Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
What Influences a Puppy's Personality?
Puppy play can be cute to watch, but some owners may wonder whether rough or aggressive puppy play is normal. Defining "normal" can be a bit of a challenge because not all puppies behave the same.
There are many variances among dogs, and these variances include breed, age, and temperament (or personality) as described below:
- Breed: Some breeds may be more persistent and rough in their play style, while others may be gentle.
- Age: As puppies grow, their play generally becomes more and more intense.
- Temperament: Even within a litter of puppies of the same breed, you will have a wide variety of energy levels and temperaments.
Why Physical Punishment Is Never Okay
It's important for puppy owners to recognize when puppies are playing versus being aggressive. Misinterpreting normal puppy play may cause owners to punish the puppy, especially when the play-biting is directed towards small children.
Physical punishment like alpha rolls, tapping the puppy on the nose, or holding the puppy's muzzle shut only causes fear and distrust and may lead to defensive aggression. There are several reward-based ways to train puppies to inhibit their biting so that they can redirect on appropriate games and toys.
Old techniques such as grabbing the puppy's muzzle, giving him a shake, yelling "no" or pinning the puppy down have been shown to possibly make matters worse! These types of reprimands can be interpreted as an act of aggression by the puppy. In many cases, reprimands can escalate the problem and turn a normal behavior into an aggressive one.
— Linda White
What Is Normal Play Behavior in Puppies?
Some normal puppy play behavior includes chasing and pouncing on a butterfly or chasing the tail, but puppy play often involves other characteristics that may be perceived as aggressive. Barking, growling, snapping, and biting are all behaviors that puppies may exhibit during normal play.
Identifying Aggression or Play via Meta-Signals
A good way to determine whether or not a puppy is being aggressive or playing is by carefully observing behavior during play.
When puppies and dogs play, they exhibit meta-signals. Meta-signals are employed as a form of meta-communication, a term used by anthropologist Gregory Bateson who referred to it as "communication about communication." It's basically the puppy's or dog's way of informing others that although rough or aggressive looking, they are simply engaging in play.
Meta-Communication in Humans
Humans are quite experienced at using meta-communication. A common example is joking. When joking, we will say a sentence in such a way as to help the receiver understand that what is being said is not to be taken seriously. Perhaps we may use an ironic tone of voice or smile as we make our statement. Should the person on the receiving end still misinterpret things, we can always reassure him or her by saying something like "Hey, I'm just joking!"
The Challenges of Interspecies Communication
In order to prevent miscommunication, humans and dogs must be savvy in social skills. The sender must know how to use meta-communication, and the receiver must know how to interpret it. It is easy to see how things can get blurry when communicating with a different species, which is why puppy owners may end up thinking that their puppy is being aggressive rather than simply playful.
Normal vs. Aggressive Dog Behavior
|Normal Play||Aggressive Behavior|
Loose Body Posture
Stiff Body Posture
Behavior Evoked by Play
Behavior Evoked by Triggers
Lunging Forward Aggressively
Video: Play Signals in Dogs
What Signals Do Puppies Use to Indicate Play?
- The Play Bow: The most popular meta-signal universally used among well-socialized puppies and dogs is the "play bow," where the dog lowers the front legs while keeping his rump in the air. In this posture, the tail wags widely side-to-side and the pup may emit a high-pitched bark. Play bows are not always evident; puppies may sometimes briefly dip their bodies down several times in what I like to call "micro play bows."
- Miscellaneous Behaviors: Other behaviors that are meant to communicate play are high-pitched barks and growls, tail wags (although not all tail wags are friendly), back and forth darting, and the presentation of the side of the body.
- Play Triggers: Play, of course, presents itself during play-evoking situations. The puppy may start playing when something attracts him through movement (leaves blown by the wind, a ball bounced on the floor, the owner's pant legs or shoelaces, or the owner's hands and feet). Play, too, often takes place after meals; I like to call this display the "postprandial zoomies."
How Do I Stop My Puppy From Playing Too Rough?
