Is Your Dog Really Playing Too Rough?
It isn’t always easy to tell the difference between good play and bad play. Dogs play with their paws, bodies, and mouths, and growling and biting can be a part of the fun.
Dogs have a way of communicating with each other that tells others when they’re having fun and when they’re being serious. Humans don’t always pick up on these subtle cues, and what looks like a fight to the death could be two friends having a good time.
The issue comes in, however, when that balance is shifted. As soon as one dog stops having fun, there’s a risk of the situation getting out of control. All dogs are different, and all dogs have different play styles – therefore all dogs WILL react differently. You’ll even find dogs at the park that enjoy being tackled to the ground. But if your puppy is playing in a way that makes another dog scared or nervous, there’s potential for a fight.
Here are a few ways to tell your dog is taking playtime too seriously.
- Quick, efficient movements with no bouncing around
- Closed mouth or curled lip
- Pinned ears
- Body stiffness
- The other dog attempts to get away
If you observe any of these behaviors during your dog’s playtime, there’s a chance the situation could escalate into dangerous territory and you need to calm the situation down.
How To Teach Your Dog To Play Nice
The best way to ensure a dog learns how to play appropriately is to socialize him from a young age. Puppies teach each other what works during playtime and what doesn’t. When something hurts, they yelp. When a playmate does something they don’t like, they let them know. This kind of trial and error is essential for dogs to figure out how to interact with others. If your pup is already past this point, don’t worry.
Start With a Foundation of Obedience
Having a good, solid foundation of obedience will be the difference between chasing your dog through the park and using your voice to call him to you. You won’t directly address his issue with playing at first, but obedience is an invaluable part of the process. Before you let your dog loose to play with others, you need to be confident in his training. A good dog trainer can help with this.
Will he remember his recall when he’s distracted by other dogs? Will he still listen to you when all he wants to do is tackle every dog in sight? If the answer is no, it’s time to take a break from the park while you focus on reinforcing obedience.
Stop it Before it Starts
When you’re at the park and Buster or Fido or Fluffy is playing with another dog, it’s your job to closely observe what’s happening. You need to stop rough play before it actually happens. To do this, you should be an expert in your pup’s body language. When you see signs he’s getting overly excited or aggressive, that’s your cue to step in and calm him down.
Sometimes those signs include stiff body movements, low growling, or a fixated intensity. If that doesn’t work, you can also look at what your dog isn’t doing. Play bows are a good sign everyone’s having fun, and dogs that are playing well together usually bounce around with their tongues flying out of their mouths. Every dog plays differently, however, so you’ll need to learn what’s “normal” for your dog and stop their playing as soon as things get too intense. The goal is for him to learn getting overly excited results in a timeout.