Appropriate Dog Play: Normal Vs. Unacceptable Canine Interactions! (2023)

During the puppy socialization and manners classes I used to teach, the most common questions I would hear related to play.

Owners always wanted to know the same kinds of things:

  • Is my puppy’s play appropriate?
  • How do I know if my puppy is taking playtime too far?
  • Is my puppy having fun?

We’ll try to answer these questions and explain the things that do and do not constitute appropriate dog play below.

First Things First: All Dogs Are Individuals

It’s important to understand that all dogs are individuals. They all have different personalities and interests, and this will manifest in different play styles.

Some dogs are really confident and exuberant players. Others are shy or nervous. Some dogs are quite vocal, while others are not. Some use their paws a lot when playing, yet others prefer to use their mouths more.

This is normal.

Dogs also recognize these differences, which means your dog may make friends with certain dogs but not others. I certainly don’t get along with every single person I meet, and your dog likely won’t either!

The Basics of Dog Play

Despite the fact that dogs obviously have fun while playing, play is also an important aspect of a dog’s maturation and well-being.

This means it is important for owners to understand the significance of dog play, as well as the hows and whys of the subject. We’ll try to explain some of the most important things to understand about dog play below.

Why Do Dogs Need to Play?

Dogs play because it helps them learn both social and motor skills.

It also helps them to build social relationships. In fact, dog play behavior is important for brain development and learning to interact with other dogs appropriately.

Additionally, play is a great way for dogs to blow off some steam, eliminate stress, and get some exercise.

Why Do Dogs Play Fight with Humans?

Dogs also learn appropriate play skills with humans.

Dogs are very social animals, and play is a big part of their interactions with us. And a lot of what makes up play between dogs, as well as dogs playing with humans, is play fighting.

Play fighting mimics many of the same behaviors real fighting does, such as biting and baring teeth, but playing dogs do so in relatively gentle fashion. They also employ lots of signals to indicate that it’s all in fun.

(Video) Dogs Playing or Fighting? (How to Know if Dogs Are Playing or Fighting)

Playing with your dog can help to build a better bond, it gives your pupper an appropriate outlet to play appropriately, and it is an important part of your relationship with him.

Below is an example of dog/human play!

How Do Dogs Learn to Play?

Dogs learn by doing.

They learn to read the social cues of other canines, and dogs will often handicap themselves to play at the comfort level and ability of their partner.

For example, a large dog may lay down on the floor to be less threatening when playing with a smaller, younger or timider dog .

Appropriate Dog Play: Normal Vs. Unacceptable Canine Interactions! (1)

Dog Play Is Important, So Start While Your Pup Is Still Young

New puppies are born without much pre-loaded software, so to speak.

They have to learn a lot about the world, including everything from how to eat crunchy kibble to where they’re supposed to poop.

They must also learn a variety of social skills and norms, which they generally learn by playing with other dogs. This means that playtime isn’t just for fun — it also serves an important purpose.

Play teaches dogs the proper way to communicate, bond, and make social connections.

So, because playtime is such an important part of life for dogs, it is critical that you provide your pupper with plenty of opportunities to do so.

Puppy class is one of the best places for your new puppy to learn the appropriate social skills and cues involved with play, as well as the dos and don’ts of properly communicating.

Consequently, I suggest finding a positive puppy class that incorporates play into the curriculum. This will help your puppy engage with and learn from other puppies.

Examples of Appropriate Dog Play Behavior

It can be difficult for most people to tell what kind of play is appropriate and what kind is not.

General dog body language can tell us a lot about how a dog is feeling. A happy canine, who is enjoying a play session, will generally exhibit relaxed body posture and continue going back for more fun with his playmate

Just be sure that both pups are consenting to the play session.

If you are unsure, you can perform a quick consent test — just gently separate the puppies momentarily.

(Video) Proper Interactions Between Big and Small Dogs

If both dogs try to reengage immediately, you can assume they are both consenting to the activity.But if one uses the opportunity to escape the situation, he’s probably not enjoying the play session and you should put a stop to it.

Dog play language is another great clue to consider when trying to ensure both dogs are enjoying their playtime.

