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Dogs usually socialize and develop new relationships through play fighting. These acts of socialization and roughhousing are similar to real fights, only they are playful and friendly in nature. These playful acts may take an aggressive turn sometimes, which may prove to be harmful to the other party, whether it’s another pet or one of the members at home.
Is your dog playing too rough?
Dogs have certain gestures and signals that they act out when they play fight. It’s their way of saying that it is not a real fight, and that they just want to play with you. They may do an over-exaggerated bounce or play-bow, wherein they lower the front of the body to the ground and raise their rear up. They show these play act gestures either before or after roughhousing to remind their partner that their acts should not be mistaken for acts of aggression.
Dogs do not intend to hurt or injure while play fighting. So when you do find them nipping, pawing, standing over or sitting on other pets, they will be gentle with it. You will also notice that they won’t be scared to let their guard down while fighting. Whether it is letting the partner win, letting the partner catch them in a chase or rolling over their backs, they will show what’s often called as self-handicapping acts. Rather than showing dominance or winning a fight, play fighting is about bonding for dogs, and you can see the same reflect in their actions.
How to discourage your dog from playing too rough?
If you notice your dog’s acts of playfulness to be more on the aggressive side, you want to discourage it right from the puppy stage. Now that you can tell play fighting from aggressive gestures, you want to put a stop to it when you see it. For instance, your dog might just be taking a friendly nip at another pet one moment, and this may escalate to aggressiveness and rough play before you know it. If you notice them baring their teeth or growling in a low pitch then you immediately want to stop the play-fight. You want to keep a close watch when your dog plays with smaller dogs or new acquaintances.
Dogs often pick up roughhousing acts from their owners. You want to stay off using dominance while playing with your pet, or they will follow suite. If your dog shows severe aggression toward pets and people, then you may want to consider spaying or neutering. This can help curb some of their aggressive impulses. Of course, if your dog has other serious behavior issues, then you want to get in touch with a vet.