Puppy play can get quite rough and intense at times. It's important to realize that pups do not realize the strength of their jaws and how much those needle-like teeth hurt. Some cases can be particularly challenging to tackle.
Puppies sometimes have a hard time learning when to stop and will continue to nip and bite. It's important to tackle rough play correctly without resorting to punishment-based techniques (which will only build distrust and fear and can lead to further problems). Here are several tips to tackle rough puppy play:
1. Train Them to Bite Softly
It's important not to eliminate biting completely because puppy owners need to teach puppies basic bite inhibition. This way, should the dog ever decide to bite, he will apply light pressure. Most owners will have ample opportunities to teach bite inhibition because puppies tend to be persistent biters.
If your puppy starts biting hard when you are playing, it's important to teach them that this is not the way you want them to interact with you. You can do so by following these steps:
- Freeze. Right when you feel the pressure of his teeth, freeze and stop in your tracks.
- Yelp. You may or may not decide to emit a verbal marker such as a high-pitched yelp-like sound or an "ouch" the moment you feel the pressure of the teeth. Not all puppies will respond well to yelping, and in some cases, the yelping may arouse the puppy even more!
- Disengage. Turn around and give your back to your pup with your hands folded under your arms in order to discourage any further play. This is meant to inform the puppy that he is biting too hard and that you are withdrawing from play.
Was the Outcome Positive or Negative?
- For Positive Interactions: If the puppy seems to respond well and engages in more gentle mouthing/licking, it's good to provide encouraging feedback with a verbal marker like "yes!" and more play.
- For Negative Interactions: If the puppy keeps on biting and doesn't respond well to the "ouch," then simply leave the room (some dog owners add a verbal marker like "too bad") and shut the door behind you. Leave the pup alone for a few seconds to "reflect." Then, once back, try playing again and praise the pup for a soft mouth; repeat leaving the room as necessary.
- Alternate Response for Negative Interactions: Alternatively, the puppy can be escorted into a time-out zone such as inside a crate, X-Pen, or behind a baby gate to calm down. These time-out zones are not for punishment and should be pleasant areas for the pup to relax with a chew toy and nap.
Important Note: Grasping the puppy by the collar to take him to a time-out zone versus using the leash tab may encourage puppies to become reactive to collar grabs (unless puppy owners are diligent about working on giving a treat every time they grab on the collar to create a positive association).
2. Reduce the Frequency of Biting
As your puppy learns some bite inhibition, it's time to reduce the frequency of biting. This is best done by preventing the rehearsal of problematic biting and redirection and by training alternate behaviors. Remember: All the interactions between you and your puppy (and between the pup and other family members) are opportunities for learning. To make the most of your training, it's a good idea to keep a full treat bag attached to your waist (you can use a portion of your puppy's kibble for training) and a few toys in your pocket so that you are never caught unprepared.
When time is lacking or you are not in the mood for training, keep your puppy in a crate, X-Pen, or behind a baby gate with a safe chew toy to prevent the rehearsal of problematic behaviors. If you do not wish to use these suggestions, make sure your puppy has access to interactive toys so that he makes good choices instead of using your body and clothes as tug toys.
3. Redirect the Biting
The more your puppy bites you and enjoys this way of interacting with you, the more he will seek out biting opportunities. Again, don't let your puppy view you as his favorite tug toy. The best way to tackle rough biting is by preventing biting opportunities from occurring in the first place.
Techniques for Discouraging Biting in Puppies
If you are walking and your puppy tries to bite your ankles, feet, or pant legs, immediately turn into a lamppost. Puppies are attracted to movement and lampposts are boring, which is why you never see puppies interacting with them.
Offer Alternate Behaviors
Provide your puppy with an alternate behavior to focus on so that you won't be walking and dragging them while they are latched onto your pants. You have plenty of choices here.
Make Them Work
Ask your puppy to perform obedience exercises ("sit" or "down"), praise lavishly, and reward by tossing a piece of kibble across the room at a distance.