Here are some of the things to look for:

  • Meta-signals. Meta-signals are cues that dogs use to communicate how their behavior should be interpreted during play. I sometimes liken this to the “LOL” of the dog world. Because play mimics a lot of real offensive and defensive behaviors, meta-signals let a play partner know it’s all in fun. Common meta-signals are the play bow (bum in the air), bouncy movements, curling their body and turning their booty towards their play partner, and a relaxed semi-open mouth (akin to the look of a big goofy grin).
  • Changing roles. This means the top player switches to his back allowing his partner to climb on top, or the chaser becomes the chasee. This is definitely something we want to see. However, do keep in mind that play doesn’t necessarily have to be a perfect balance to be fun and consensual for both partners.
  • Self-handicapping. Dogs could easily hurt one another. They certainly have the ability to harm another dog if that was their true intention. But this is not something that happens during play. They learn how to regulate their ability and strength to meet the needs of their partner. This might mean inhibiting how hard they bite or toning down their play style to accommodate a smaller or younger partner.
  • Stopping to shake. If arousal levels begin to skyrocket (and they often do), you will likely notice both dogs stop and ‘shake it off’. It looks similar to shaking off water. This diffuses the stress or could just mean the play session is winding down. It acts as a signal that he’s done playing for the moment.
  • Mouthing and play biting. Because play mimics fighting in many ways, biting is a normal part of play behavior. The amount of pressure that is tolerated is learned early from the consequences of biting too hard or to rough. If he bites too hard, his play partner will be sure to let him know. Mouthing can also happen between puppies and their humans, so it is important to teach puppies that it is OK to bite toys but not fingers.
  • Vocalizing. Some dogs vocalize quite a bit while they play, while others remain silent. I had a dog, Stewie, who would growl quite a lot while playing. But this only happened with familiar dogs. Some dogs also bark more than others when playing. It may also depend on the context of the play. My current dog, Juno, vocalizes when she is playing with me or by herself (she is quite a character), but she is perfectly quiet when playing with other dogs.

The video below shows some examples of normal dog play. Even though there is some mouthing and vocalization, this is all in the realm of normal dog play.

Examples of Inappropriate Dog Play Behavior

Inappropriate play behavior can occur for several different reasons.

Some dogs have not learned appropriate social skills as a puppy, while others are hard-wired to be pushy.At other times, a fun play session can suddenly escalate into something inappropriate.

Appropriate Dog Play: Normal Vs. Unacceptable Canine Interactions! (2)

Some of the signs of inappropriate play include:

  • Neck biting and holding during play. This is not generally a welcomed or appropriate type of bite during play, particularly if the aggressor grabs his playmate and won’t let go.
  • When big dogs play too rough with little dogs. Large dogs with good social skills usually handicap themselves when playing with smaller dogs. This may include playing more gently with their playmate or laying on the ground in a more inviting position. However, some large dogs have not learned this skill and will play at the same level as they do with dogs of their own size. This can sometimes be too rough for a young or smaller dog, leaving the smaller pooch feeling overwhelmed.
  • Escalating arousal levels. Dogs play fighting too much can potentially lead to a real fight when the arousal levels skyrocket and meta-signals are not present. Particularly if one member is feeling a bit overwhelmed or apprehensive to begin with.
  • Body slamming. This is not a fun example of play for the recipient, and dogs generally consider body slamming to be quite rude.
  • Pinning. Holding another dog by his neck on the floor using the mouth or pinning another dog to the ground with his body is scary for the dog being pinned.
  • Standing with head over the neck and shoulders of their play partner. This position is rude and confrontational.
  • Growling or baring teeth. This is tricky because we sometimes see these behaviors in normal play. But when it becomes serious, the growler is giving a warning for the other dog (or person) to back off. If the recipient isn’t good at reading body language and doesn’t head this warning, there is the potential that a bite or a fight could ensue.
  • Barking in the face of another dog. This is not a polite way for dogs to interact with one another, to solicit play, or greet each other. Some dogs bark to demand attention or to police other dogs who are playing.

Early Warning Signs of Aggression

It is important to learn how to recognize the early warning signs of aggression, so you can take whatever steps are necessary to keep everyone safe and happy.

Early signs of aggression in puppies often take the form of bared teeth, growling, or lunging at others.

