Play is an essential part of the canine learning experience. It’s good for dogs to romp and rampage with each other. But when play becomes too rough, things can turn nasty. It’s essential to supervise play in the early stages of a relationship between two dogs to ensure that boundaries are observed. If play turns aggressive, your job is to intervene and correct the behavior. Over time, your dog will learn that rough behavior leads to play ending early.
Learning Your Dog's Play Habits
Observe your dog at play with other dogs and learn as much as you can about his play behavior. Pay special attention to his ability to read the other dog. If, for example, Lucky is too rough with the other dog and his pal growls at him, note down Lucky’s response. A smart dog backs off, while a socially inexperienced dog ignores the warning and carries on until his pal has no option but to tell him off.
Stand back and resist the temptation to step in straight away. You may feel you ought to stop Lucky the second he gets a little rough, but don’t. Dogs learn very well from other dogs, so give him a chance to take correction from his four-legged pal. Dogs are excellent at modifying the behavior of other dogs with a simple growl or even just a look.
Intervene only if Lucky is ignoring the pleas of the other dog to chill out. Calmly walk Lucky away from the other dog and give him a time-out. Noted dog trainer Cesar Milan recommends you only reintroduce your dog to his playmate once he’s reached a state of complete relaxation.
Correcting Rough Play
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Play with Lucky, give verbal praise and fuss. Withdraw all fuss and and end the play session the second he gets too rough. Then say “ouch” to show your displeasure, especially if he bites or nips. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that being too rough has a negative outcome and he’ll develop an aversion to this sort of behavior.
Take Lucky for a long walk before letting him play with other dogs. He’ll be less likely to get over-excited and play rough if he’s not a ball of energy.
Reintroduce Lucky to his playmate, but keep him on his leash. Monitor Lucky’s behavior and give verbal praise for gentle play.
Use the leash to restrain Lucky when he gets too rough. Walk him away and give him a time-out. Ignore him during this period. This way, you don’t inadvertently reinforce any unwanted behavior by giving attention. Wait for him to chill out before reintroducing him. Keep play sessions brief in the beginning, gradually allowing Lucky more playtime the better mannered he becomes.
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Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.