Give Them a "Time Out"
Have a helper call your puppy and give your puppy an interactive toy to play with (stuffed Kong, Kong Wobbler) inside a crate for a pleasant "time out." Many pups who persist in biting are often cranky and just need some downtime or a nap.
If your puppy hasn't mastered fluent obedience skills, redirect your puppy's attention by tossing a bouncing ball across the room or by offering an interactive toy (stuffed Kong, Kong Wobbler filled with kibble).
Teach your puppy to have fun tearing up paper towels, toilet paper rolls, or shredding empty tissue boxes versus biting you. When your puppy is about to bite, offer him these things to tear apart and give praise. Use caution and avoid this game with puppies that tend to ingest stuff.
Use a Decoy
Use a flirt pole (or a stuffed toy tied onto a rope) and let your puppy play with that, then start walking and reward your puppy with treats every time he mouths the toy rather than your legs.
Teach Bite Inhibition
Play some fun bite-inhibition puppy games that keep the pup's focus off of biting hands. Tug is a great game for this.
Games shouldn't be so long that the pup gets overly excited, frustrated, or tired. It's best to alternate games with some obedience exercises to keep from going overboard.
Do Not Punish
Avoid any punishment-based techniques as they can potentially cause distrust and fear in some pups or even aggression. Loud noises such as using an air horn or shaking a can with coins may scare a pup and pave the path towards noise phobias in sensitive dogs.
Provide a frozen and wet, knotted washcloth to help teething puppies.
At What Age Should Rough Play Stop?
Ideally, you want your puppy to learn to be more gentle with his mouth before he is five months old. At this time, your puppy will have a much stronger jaw, and with doggy adolescence right around the corner, you will want to resolve this issue. However, it is essential to continue bite-inhibition exercises throughout your dog's life. Keep training your dog to take treats gently and keep brushing your dog's teeth. Otherwise, with lack of maintenance exercises, your dog's bite-inhibition training will begin to drift as he grows older.
Play-biting is very frequently misinterpreted by owners, especially those with small children. They fail to understand the communication that is going on around play and assume that the biting is an act of aggression.
— Jon Bowen, Sarah Heath
What Causes a Puppy to Be Aggressive?
Although pups love to play and interact with their owners and other dogs, there may be times when a puppy is not really playing but actually engaging in aggressive behavior. Although the occurrence of serious aggression problems in young puppies is rare (most problems are seen when dogs approach the adolescent stage and adulthood), it's best to nip any potential problems in the bud.
Most aggressive behavior is provoked by specific circumstances or exposure to certain triggers. The most common reasons why puppies engage in aggressive behaviors is because they are either resource guarding an object, reacting out of fear, defending themselves, or responding to pain.
If the puppy emits a deep and guttural growl with a fixed stare as you approach him when he has a toy, food, bone, or other item he perceives to be valuable, chances are he may be resource guarding. Nipping this behavior in the bud is important to prevent rehearsal and to prevent the behavior from persisting into adulthood.
Fear or Self-Defense
Many puppies that are labeled as aggressive bullies are really just fearful pups. Some puppies become aggressive to get themselves out of a sticky situation that they perceive as frightening or threatening. For instance, a puppy may bite if cornered and wishes not to be picked up by a child. Puppies punished for biting due to rough play may also switch from playing to defensive aggression.
Puppies may also bite when they are not comfortable in certain situations, such as having their feet handled or when they are restrained. Exposing puppies to grooming and handling routines and pairing them with positive happenings can help prevent the onset of fear-related aggression.
When to See a Professional
Anytime a puppy reacts aggressively, it's a good idea to have the puppy seen by a vet to make sure that the puppy is not in pain. If the puppy is found to be healthy, a referral to a credentialed professional such as a veterinary behaviorist or a dog behavior consultant (specializing in positive behavior modification methods) may be necessary.
