Hi all, I'm interested in everyone's interpretation of the dynamic between two puppies I know. Your answers could help me understand how best to deal with them, together and separately, and decide whether any actual correction is needed. I'll be as specific and neutral as I can in describing their interactions.
Puppy #1 is a Springer Spaniel, 2 weeks older than Puppy #2, an Irish Setter/Standard Poodle mix. They are about the same weight, but Puppy #2 is taller. They are both currently 4 months old and live in an urban environment. Their primary modes of exercise are leash walks, loose play in both enclosed and unenclosed parks, and fetch. They have been playmates since the age of 12 weeks.
Both are very well-behaved puppies, but with different strengths: Puppy #1 reliably (and joyfully) comes when called, and Puppy #2 is more courteous about things like going out the door, walking on a leash, leave it etc.
When they're introduced to adult dogs, both are appropriate and neither are obnoxious. Puppy #1 is more likely to run up to unfamiliar dogs as happy as anything. Puppy #2 is delighted to meet new dogs too, but he is less likely to run up to them full-tilt. Instead, he actively appeases them - ears back, kissy face, crouching, wiggling - as he obliquely approaches.
When they play loose together, the first few minutes (or perhaps its seconds) are a joyful romp back and forth. Eventually, though, they end up in the same position: Puppy #1 on the ground on his back, Puppy #2 biting and growling in increasing volume. They will remain in this position for quite some time. I find the snarling most unnerving when #2 doesn't have a mouthful of hair, but is "standing over" the other puppy, with the corners of his lips pushed forward. But I have never seen Puppy #1 give up and lie still rather than trying to fend off Puppy #2, and he does instigate jaw sparring, biting, and chasing about a third of the time.
Often, Puppy #2 will hold #1 by his long ears, or bite his groin, which do elicit the occasional whimper. Puppy #2 doesn't respond to these cries by disengaging, but neither do they seem to wind him up any further. Puppy #1's expression is not fearful, but he does usually use human legs as a wall during these wrestling matches. On the other hand, Puppy #1 is pretty sanguine and rarely cries. His face is less expressive than Puppy #2's, so I don't necessarily trust my "read."
I haven't seen Puppy #2 do this with any other dog of any age, nor have I seen other dogs be quite so vocal and determined in their play.
I decided to ask a larger crowd after observing them with adult dogs today. I've often sought out a mediating third party when these two puppies play, because it does seem to help.
One adult dog became very focused on Puppy #1, and two or three times chased him, swatted him to the ground, pinned him down and growled at him. His owner was embarrassed though the puppy seemed neither hurt nor truly frightened, but it made me wonder whether Puppy #1 is just a magnet for this kind of thing.
Later, when the two puppies were rough-housing, an adult dog came over and - if I'm interpreting this right - disciplined Puppy #2. The adult chased #2 off of #1 and without even touching him intimidated him enough to get a big submissive grin, frightened eyes, and two or three whine-yelps out of him. Puppy #2's back was against a rock, and after that the adult dog left him alone, and Puppy #2 left Puppy #1 alone.
So is it possible that #2 is responding to something "off" in Puppy #1? Is Puppy #2 just a big bully? Or are they fine and I should stop worrying about it?