Aggression can sometimes occur between two play partners if signals are misinterpreted or ignored. Some warnings to look for might include:

  • Continued relentless chasing or pestering, even when his play partner has given clear signals that they are no longer interested in playing.
  • When rough play becomes too rough for one play partner. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is being aggressive, but it could lead to an aggressive interaction. It will appear to be more one-sided, meaning one partner is much more involved and over-aroused than the other.
  • Some puppies can be a bit of a bully. They may need more human-mediated interjection to make sure that they are being respectful. These rude interactions may be excessive body slamming, relentless chasing when the other dog is trying to escape or is giving clear ‘stop’ signals, or it could be a lack of bite inhibition despite repeated warnings. Just remember, the bully on the playground is often the child who lacks confidence and social skills, and your pup is no different.

Puppies who are nervous or anxious may also exhibit signs of aggression. If your puppy is showing signs of being fearful or anxious of people, other dogs, or things in their environment, or if he is showing signs of aggression, the best line of defense is to contact a professional positive trainer or behavior consultant to help you.

These aggressive reactions are abnormal, but normal play often mimics many of these behaviors. It can be difficult to identify what’s unusually aggressive and what is normal puppy play (which may be rough, especially when your pup is still learning what’s appropriate play and what is not).

So, don’t be alarmed if your puppy growls while playing tug or nips while playing with his friends. If his friends aren’t worried or hurt and they want to continue with play, this is a totally acceptable behavior.

Appropriate Dog Play: Normal Vs. Unacceptable Canine Interactions! (3)

Do Different Breeds Play in Different Ways?

Different breeds of dogs have been selected over time for their different traits. Some of these traits can influence the way a dog plays.

Just remember, dogs all have unique personalities, and a dog’s breed only dictates a typical trait, not a definite one. Early socialization, confidence level, and the environment can also influence how he learns to play.

Because dogs have different play styles, in many cases dogs will partner up with others of a similar play style so that they’re on the same level.

(Video) Cesar Millan Explains: Little Dogs Playing with Big Dogs

This video below by Fenzi Dog Training show some examples of different doggie play styles:

A couple of examples of different typical breed-specific play styles:

German Shepherd Play Style

German shepherds tend to vocalize quite a bit while playing and sometimes tend to body slam their play partners.

However, German shepherds are also quite calm, in my experience, when compared to some other breeds (such as terriers, for example).

Border Collie Play Style

Border collies and other herding breeds tend to enjoy play that mimics their natural herding instincts of stalking and chasing. Sometimes they can become a bit intense for other dogs, and border collies occasionally get a bit nippy.

Border collie play sometimes also leads to barking, which can be unsettling for some dogs.

Boxer Play Style

Boxers are enthusiastic and energetic players. They often use their paws to play, which can sometimes be a bit too rough, especially for smaller dogs.

Boxers may also incorporate body slamming and chase into their play. They are great play partners when matched appropriately.

Sight Hound Play Style

Sight hounds, such as greyhounds and Afghan hounds, have been selected over the years for their ability to spot and chase prey.

Some prefer to not engage in play with other dogs and would rather engage in chase and pounce games, like the use of the flirt pole.

Labrador Retriever Play Style

Labs are generally boisterous and confident players. They are bouncy, silly, and enthusiastic!

A well socialized lab tends to play well with everyone, and they are generally good at adapting their play style to suit the needs of their partner.

Friendly Dog-Dog Interactions: How Can You Encourage Your Dog to Play Nicely with Others?

My first piece of advice is start early.

Find a good puppy socialization class that provides a positive and safe learning environment. Also, be sure to praise and reward your puppy when he acts appropriately.

The dog park may not be an ideal place to take your puppy, as he may end up having a bad experience with another under socialized or inexperienced dog.

Here are some additional things to consider when setting up play sessions for your pupper:

(Video) Learn how to let your reactive dog meet other dogs

Play dates are a great idea.

Dogs who are already friends and have compatible play styles may have a fun time enjoying an off-leash walk at the beach or the park.Just be sure to be careful if any unfamiliar dogs try to join in the fun.

When introducing dogs, avoid on-leash greetings.

Though necessary for safety, leashes restrict movement and body communication. So, try to allow dogs to meet sans leash.

A polite greeting in the dog world should involve nose-to-bum interaction. It should not involve running towards another dog full tilt or putting his face directly into the face of another dog.

Play will generally start with the question “would you like to play?” in the form of a meta-signal, such as a play bow.

