Understand How to Stop Rough Play in Dogs - Causes & Prevention

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Rough Play

Why Dogs Play Rough

When puppies play with other animals, or other people, and they get all rough and crazy this type of behavior does not seem to be much of a problem; instead little rough puppies are often quite cute. However it’s not so cute when puppies become bigger dogs and they play too rough with other dogs and other people; sometimes they can even cause injury or fights.

Causes of Rough Play

If you have a dog that plays rough, chances are it is due to one of the following four causes:

  • your dog has become overexcited
  • your dog learned to play rough from other dogs
  • your dog learned to play rough from people
  • your dog is trying to dominate a play situation

Younger dogs, and dogs that are unaware of their own strength, sometimes become over excited when they are playing and they get too rough. If you notice that your dog is becoming too rough when he or she plays with other dogs or people, than your dog needs a time out.

Dogs can also pick up rough play behavior from other dogs and people. If a puppy plays with older, larger, dogs then the puppy will learn quickly to play rough in order to keep up with the other dogs. People can also accidentally, or purposefully, teach dogs to play rough. If your dog has learned this type of behavior from dogs or other people, it is important to nip this behavior in the bud before it gets out of control.

Dogs that play rough because they want to dominate the situation are not really playing. The play has ceased to become a game and has become a dominance issue; this type of situation can spiral out of control fast. Dogs that are trying to dominant a play situation will start to growl and bite in a non-playful manner. If this occurs, the dog should be carefully removed from the situation immediately.

Training Tips to Prevent Rough Play

Playing rough is a type of behavior in dogs that can accelerate quickly into a potentially dangerous situation. It is important that this type of behavior is prevented, and if it develops it should be stopped as quickly as possible. Here are a few helpful things that you can do to prevent your dog from playing rough.

Rough playing behavior is often behavior that is learned from other dogs or people. If your dog is learning rough play behavior from other dogs, you will need to remove your dog from this situation. If dogs become rough while they play they need to be separated immediately. Dogs in large groups will also engage in increasingly rough behavior. Keep your dog away from large groups of dogs; it is best to keep dogs at play in groups of no more than three.

Prevent your dog from rough playing behavior by playing gently with your dog. Never encourage behavior where your dog is ‘playing’ by attacking your hand, arm, or leg. This type of physical behavior can quickly get out of control; or your dog may accidentally end up harming a smaller person or child. Use a toy instead of yourself for play, and discourage any rough play between you and your dog.

Dogs are a lot like children, and sometime their play gets out of control. A game with a toy suddenly becomes a fight, or someone gets a little nippy and then someone else gets mad, or they just get over excited. If you notice your dog becoming over excited and out of control stop the play. Give your dog a small time out and try to calm the dog down.

Sometimes rough play develops out of dominance issues. Spaying, and especially neutering, your dog early in life will prevent a lot of these dominance issues from developing. Keeping play groups down to a minimum will also help to stop dominance issues from causing rough play.

Other techniques include

  • Avoid direct physical contact play, and instead direct your dog’s mouthing behavior to a ball, stick, or frisbee
  • Enroll your dog in a good obedience school; one that trains based on rewards rather than focuses on punishment. This will not only provide him with another avenue for socialization, but will provide you with the tools to ensure you have control over his behavior.
  • The use of a head halter may also be of help.
Rough Play guide

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