we had arranged to meet his favorite trainer, and we could get her feedback on the video. Her observations were interesting. She noted that Zeus’ height allowed him to reach the back of Ray’s head without any problem, which Ray was not happy about as he kept moving himself out of range.

We know that Zeus was separated from his Mom very prematurely (I wish people would educate themselves before getting involved with breeding animals for additional income), and his social skills were negligible, but Ray could certainly help in that area! We also noticed that Zeus would often be licking Ray all over which was, apparently, likely to be a sign of appeasement.

In general, and given that it was their first meeting, she saw no reasons for concern so we are hoping to be able to arrange more play times with Zeus. Both dogs could certainly benefit from the experience!


27 thoughts on “Ray’s play buddy?

  1. Glad to hear of this progress for Ray. As you know there are similar dynamics with Kali’s interactions with other dogs. She recently had an unplanned play date with two other dogs and her brother Smokey and it went very well. Now that we’ve done this more frequently it seems to take her less and less time to get comfortable and have fun. I’m sure it will be the same for Ray.

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  2. Sounds like a good start! Our new dog has been around for nearly 8 months now, and he just had his longest run in the dog park- only about 10-15 minutes- before we decided he was getting himself overwraught and needed a breather. Blue Moon- that’s our idiot boy, 4 when we adopted him- hadn’t been fixed by his previous owner so was way too hump-y when he first tried to interact with other dogs, until the hormones had finally leveled off. I don’t think he was well socialized so he tends to go from 0-10 very quickly and, extra unfortunately for him, sounds like he’s going to kill you even when he’s playing (his hackles even stand up on his back when he’s happy, usually a clear indication of aggression). So I sympathize with your stress!

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  3. Hoping their play dates will keep getting better. Ray is so lucky to have you take the time to meet with with caregiver at the Kennel to talk about how the play date went. Interesting observations and good luck for more fun times with Zeus!

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    • As I have told many people, the Oakville & Milton Humane Society have been with us 110% over the past (almost) 3 years that we have had Ray. They have been so supportive, and both their trainers have freely offered suggestions regarding various challenges. We even had a “home visit” just after we adopted him as we needed them to see his behavior at home. Their goal/mission is truly to see that all their “alumni” get the best chance of settling into their new homes. I cannot think of any breeder or store who could (or would) offer that kind of service! That is why we involve them so freely. As for Zeus? More fun times are no doubt in our future!:)

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  4. I love to see dogs at play. Maggie had a variety of little playmates when she was a pup, but when we sold our house and were on the road, she forgot. Our fault really as although we walked her every day, usually there were no other dogs around. We had to re-socialise her which took months and a fair bit of sitting on the ‘naughty step’. Yesterday, she was particularly playful towards an eight year old golden retriever. Playful to the extent of being tarty! We’re beginning to think her op has knocked her hormones out of sinc as we thought she’d come into season, but that seemed to stop after day 3!

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  5. It is wonderful that you have a resource to talk to. I agree with you about separating from moms. Locally our shelters are looking at closer to 12 weeks rather than the 6 weeks that was common when I was a child. The old thinking was that once they were weaned they were good to go but animal mom’s teach more than that. Cats separated too early have social issues too. We are all cheering Ray on! Woohoo!

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