A group of dogs playing together will wrestle, nip and growl at one another. They’ll even bark at you or their doggie playmates. It’s perfectly normal and an acceptable part of the canine kingdom.
Yet, sometimes things get a little out of hand.
How do you know the difference between playing and aggression?
Part of it is knowing your dog. Pay attention to your dog’s body language. Does your pet wag his tail when he greets others and performs “play bow” when it’s play time? (“Play bow” is rear in the air and forearms on the ground).
According to a study cited by The Bark.com, playing dogs will demonstrate bouncy movements and play bow after a nip or other movement that might be interpreted as aggressive. It’s when the play turns aggressive without a break that you need to be concerned.
Here’s a classic example.
Let’s say you take your dog to the dog park and there’s a happy group romping together. Then, a newer dog comes in that seems friendly enough at the outset but it’s not long before the new dog has a smaller dog’s head in his mouth – and the little one is whimpering.
That’s not good.
The newer dog’s owner should distract her dog and –using her judgment—do what it takes to get her dog to let go of the little dog and then take her dog away.
If your dog is habitually aggressive around people or other animals, you’ll do well to get professional help. Some dog trainers specialize in aggressive dogs and can work with you and your dog. The last thing you want is a lawsuit.
Of course, mild tempered pups get to have more fun. Unless your pet has serious aggression issues, here are three ways to keep your pet fun-loving.
1–Spay or Neuter Your Dog – Dogs use playtime as a form of dominance. When your dog isn’t “fixed”—especially males—their instincts may turn aggressive because their hormones are strong.
2—Don’t Roughhouse with Them – Tug of war, wrestling, these are aggressive games that teach your dog that rough is ok. It may be ok with you but not for other members of your family or strangers. What if your dog decides to “play rough” with your visiting niece or nephew? That could be a disaster.
3—Watch Your Dog—If your dog starts baring teeth or the play grow turns serious, pull him or her out of the play arena. A time out for 10-15 minutes can help your dog calm down.
If you know your dog doesn’t play well with others, obviously don’t take them to dog parks or invite them to say “hi” to other dogs when on walks. Bared teeth and lunging is not a sign of play.
Where have you encountered rough play turn to aggression in dogs?