Is Your Dog Playing Too Rough?

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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.

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Do Dogs Imitate People?

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If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then you will be glad to know that your dog is all praises of you. Yes, it’s a fact. How else could you explain how dogs from different regions develop barks that are similar to the regional accent of their owners? Researchers found from a study that this is due to dog’s inherent tendency to imitate their owners. Indeed, all those centuries of domestication, training and evolution has caused dogs to imitate their owners, so much so that it is a natural reaction in most pets. Let us take a look at how researchers arrived at these findings and what makes dogs imitate their owners in the first place.

Research findings reveal that dogs imitate people

There have been numerous researches that point toward the same findings- dogs imitate their owners. Previously, researchers found that dogs tend to yawn if they watch their humans do the same.
In one research study, dogs were made to watch as their owners opened a sliding door with the help of their head or hand. The researchers then divided the dogs into two groups- while one of the group was rewarded food as treats for copying the actions of their owner, the other was rewarded for doing otherwise. What researchers noticed was that the dogs consistently imitated their owners, regardless of whether or not they received rewards, confirming the assumption that dogs do tend to imitate their owners.

Another research carried out a similar experiment, only bringing time in as one of the parameters to see how long before the dogs were able to remember people’s actions and imitate it afterward. What researchers found was that the canines could copy the behavior of their owners within a 10 minute span of it being carried out by them.

Why do dogs imitate their owners?

You probably already know that dogs are pack animals and this pretty much explains why they have a tendency to imitate humans. Being pack animals, dogs do not just look up to their owners as leaders, but also try to fit in with the pack. Much like humans, they find imitation to be the best way to fit into a group, which is why they closely watch humans to pick up their actions and imitate.

Of course, the imitation skills of dogs cannot be deemed as useless. These research findings can be used to your benefit while you train your pet. Say, you want to teach your pet to shake hands, then simply extend your hand and show how it is done, so your dog can observe and follow suite. A positive reinforcement in the form of a treat also helps, we’ve heard.

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Transition Your Dog From Crate to Free Roaming

Your dog’s crate fulfills a number of important functions. It’s an excellent house breaking tool, it can be made into a cozy den, and it can serve as a comfortable means of confinement if you need to be out of the house and don’t trust your dog to do their own thing.

However at some point, you may want to kick the crate to the curb. Maybe it’s taking up too much space (have you ever seen a crate intended for a Great Dane? Think: zoo enclosure) or maybe you just want your dog to have the freedom to curl up wherever they please, gaze out the window, and drink from their regular water bowl when you’re not home.

Of course, the prospect of giving your dog that freedom can be a daunting one if you’re used to the crate being their babysitter. And it can be daunting for your dog as well, as they are probably used to the comfort and security that the crate offers them in your absence. So how can you ensure that your dog’s transition from crate to free roaming is a smooth one? Follow these steps.

1. Create a Transition Space

One of the most common reasons people crate their dog when they leave the house is because they are worried about the dog destroying their belongs. And indeed, some dogs do chew when left alone, usually because they are feeling anxious. Set your dog up for success by creating a designated area for them to transition from the crate to free roaming. Maybe it’s the kitchen or a spacious spare room. Clear the area of any furniture you want to protect (bye-bye, Grandma’s rocker) as well as any items that could harm your dog, such as unsecure trash bins, wires, and food. Close windows to reduce outside noises that could scare your dog or send them into a barking frenzy, then put a gate up that blocks access to the rest of the house.

RELATED STORY: 5 Tips for Dog Safety Around the Home

2. Leave Your Dog With a Distraction

You know that face your dog makes when you are getting ready to leave the house? Heartbreaking, right? To reduce the chances of separation anxiety (which can lead to destructive behavior), offer your dog a distraction before you leave, such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or kibble. Just be sure that whatever you leave your dog can’t be chewed up into little pieces and swallowed.

RELATED STORY: The Top 10 Dog Training Tips

3. Take It Slow

A lot of owners learn this lesson the hard way. If your dog is used to staying in a crate when you leave the house, throwing them into a free-roaming situation out of nowhere is likely to result in some confusion and anxiety, which can result in a gutted living room. Start by letting your dog be alone in their designated area when you go outside to water the garden for five minutes. Over time, build up to longer outings: a quick run to the store or a visit with a neighbor. Then, start giving your dog access to different areas of the house, but take it slow. Pushing your dog too quickly will not only make the process harder in the long run, it can also undo training that you’ve taken months or years to achieve (for example, a dog who you’ve trained not to urine mark inside may return to this behavior under stress).

Have you transitioned your dog out of their crate? Leave a comment and tell us how you did it, and consider signing up for PetPlus. PetPlus is a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more. Learn more at PetPlus.com.

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