- Behaviour Problems in Small Animals: Practical Advice for the Veterinary Team by Jon Bowen, Sarah Heath
- First Steps with Puppies and Kittens: A Practice-Team Approach to Behavior by Linda White (Author), Lisa Radosta DVM DACVB (Editor)
- Akc Star Puppy by Mary Burch, PhD
© 2018 Adrienne Farricelli
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on August 27, 2018:
I hear ya.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2018:
This is really important information for all puppy owners to know. Thanks for writing this. It has been a long time since we have had a puppy. I do remember the feel of those sharp puppy teeth when they are playing. Will be very happy to share this information with others who are dealing with puppies. Good behavior must be reinforced early because puppies grow up fast.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 25, 2018:
I certainly agree Alexander. With positive reinforcement you get solid results without all the "side effects" associated with punishment-based techniques.
Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on August 25, 2018:
Positive reinforcement seems to work better than punishment in my experience.
Your dog is a loving, adoring little creature with nothing but kisses and cuddling on his mind, but when meeting other dogs he/she seems to get aggressive, protective and or territorial. Sound familiar? Well you’re not alone! It’s very disheartening when you know your dog is the most happy-go-lucky dog in the world towards people, but becomes abnormally aggressive when introduced to new dogs. Well, don’t worry, I’ve been there and first thing you should know about dogs is that they are going to be dogs!
Dogs are going to act like dogs no matter how sweet, kind, nice or properly trained. This is what every new owner or disgruntled owner should try and understand before making rash judgments or decisions regarding their canines. With that said, if your dog is acting aggressive towards other people, not just dogs, this is not a typical dog attribute and you should definitely seek professional training to remedy the problem.
My dog is a lab/chow mix and considers everyone she meets her new best friend. It is a very distinct lab like behavior that she is so happy, playful and excited to meet anyone and everyone new. As a puppy she had this same attitude towards other dogs as well, just wanting to play and get to know them. But, when she was about 1 year old, she began to display aggressive behavior around other dogs. I attribute this to no fault of my own, as I had consistently taken her to the dog park, introduced her to new dogs, walked her daily and even had her enrolled in a 6 week training program.
It was during the training program when I began to see her act differently. I have to say, the first time I saw her growl I was completely distraught. Where did my happy little puppy go? If you’ve experienced a situation that is similar, you know that other people automatically assume your dog is a bad seed, when in fact you know that isn’t the case. So, what is the case then?
During the training course, she began to display aggression towards the other dogs in the class. She didn’t bite any of them, but would growl a little if they came to close. According to the trainer, this must be a “scared phase” that she is going through some dogs do in fact go through a transition phase where they are timid, scared and unsure about other canines around them.
It turned out, that wasn’t the case at all. She is just a very territorial dog, who needs to be introduced to new dogs carefully. It isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t look at it as such if you have a dog and are wrestling with a similar problem. It is simply, as I said before, all part of a dog being a dog. I bet you’re just biting at the chomp for me to tell you how I solved this problem for good? Well, here it goes, a proper set of steps to take when introducing your dog to other unfamiliar dogs:
- Go to a “neutral” place, outside preferably. Walk the dogs side by side, go to a park, or meet somewhere outside where there are few distractions and both dogs will be somewhat comfortable. Make sure they are both on leashes and tighten their collars!
- Remain calm. Your anxiety can and will be transferred to your dog. If you can’t handle the pressure, then ask someone who you trust who is comfortable dealing with the situation to go in your place.
- Be observant of the dogs and decide which one is more dominant. You may already be aware of the more dominant dog in fact, if your dog is aggressive when meeting others it is likely your dog that prefers to be dominant. But, that isn’t always the case, so just observe the dogs while keeping them on the leash and make a logical decision based on their first initial site of each other.
- Put the least dominant dog on it’s back and let the other dog come up to it and sniff, prod and peruse him/her.
After this, they should be ready to tolerate each other. I recommend walking them side by side for a ways, to ensure that they are comfortable with each other. Cesar Millan is an incredible dog trainer who specifically works with aggressive dogs and channeling their energy into positive dog behavior. You might have seen his show, The Dog Whisperer, but his, Cesar’s Way, book is incredible and I have really learned a lot from reading it.
