Understand Dogs

How to Understand and Monitor Your Dog’s Play

Dog Size Matters - Pawsitive Steps Dog Training

This is the 2nd article discussing Your Dog’s Playing

Is it hard for you to understand if your dog’s play is aggressive or just playful?

So, how do you monitor play? This goes regardless of anything:  If you think someone is going to truly get hurt, interrupt them.

Does size truly matter?  Can big dogs play with little dogs without hurting them?  Yes.  Although, there is a risk of accidental damage just from the size and weight.

This is where self-handicapping really is necessary.  I recently had a beautiful, huge German Shepherd in puppy class, roughly 6 months old, so nearly full grown and his best playmate was a 5 month old, gorgeous, petite Papillon.  The Papillon was frisky and fast, the German Shepherd was gentle, albeit a bit clumsy on those big paws.

When to Monitor Dog’s Play:

It is important to monitor play, especially when dogs are first getting acquainted.  If this is a new dog to a home with a resident dog, it is best to introduce and have time spent together away from the home so as to not have the resident dog feel a need to guard, or protect his property.  Some dogs will, some won’t.  More on that topic on another day.

So, how do you monitor it?  WATCH!

  • Are the dogs taking little breaks (a few seconds or longer)?
  • Does the one on top let the other one up?
  • Does the one on the bottom run away from his friend or go back for more action?
    • If they run, then the play was too rough or went on too long.
  • Fearful Dog - Pawsitive Steps Dog TrainingA good rule of thumb is 5 seconds.  If after 5 seconds the top dog lets the other up, great, if not, pull the other dog off.
  • Is one dog yelping in fear?  Interrupt.
  • Does one cower in a corner or under a barrier (chair, bench, you)? Or do they sit beneath then bat and play?

Things you should do:

  • Watch for excitement levels escalating, they need a break!
  • Study Play Signals (coming soon)
  • Study Calming Signals  Check out Turid Rugaas at http://www.canis.no/rugaas/  (more coming soon)
  • Interrupt play regularly and give both dogs several tasty treats.
  • Always give treats when putting dogs on leash.
  • Put them on leash, let them take a break to calm down, then let them resume play.
  • Have fresh, clean water available.
  • Go with your gut.
  • Err on the side of caution, but never panic or let your fears ruin your dog’s fun.  Many people are afraid and in reality the dogs are having a great time.
  • Pick up your little dog or puppy if you truly think he will be harmed, otherwise let them be.
    • Picking them up in fear can cause fear and anxiety in your dog.
  • Ask yourself if you see intention to harm in the activity or is it just rough play?
  • Playing Dogs - Pawsitive Steps Dog TrainingRemember a lot of dogs like rough play.
  • Remember, a dog making noise or barking is a dog making noise.  It does not mean aggression.
    • Many dogs are “talkers” when they play and make throaty noises, play growls and the like.
  • Remember that pyro-erection (raised hackles) is a sign of excitement, not necessarily aggression


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