In addition to my Puppy Preschool group training classes, I also offer a Puppy Recess Socialization Hour on Sundays. Depending on the group I get each Sunday, sometimes all of the puppies play well together and sometimes they don’t. Most people assume that large breed puppies should play only with other large breed puppies and small breed puppies should only play with small breed puppies. And some trainers, day cares or others will separate them out. I can understand that if it’s a large group and there is not enough supervision. (But then, I am not a fan of large groups with not enough supervision ever.)

I have a somewhat different philosophy on puppy play. If our goal is for dogs to learn how to socialize properly with other dogs, then shouldn’t they learn how to get along with the dogs they will meet in the real world? If that’s the case, then small dogs will encounter large dogs and large dogs will encounter small dogs. They don’t all need to be best buddies or play mates, but they should learn how to get along and at least politely tolerate each other.

If large breed dogs are kept isolated from small dogs and vice versa, what are they really learning? Sometimes we can end up creating bigger issues because they are not given the opportunity to learn how to get along in a safe environment. For small dogs, this can often result in aggressive displays toward large dogs when out on walks, at the vet’s office and in other locations. Quite often these dogs are not mean little dogs, they are afraid.

Do I separate out dogs for play? Not usually, no, but sometimes I do. However, it’s not based on size, it’s based on play styles. Some of the best play buddies I have seen in my socialization have been the largest dog in the group and the smallest. One in particular I remember was a Silky Terrier and a Boerbel (S. African Mastiff). (That’s them in the photo.) Looking at them separately, people would have thought they would never be a play match. But they were oblivious to the other puppies and would roll around and play the full hour with each other. Their play styles matched, and the Boerbel was very gentle with the Terrier.

Large size differences do need to be closely supervised, but they can be great matches if the play styles fit well together. Does your dog have friends of various sizes?


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