Good luck helping your dog adjust to new doggies and just remember that it will take time and patience!
How to Tell if a Dog is Being Aggressive
I have clients all the time who ask me if their dog is being aggressive assume some dominate behavior is “cute” or think their dog is being aggressive when playing with other dogs when he is not being aggressive and is just playing. Any dog has the potential to be aggressive. Genetics, personality, socialization, home environment, obedience training, and the current situation all attribute or dissuade from aggressive behaviors. Please note it is very important not to subscribe to breed stereotypes (see Pit Bull article) as “aggressive” breeds can be (and usually are) very sweet and “sweet” breeds can be aggressive.
It can be very difficult and complicated to diagnose aggression! This article is just meant as a basic introduction. I strongly encourage anyone that has a dog that shows signs of aggression – or if you just don’t know – to contact a professional. There are many nuances that just cannot be adequately discussed in any single article.
Part of the complexity lies in the fact there are several different types of dog aggression (territorial, fear, food, dominate, predatory, sexual, etc) and some normal socialization can look aggressive (some growling, biting, jumping, barking, etc). Frequent socialization and training can attribute greatly to limiting or eliminating aggression. However, noticing the signs of aggression is very important. Dominance, assertiveness and fear (defense) can all lead to aggression and are the most obvious and potentially dangerous types of aggression.
Note: Other aggressive dog behaviors, including territorial aggression, predatory aggression and sexual aggression should not be ignored and also need to be addressed. Additionally food/toy aggression can be very dangerous especially for children and must be attended to.
Some Signs of Dominant Aggression
First of all, if you think your dog might be aggressive, do not “test” your dog at a dog park where you don’t know the other dogs and the other dogs and owners don’t know your dog. If he is aggressive, not only do you risk hurting your dog, yourself, someone else, or another dog, you also risk a lawsuit. Call a professional and work with them to test, and if necessary, address any aggressive behaviors.
Signs of dominant behavior include blocking people’s/dog’s path barging through doors demanding attention protecting of sleep area stopping eating when approached mounting legs or other dogs approaching another dog from the side and putting his head on the other dogs back/shoulder inserting himself between you and another person or dog (e.g. when you and your significant other hug) and lunging at people. Any one item may not turn into a big deal, but should be monitored. If you are comfortable, you should discourage dominant behavior with training and diversions so your dog will look to you for direction.
Furthermore, intact males are most likely to be dominant aggressive. If you are not going to breed your dog, get him or her fixed! Not only to help reduce the likelihood of dominant behaviors, but to also keep the unwanted pet population down.
Recognize when dominant behavior crosses the line to aggression as dominant-aggressive dogs are dangerous. The signs of a dominant and aggressive dog include staring excessive low-range barking snarling growling and snapping standing tall holding ears erect and/or carrying tail high and moving it stiffly from side to side. However, beware, often a dominant aggressive dog will give no sign before biting. Remember that a dominant-aggressive dog is likely to attack retreat without running.
Some Signs of Fear Aggression
Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of a defensive-aggressive dog, which are more ambivalent and difficult to predict. A defensive dog will display submissive body language. Look for ears held back avoidance of eye contact lowered head and body tail tucked between legs and submissive urination. Be aware that defensive-aggressive dogs dislike being touched and will bite out of fear.
Only train with an aggressive dog under the guidance of a professional trainer and remember that staring down an aggressive dog, punishing, attempting to remove food or a toy, and touching or grabbing the dog or its collar can result in a dog attack.
Dog to Dog Aggression
There is people aggression (dog aggression towards people) and dog to dog agression. I want to talk a little about dog to dog aggression. Some signs of dog to dog aggression include:
- Direct eye contact
- Raised hackles
- Pricked ears
- Teeth exposed toward the other dog
Play bow, growling and barking is fine if the dogs body language is still relaxed, however, humping is a sign of dominance. It can be okay as dogs occasionally need to workout their own social ladder (at home), but it does need to be monitored and should not become excessive. With two dogs displaying dominance, you need to closely monitor them and they should work it out.
