Good Dog Blog

Is My Dog Playing or Being Aggressive?

Share This


Dog Play, Aggressive or Playful?

Is my dog playing or being aggressive?

Knowing how to tell if your dog or puppy is being aggressive or playful when playing with another dog can be tricky for an average dog owner. What looks sometimes scary, -open mouths, mouthing each other, vocalizations from growling to barking, hackles up, jumping on each other, one dog pinning another down and wrestling can actually be just play styles. Dogs often exhibit behaviors similar to those used in aggressive encounters when playing. is my dog playing or being aggressive?

So how do you know if it is aggressive or playful?
If their faces and bodies look fairly relaxed, if they are exhibiting play bows (front feet down with but up in the air) which can morph into less exaggerated front paw slaps on the ground as dogs grow accustomed to each other, and bouncier and looser movements than the dog would normally show.

Taking turns in different roles (reciprocal play) whether chasing or wrestling is a good sign.

If the dog(s) look tense or stiff, shows signs of nervousness or fear (cowering or tucked tail), tight bodies, movements may be more precise and targeted. If this is the case for one or both step in and make them take a break until they are both calm then let them try again.

The key is to supervise,
supervise, supervise!

The key is to supervise and don’t let either dog get too excited. If you notice that they are beginning to ramp up, moving too forcefully, eyes dilating, clap your hands firmly to startle/distract them then physically step in between the dogs every few minutes to stop the play. Don’t reach your hands in or grab their collars as this can actually increase their drive/excitement/arousal. You can use a squirt bottle with water in it to slow them down as well.

Many trainers use a dressage whip to manage groups of socializing dogs. It can be used to push dogs away from each other, if they are getting to excited or exhibiting unwanted behaviors. If a dog is a humper, a quick pop on the rump may be all that’s needed to extinguish a behavior which could cause a dog fight.

Once you’ve slowed down the excitement wait for calm and then let them begin again. This helps them know that you are controlling the play session which in turn will help them be more relaxed overall. It is also a great way to condition your dog that when you step in they are to stop, which could be useful if they were to get into an altercation. Is my dog playing or being aggressive?

Anytime your pup is interacting with another dog, pay attention!

Anytime your pup is interacting with another dog, pay attention to theirs and the other dog’s body language, whether it be play, introductions or just hanging out together. This will help you be more in tune with your dog and others, hence being better able to be proactive not reactive to a possible negative interaction.

Many dogs are uneasy around other dogs and that’s just fine! Ask yourself… am I taking my dog to the dog park because I like the idea of it? Am I making my dog do something he/she is uncomfortable with? Does he really want to play with other dogs? Would he be more comfortable just hanging with his owner? Do what’s right for your dog. The idea of a dog park filled with happy dogs is one that many owners picture in their mind but if your dog isn’t comfortable there then find other things to do with him. You wouldn’t want to be made to go to a party if you were uncomfortable around other people. Hanging with one or two close friends might be more your speed. What’s your dog’s speed?

If you are asking yourself… Is my dog playing or being aggressive? Or if you need help assessing your dog’s play style reach out to a professional dog trainer for help. They can give you tips and techniques for managing play!

Terie Hansen is Owner of Good Dog! Coaching & Pet Care. For more information visit

Call Us Now!
404-422-9832 or simply Click on the button below and fill out the form. We will contact you! IF YOU ARE A CURRENT CLIENT, PLEASE VISIT OUR LOGIN PAGE AND CLICK

Get In Touch!

Click Here

Follow Us!

Fully Bonded & Insured!

Good Dog! Pet Care inquiries