Try to make introductions in a neutral and safe space.

This essentially means making introductions at an enclosed dog park or similar place, rather than in one of the dog’s homes. By doing so, you’ll increase the chances of a positive encounter.

Additionally, be sure to supervise the puppers, and ensure that the play session is going well.

Teach your dog to come when called.

Teaching your dog to come to you in every situation means that you can avoid having to physically separate dogs if arousal levels escalate.

The same advice goes with dogs and people, though if you are introducing your puppy to a new baby, a leash or baby gate is an ideal way to keep everyone safe.

Having new people play with your puppy is a great way to help him to feel positive about strangers, provided it’s safe and positive for everyone.

Appropriate Dog Play: Normal Vs. Unacceptable Canine Interactions! (4)

Dog Play Vs. Puppy Play: What Are the Differences?

Is it OK to allow your new puppy to play with older dogs? New puppies are small, and old dogs may not be interested in a puppy’s antics.

It is usually acceptable to allow young and old dogs to play together, but there are several things you’ll want to watch out for.

Below, we explain a few of the most common archetypal interactions dogs exhibit.

  • Siblings who fight: Bullying and aggression between sibling puppies who are adopted together seems to happen more often than between unrelated dogs. This is just one symptom of ‘Littermate Syndrome’. It is ideal to avoid adopting siblings together to prevent this from happening. A good rule of thumb for anyone looking to adopt a new puppy is one dog at a time!
  • Puppies play fighting with older dogs. Older dogs can be great teachers for young puppies. Older dogs can be a good influence if they are socially appropriate and enjoy the interaction. Make sure that your older dog has a safe zone he can escape to if he begins to feel annoyed or tired of playing.
  • Puppy plays too rough with older dog. Senior dogs often don’t have the same vigor or desire to roughhouse that young puppies do. Puppies need to learn when and where play is appropriate, how to self handicap and how to have some impulse control. Older dogs are good a teaching these lessons but shouldn’t have to put up with relentless puppy antics if they are not up for it. Puppies tend to nip when they get excited, and some older dogs are less tolerant of this. Watch for signs that your older dog has had enough or that your younger dog isn’t being too overbearing. It’s best to step in early and prevent outbursts from happening, rather than get into a situation where you’re constantly struggling to stop family dogs from fighting in a household.

***

Play is important for the development of puppies into socially appropriate adults. So, remember to allow your puppy the opportunity to learn these skills early.

Does your dog have some fun play partners? We’d love to hear about them! Share your experiences in the comments below.

FAQs

What is appropriate dog play? ›

IN APPROPRIATE DOG PLAY YOU WILL SEE:

loose, relaxed bodies. inhibited biting. racing around and/or wrestling. turn taking (one dog's on top and then the other's on top)

What is normal dog playing behavior? ›

Behaviors that say it's all good fun

The play bow – front end down, back end in the air. Sometimes the dog trying to initiate play will slap his front legs down on the ground repeatedly. A big, silly open-mouthed grin. Exaggerated, bouncy movement.

How can you tell the difference between a dog playing and being aggressive? ›

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).

Should dogs be allowed to play with other dogs? ›

Studies show that a lack of positive interactions during this time can lead to problem behaviors and fearfulness in adult dogs. Allowing your pup to play with other dogs is a crucial element of proper socialization, and it can also be great fun for them.

Is it normal for dogs to bite necks when playing? ›

Neck Biting as Normal Behavior During Play

Playful neck biting is perfectly normal. It serves an important purpose early on and continues to be a common way for dogs to interact. It teaches them boundaries, control, and good manners in a social setting.

When should you intervene between dogs? ›

Although you should generally attempt to allow dogs to resolve their differences on their own if they are just threatening without fighting, you will need to intervene if there is the potential for injury. Under no circumstances should the dogs be allowed to "fight it out".

What do I do if my dog plays too rough with other dogs? ›

It can be difficult at times to distinguish play from a violent encounter, but one of the best ways to stop it is break them up before they start. Dogs will usually seem to be a in a jovial mood during play and they may lean forward, growl, or even a bark a little bit.

Is it normal for dogs to play fight? ›

Dog play fighting is a very natural way for canines to communicate, socialize, and get out some pent-up energy. Play fighting may seem intense, especially for new or relatively inexperienced dog owners, but it should be allowed.

