I have a little dog and a big dog who only seem to like to play together. Is it okay to put them together in the one big pen?

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Having separate sections for small dogs and large dogs can be a good idea, because many dogs do become overwhelmed when crowded by a group of dogs or when other dogs are engaged in fast-paced play.

Don’t put them together in one big pen because:

• The bigger dog might be protective of the smaller one and, hence, try to “stick up” for it, engaging in a fight.
• Dogs tend to play and even roughhouse a little—but playfulness can quickly turn into aggression, and small dogs are particularly vulnerable; for example, if the smaller dog is being chased, it could be that she’s being seen as prey.
• The little one might be bullied by the larger ones. Mounting is one form of bully behavior, with one dog showing another that he (or she) is boss. A little dog might be too intimidated to “tell it off.”

Your dogs may seem inseparable, but to make sure they behave around others:

• Give your dog some interaction with other dogs at a very early age. Puppies eight weeks and older can start being around other dogs in social situations, such as at a dog park.
• Enroll your dog in an obedience class. This is a great way to expose your dog to other dogs and people, and the trainer will also teach your dog proper behaviors around other dogs.
• Introduce your dog to other dogs in areas where neither dog will feel territorial, such as a local park.
• Praise and treat when appropriate: Positive reinforcement is the best training method for teaching your dog to behave around other dogs. Punishment can lead to worse behaviors, including increased aggression around dogs and people.
• On the other hand, separate and distract your dog immediately if you see aggressive behavior, such as growling, teeth baring, etc. When the dog calms down, bring it back in the park and treat and praise when it plays nicely with the others.

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