Dog Park Etiquette
There is no place for aggressive behavior at a dog park. Dogs DO NOT need to “work out their social ladder” at a dog park. I hear people say all the time – they will work it out. Why do they need to? Why risk it? You should take a dog to a dog park to play, and playing does not require a social ladder. If your dog shows aggressive behavior, remove your dog. If another dog is being aggressive towards your dog, remove your dog. You might just be able to go to another part of the park with different dogs, but if the behavior continues, leave and come back another day.
Additionally, one dog being chased by many dogs is not okay at a dog park. The dogs can get into a pack mentality and bite the dog being chased. If your dog is the one being chased, remove your dog from the situation. If your dog is one of the dogs doing the chasing, call your dog and have him play with some other dogs. One dog being chased by one other dog is fine – if neither looks aggressive or scared. This is especially true if they change roles on occasion.
Speaking of role reversal, when dogs are at play role reversal is a very good sign. For example, when one dog is being chased and then he becomes the chaser. Another sign of good play is if a bigger, or stronger, or more agile dog “handicaps” himself to pay with a smaller, weaker or less agile dog. This is a very good socialization behavior. An example is when a large dog lays down and plays with a puppy.
Also a good sign at play is when dogs will self monitor themselves. This is where two dogs will play and then both stop at the same time and sniff around or get a drink. Dogs do this when they are playing well and things are getting rough or they want a break. If both dogs stop – good. If one dog trys to stop and the other dog keeps going – bad.
Obsessive behavior is also bad. We have all seen at a dog park where for some reason one dog is just obsessed with another dog. He will not play with any other dogs, and will not leave the dog he/she is obsessing over alone. If you experience this, remove your dog (if he is the one being obsessive or if he is the one being obsessed over), the situation is likely to escalate if you do not.
I write a lot about about two dogs playing with each other. Really, in almost all situations, that is all that should play with each other at a time. If there are lots of dogs, they can change partners, but usually three or more dogs do not play well together. Usually one dog ends up being picked on.
How to Prevent the Problem
Even if a dog is genetically inclined to be aggressive (rare), a good training program and socialization can almost always mange or resolve the behavior. There’s no surefire way to prevent aggression, but there are basic steps you can take to greatly decrease the chances your dog will develop a problem:
- Socialize your puppy. Arrange supervised play dates with other pups and encourage interaction with well-mannered adult dogs who can teach your puppy how to behave.
- Neuter or spay your dog as early as possible. This will greatly reduce hormone-driven aggression.
- Always treat your dog with kindness and respect, using positive reinforcement to train. Physical correction, intimidation, and isolation only encourage aggression by adding to a dog’s anxiety.
Bottom line: Dog-dog aggression is treatable but nearly always requires the help of a trained professional (and lifelong vigilance). Doing everything you can to prevent it in the first place is a much better option.
Lack of training and socialization is almost always the cause for either people or dog aggression. It is so important the dog understands you are the leader. As I said in other articles, I do not subscribe to the need to “dominate” most dogs. Most dogs will understand you are the leader if you just lead. The problem is, many people don’t know how to lead their dog or what their dog needs. Instead they attribute human emotion to the dog – and dog’s are not human and do not process the world the same way that humans do. If you think your dog might be showing any signs of aggressive or dominant behaviors, please contact a dog trainer. A good dog trainer will teach you how to work with your dog and through simple exercises and obedience training show your dog you are the leader and that he or she can trust you!
Puppy Annoying Old Dog With Playful Behavior
I have a thirteen-year-old male Boston Terrier and a four-month-old female Boston Terrier. The older dog, Higgins, seems to accept the puppy, Tessa, most of the time, except for when she wants to play with him. He does not like for her to run at him or jump on him.
Higgins has arthritis and is very, very calm until she begins her playfulness. He will bark at her (and sometime snap at her) to warn her to back off and let her know that he is boss. However, she doesn”t seem to learn that she should leave him alone and will come back in a couple of minutes. A lot of times she is just standing too close to him, and he doesn’t like that either.