Is rough play good for dogs? ›

Rough play mimics how dogs interact together, and is used to establish dominance and social hierarchy among other dogs. When dogs roughhouse together, they receive social feedback from other dogs that helps them learn when they are playing too rough or bite too hard.

Is my dog playing or being aggressive with other dogs? ›

Signs of dog aggression include raised hackles, stiffness, snapping, or lunging. If either dog shows aggression, separate them immediately. But be careful: Never get between two fighting dogs. Dogs can also become territorial, whether it's toward a place, food, a toy or a person.

What does it mean when a dog gently bites your hand? ›

He's play-biting

“If your pet is play-biting (or pulling at you for attention), then he'll do it because he's having fun with you, and it's a sign of affection,” explains Dr. Nelson. “He will look happy, bite gently, and may even be lying down.” If you see these 11 behaviors, your dog might need obedience training.

How do I know if my dog will be friendly with other dogs? ›

Basically, as a general rule, positive signs to look for are wagging tails, play bows, relaxed bodies and no growling or snarling. We encourage people to talk to the owner of the other dog and ask if it is safe for the 2 dogs to interact and if their dog is well socialised.

Do dogs need social interaction with other dogs? ›

While they can't ask for it, social time with other dogs provides a wealth of physical, mental, and behavioral benefits that your dog needs and wants. Read on to learn more about the important benefits of making time for socialization and play with other dogs.

How much social interaction do dogs need? ›

“Some dogs will do better with more alone time than others,” he says. That said, for a general guideline, dogs should get a minimum of two hours of dedicated social time with humans or other dogs on a daily basis, which can be broken up into chunks of time over the course of the day.

Should I let my puppy play fight with my older dog? ›

YOU are the ultimate leader, not the older dog and you must ensure the puppy does not harass the older dog. Usually a puppy can out play an adult, but this goes both ways. If the puppy walks away because it no longer wants to play the older dog needs to be told GAME OVER.

Why does my dog go between my legs when playing? ›

Sometimes, dogs may go between their owner's legs seeking comfort or safety. Some research has found that medium and large dogs are more likely to demonstrate this behavior than small dogs. A lack of confidence, anxiety, or excitement can cause dogs to seek the closeness or protection of their owner's legs.

Should you bite your dog back? ›

Don't “Bite Your Puppy Back”

For some reason, this response to puppy nipping has been making the rounds on social forums, and you should completely avoid this. First off, your puppy knows you're not a dog, so biting them back doesn't have the same meaning as when a dog does it to them.

What does it mean when a dog rests their head on another dog? ›

This is an attempt to assert dominance over other dogs. In the dog world, simple behaviors are used to display dominance over each other.

Do dogs forgive each other after a fight? ›

While it seems dogs do forgive after a fight, there's still a lot more to learn about reconciliation in dogs. In some multi-dog households, it doesn't always work out. Shyan-Norwalt has observed dogs in the same family who did not reconcile but instead separated after every conflict.

What does it mean when a dog bites another dogs back legs? ›

These bites are a sign that the dog is taking the fight to the next level, but still is not yet intent on causing serious harm. Even more concerning are dogs who bite at the base of the skull, over the jugular, or on the other dog's legs. These dogs are trying to disable or kill their opponent.

How do you stop dogs from play fighting with each other? ›

If You Feel Uncomfortable, Press Pause. There is nothing wrong with interrupting dog play if you feel it's getting too crazy. Follow your gut instinct! If it's getting too loud or the wrestling seems too rough, call the dogs away from each other or create a break by taking hold of the dog on top and guiding them away.

Why does my dog play so rough with other dogs? ›

Rough play often comes from overexcitement, or a dog learning to play rough from other dogs. In some instances, dogs can play rough because their owners have taught them that behavior or it may be a dog exerting dominance over another dog or person.

Why do my dogs bite each other when they play? ›

When your dog plays with his mouth open, it's called mouthing or jaw sparring. This is a healthy way for a dog to play with other dogs. Mouthing mimics an actual fight, but without the serious biting. This soft biting allows dogs to practice fighting without causing harm to each other.

Why do dogs fight without biting? ›

Agonistic behaviors simply reveal emotion (e.g., anger or fear), communicate intention (e.g., to maintain control of a resource or to avoid an interaction) or function as a normal part of play fighting (e.g., growling, snapping or inhibited biting).

