Rough Play in Dogs

Dogs That Play too Rough

Dogs and puppies love to play. If you've ever watched two dogs playing together, there are a number of ways that they interact. Chasing, mouthing, play biting, and body contact are very common. Some dogs play more gently than others. In general, dogs that know each other have learned what is acceptable play. If they are too rough, their playmate will give a range of signals that say 'chill out' or even 'enough, I'm not playing with you anymore.'

It's different when people play with dogs. We humans don't have the thicker skin and coat that protects dogs from puppy teeth and over rambunctiouos play. We also don't know how to speak dog, so when they start to get too rough, we either don't give any signals to tone it down, or we give the wrong signals and actually encourage the dog to continue or escalate the roughness.

Part of our job as dog parents is teaching our dogs how to play appropriately with people. There are several ways to approach play with a dog that likes to play rough.

  • Use toys. For dogs that like to grab hands, feet or cloths with their mouth, use a stuffed toy or tug rope. Don't encourage them to grab at you, teach them to go for the toy. Done correctly, Tug is actually a great game for teaching dogs to learn to control themselves.
  • Teach an alternative behavior. For dogs that like to jump on you or body slam, teach a solid sit or down and use it stop the dog before they get close enough to hit you. Then offer an appropriate, alternative type of play.
  • Stop the play. If the dog just won't stop playing rough, walk away. A good rule of thumb is 'three strikes and you're out.' Give your dog a chance to play properly. When they start to get too rough, stop, let them know verbally with an 'ow' or other cue. If they back off, resume the game, at a lower intensity. If they keep coming back too rough, stop. They lose the opportunity to play with you for a while. The consequence of playing too rough is losing the interaction altogether.

Of course, it's easy to say this, but sometimes hard to implement. If you need help, I would love to help you with your pet's training needs. Check out our classes!

Thank you,

Judy Seils and Ruby

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Judy Seils

Judy Seils has over 20 years of experience working with dogs and cats in the most stressful of environments, the veterinary clinic. During that time, she taught dog training classes and helped clients with behavior issues. She trained and competed with two of her dogs, Dreamer and Shiloh, in flyball, and coached other teammates in training their dogs. Judy also had fun working with Dreamer and Shiloh in freestyle.

Though currently dogless, Judy is clicker training her calico cat, Ruby who is keeping her humble as they work on such behaviors as sit, beg, give me five, wearing a harness and others. Cats are definitely harder to train than dogs, but also fun to work with.

Judy loves using her knowledge to help other people train their dogs and cats.

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Last updated 30.7.2022