My questions are: Which one do I correct? Do I correct the puppy for being playful and inquisitive? Do I correct Higgins for being so crabby? How do I make the corrections? My fear is that he will become aggressive, and much worse, that he will teach her to become aggressive.
Love your show, and I look forward to attending your seminar.
Thank you for your help,
This is a different situation than most of the cases on my show, because your dogs don’t have issues. It is simply a difference in age and therefore, in energy levels. What you need to do is drain the puppy’s energy through exercise before it joins the older dog.
Until she passes this stage, don’t allow the puppy to be around the older dog until later in the day, maybe 1 or 2 o’clock, after you’ve drained some of her energy. I would suggest bringing the puppy to a place where she can meet with other puppies or adolescent dogs. They will be vibrating on her frequency and better understand and match her behavior. Once the puppy is tired out by her new mates, it’s time to put her with the older dog. Be sure to monitor her. If her intensity escalates, take her out of the situation and wait until her energy is drained again before reintroducing her to the older dog.
Do not correct the puppy for being playful and inquisitive. This will create instability and make a dog feel lost or unsure. She’s doing what she’s supposed to: being a balanced, playful puppy. You can’t correct something that is natural she just wants direction. In a pack of dogs, the senior dogs don’t raise puppies the adolescent and the adults do. The seniors stay away from them. Learn from the masters — the dogs themselves!
If you exercise the puppy and allow the puppy to interact with dogs that match her state of mind before bringing her around the older dog, you’re not going to have a problem. He’s not being aggressive he’s just asking for his space. You are right. If you don’t provide right solution, he can teach her to be aggressive with others dogs as a way to solve problems. That’s a good observation, and I hope you continue to follow your obvious common sense!
Is My Dog Playing or Being Aggressive?
The dog park is a wonderland for canines and dog lovers alike. The pups get to burn energy and play while the humans can mingle with like minded doggie parents. ItвЂ™s a foolproof scenario, right?
Well, almost. Our tail-wagging babies love to play, but sometimes it can go too far, turning into aggression.В
Rough-housing is normal and healthy for dogs, whether theyвЂ™re growling at each other, lunging, wrestling or even biting- itвЂ™s all part of how they play.
Sometimes though, the lines are blurred when it comes to distinguishing between what is friendly and what is fighting.В
How can you tell the difference between playing and aggression?
First, you need to know the distinct signs of aggression.
How does your pup act out when stressed? Are you noticing any of the following warnings?
- The Snarl: When the dog lifts the lip to bare teeth, just before a growl or bite, this is called snarling. This is a definite sign of aggression, not play.
- The Growl: Dogs do growl while playing, but there are two ways to tell different growls apart. An aggressive growl will be accompanied by snarling and snapping, while a playful growl is just a sound, accompanied by relaxed body movements (no tension).
- The Freeze: A sure sign of stress is when a dogвЂ™s body вЂњfreezesвЂќ or goes rigid with stiff legs.
- The Stare-off: If a dog is intently staring at another dog without breaking eye contact and following that dog around, this is an indication of stalking.
How Can You Prevent Aggression at the Dog Park?
If you wish to sign your fur baby up for doggie daycare or you want to start bringing her to the dog park, but youвЂ™re worried about aggressive behavior, you can take action to help her feel less anxiety.
Making socialization a priority from an early age is vital for dogs to get them used to being in unfamiliar environments, meeting unfamiliar pets and people.
Socialization can be implemented in two ways:
- Take your dog to the park and keep her on a leash for the first few visits so she can sniff around and meet other dogs at a slow, controlled pace.
- Enroll your dog in a training program that will help her build confidence and learn to listen to and trust your commands.
Remember, dog parks are full of new sounds, sights and smells. ItвЂ™s a sensory overload that can be overwhelming!
Staying consistent with socialization is key to helping your dog relax and handle stress calmly.В
Reduce hormone-driven aggression by having your dog spayed or neutered.
Keep a vigilant eye on your dog by correcting bad behavior firmly, but also with positive reinforcement.