What is normal puppy play with other dogs? ›

Puppy play consists of chasing, pouncing, barking, growling and biting. Many pet owners mistake normal play behavior as aggression or laugh off behavior that is a warning sign for truly aggressive behavior. Although normal play can become intense, it's important to be able to distinguish normal from abnormal behavior.

How rough is too rough for puppy play? ›

Does she try to keep playing, or does she shake off and walk away? If she keeps trying to play with the puppy in your arms, then she's saying that she enjoys the playtime. Let them have another go! If she welcomes the break from playtime with the other puppy, then it's a sign the play was too rough for her.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Is my dog playing too rough with puppy? ›

While we wish all dogs could get along and play nicely, sometimes that's just not the case. Here are some signs of aggressive behavior during play to look out for: Raised hackles (the hair on the back of their necks and along the spine) Stiffness in their torso and legs.

Is my dog aggressive or excited? ›

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.

What breed of dog does not like to cuddle? ›

Much like humans, not all dogs show affection the same way, with the study discovering that Scottish Terriers, Malamute pups and Cairn Terriers also don't enjoy cuddles. "One thing to take into consideration is that some dogs simply aren't as affectionate towards their owners than others," says the study.

Does a dog trust you if they sleep on you? ›

He might kick you in his sleep or fart dangerously close to your face, but the fact he's sleeping with you in the first place is a good sign you've earned his complete trust. Dogs are the most vulnerable when they're asleep.

What is second dog syndrome? ›

In dogdom, there's a turn of phrase called, "Second Dog Syndrome". This describes the process of adding another dog to the home quite well, but not necessarily in a positive light. As humans, we are bound to forget all of the time and effort it takes to raise a puppy right.

How often should I socialize my dog with other dogs? ›

How to socialise puppies with other dogs - YouTube

How do you tell if your dog is well socialized? ›

Here are some of the most common behavioral indicators that your dog isn't fully socialized.
  1. Fearful behavior when around strangers and/or other dogs. ...
  2. Aggressive behavior when around strangers and/or other dogs. ...
  3. Dog backs up or raises his hackles when another person or dog approaches.
4 Feb 2022

Should I let my little dog play with big dogs? ›

Small dogs and big dogs can get along beautifully, and may even snuggle up and share beds. Others peacefully coexist. As with all doggy housemates, it's important that you do not show favouritism, and try to avoid situations that can lead to resource guarding.

What is considered normal dog behavior? ›

The way a healthy dog behaves is individual and depends on its age, breed or type and past experience. However, most dogs are playful, sociable animals and they enjoy playing together with toys, people and other dogs. Changes in behaviour may suggest that something is wrong with a dog's health.

Do I need to constantly entertain my dog? ›

Mental stimulation is important for all dogs, but If you have a very intelligent dog, it is even more important to keep your dog entertained. This is especially true if you have a working-breed who doesn't have a 'job' to do.

Is it normal for dogs to bite necks when playing? ›

Neck Biting as Normal Behavior During Play

Playful neck biting is perfectly normal. It serves an important purpose early on and continues to be a common way for dogs to interact. It teaches them boundaries, control, and good manners in a social setting.

How do I stop my puppy from playing too rough with my old dog? ›

Move the puppy away, give them each something to chew on, take the puppy for a walk, or put the older dog in another room for a nap. As your puppy grows up and gets bigger and your old dog ages, run interference for him. Don't let the young dog get too rough and most importantly, don't let him pick on the old dog.

Can puppies hurt each other playing? ›

Is It Playtime or Time to Separate? It's normal for puppies and dogs to growl and romp over one another in a mock battle. Most dogs display behaviors that can seem a little aggressive to us, but as long as they are within the boundaries of good fun, it is usually okay (and can help them with socialization skills).

How rough is too rough for puppy play? ›

Does she try to keep playing, or does she shake off and walk away? If she keeps trying to play with the puppy in your arms, then she's saying that she enjoys the playtime. Let them have another go! If she welcomes the break from playtime with the other puppy, then it's a sign the play was too rough for her.

Should you let dogs play fight? ›

Play fight between dogs is only natural and should be allowed. It is a good exercise for your dog, a rehearsal for adulthood, and a good practice for socialization. However, play fights can sometimes turn into a real and dangerous fight.

Do dogs bite each other when playing? ›

Young dogs usually learn bite inhibition during play with other dogs. If you watch a group of dogs playing, you'll see plenty of chasing, pouncing and wrestling. Dogs also bite each other all over. Every now and then, a dog will bite his playmate too hard.

Should I let my puppy play fight with my older dog? ›

YOU are the ultimate leader, not the older dog and you must ensure the puppy does not harass the older dog. Usually a puppy can out play an adult, but this goes both ways. If the puppy walks away because it no longer wants to play the older dog needs to be told GAME OVER.

Is it OK if my dogs play rough? ›

Playing is a healthy part of socialization for dogs and it is definitely something to be encouraged. On the other hand, rough play can be dangerous for you and your dog because it can lead to bites or other injuries to yourself or another pet.

What is normal puppy play with other dogs? ›

Puppy play consists of chasing, pouncing, barking, growling and biting. Many pet owners mistake normal play behavior as aggression or laugh off behavior that is a warning sign for truly aggressive behavior. Although normal play can become intense, it's important to be able to distinguish normal from abnormal behavior.

Should I let puppies play fight? ›

Play Fighting Basics

In general, you shouldn't discourage puppies from play fighting. It's a completely normal and desirable behavior in young dogs up to several months of age. Puppies brawl with their littermates, mother and friendly adult dogs to develop their skills, bodily coordination and strength control.

Why do dogs bite other dogs legs when playing? ›

These bites are a sign that the dog is taking the fight to the next level, but still is not yet intent on causing serious harm. Even more concerning are dogs who bite at the base of the skull, over the jugular, or on the other dog's legs. These dogs are trying to disable or kill their opponent.

Why do dogs bite each other when they play? ›

The Root of the Behavior

Mouthing mimics an actual fight, but without the serious biting. This soft biting allows dogs to practice fighting without causing harm to each other. They will mouth at each other's face and neck when fighting, sometimes while standing or on the ground.

How do you know if dogs don't like each other? ›

Signs of dog aggression include raised hackles, stiffness, snapping, or lunging. If either dog shows aggression, separate them immediately. But be careful: Never get between two fighting dogs. Dogs can also become territorial, whether it's toward a place, food, a toy or a person.

Is my dog playing too rough with puppy? ›

While we wish all dogs could get along and play nicely, sometimes that's just not the case. Here are some signs of aggressive behavior during play to look out for: Raised hackles (the hair on the back of their necks and along the spine) Stiffness in their torso and legs.

Is it normal for dogs to growl when playing with other dogs? ›

Growling during play does not mean your dog is aggressive. It simply means they're having a great time. Your dog might even growl during a particularly pleasing cuddle or patting session.

What does it mean when a dog gently bites your hand? ›

He's play-biting

“If your pet is play-biting (or pulling at you for attention), then he'll do it because he's having fun with you, and it's a sign of affection,” explains Dr. Nelson. “He will look happy, bite gently, and may even be lying down.” If you see these 11 behaviors, your dog might need obedience training.

How do I stop my puppy from playing too rough with my old dog? ›

Move the puppy away, give them each something to chew on, take the puppy for a walk, or put the older dog in another room for a nap. As your puppy grows up and gets bigger and your old dog ages, run interference for him. Don't let the young dog get too rough and most importantly, don't let him pick on the old dog.

Why do puppies bite older dogs faces? ›

Rough play is the norm. Grabbing cheeks, necks, scruff, and faces is all part of the game. Growling noises while showing teeth is commonplace. The game of Bitey Face looks and sounds very scary, but most of the time it's harmless play.

What is sibling puppy syndrome? ›

“Littermate syndrome in dogs occurs when two puppies from the same litter living together develop such a strong attachment to each other that it interferes with their ability to interact in a normal manner with other people, other dogs, or any situation where they are not together,” says Collier.

Videos

1. Do your dogs play rough or fight?//Proven method to fix it.
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2. Adult Dogs Correcting Puppies
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3. How To Introduce Two Dogs To Each Other! (Aggressive Dog!)
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4. How mother dogs handle disrespectful puppies: Part 1
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5. Introducing Your Puppy To Other Dogs? Here's What You Need To Know
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