How to Tell if a Dog is Playing or Being Aggressive

If you’ve often been entranced by the playful dogs enjoying fun and games with their owners in the local park, you may be eager to acquire a loyal companion of your own.

You could both share hours of entertaining play. But depending on your dog’s temperament or how he reacts to those nearby, your playful dog can suddenly appear to be a frightening monster. Uncontrollable, rough dog play can result in a serious bite or injury. To enjoy rewarding play, your dog is relying on you to know the warning signs and the difference between dog play and dog aggression.

How can you tell the difference between dog play and dog aggression?

two dogs playing fough on the grass

Your dog conveys his mood by his body language. Identifying the classic signs of the Play Bow will signal your pooch is eager for fun and games. But once his posture and facial expressions take on the unwelcome signs of aggression, you’ll know that you and your furry friend could end up falling out.

What are the signs of a play bow?

Although your dog will obviously be a little excited that playtime is about to begin, he’ll appear generally relaxed and calm. His front paws and head will be low to the ground while his rear end will be lifted up high. And note the erect tail that happily wags from side to side. If your dog can’t wait for the fun to start, he’ll let you know by patting the ground with his front paws. The bouncy movements and playful posture of the Play Bow stance is clearly shown in this short video clip below.

Will my dog’s facial expression tell me if he is happy?

As you can gauge your human friends’ feelings by their smiles or scowls, your dog will have similar facial expressions. When he’s in a happy mood, his eyes will be open and bright, his facial muscles will seem relaxed. And most importantly, watch his mouth and tongue. In a good, playful mood, his mouth will be open in a friendly, happy grin and his tongue will be flapping loosely in readiness to give you a big wet lick.

How to tell if a dog is playing or being aggressive?

Brown dogs are fighting on the streets.
First of all, his facial muscles will appear taut as he starts to feel more anxious and his ears begin to flatten down and point backwards. His eyes may appear to narrow, although his pupils could be showing signs of dilating. His mouth will lose it’s happy smile as he curls back his lips and bares his teeth. And there won’t be any sign of his tongue as he is contemplating whether to give you or another dog a sharp bite.

Aggressive vs playful dog; what signs of aggression should I look for?

Pharaoh Hound dog attacks small Jack Russell Terrier dog

Your dog will convey an aura of anxiety or distress as he begins to growl angrily, raising his head and lowering his tail. You’ll probably notice the tension in your dog’s muscles as he begins to stiffen his back and shoulders with anxiety. No longer displaying the loose, bouncy movements of playtime, your dog’s actions will be brief and more sharply defined. It is at this point that you have a few seconds to pull him out of harm’s way before he springs out of control.

How do I control my dog when he becomes aggressive?

Two beautiful young dogs one old dog attack, rhodesian ridgeback

The useful advice of the AKC staff recommends you always have something to hand to distract your dog. Make a noise such as clapping your hands or if you are near your car, sound its horn. Provide a tough, rubbery play ring for him to sink his teeth into as chewing should start to calm him down. An alternative is toss water over him from his portable drinking bottle. If you allow him to lose control and aggressive dog play behavior turns into your dog starting to seriously fight with another dog, they suggest using a large piece of wood to try and separate them to avoid sustaining injuries yourself.

Does excess energy contribute to aggression?

The majority of dogs, including Rottweilers, Siberian Huskies and Great Danes have a background of being working animals. Over the years they have helped round up cattle and accompany carriages and horse riders for miles over rough ground. Instinctively, they still have boundless energy and over excitement can lead to aggression. Urban Paws UK advocate plenty of walks to ensure your dog has used up some of his surplus energy before you begin your playtime fun and games. Ideally, walking a mile or so to reach a local park is a good idea as your dog has already enjoyed some fresh air and exercise and he won’t be so inclined to indulge in various kinds of rough aggressive dog play behavior.

Are some dogs more playful than others?

two dogs play fighting

Some dogs are instinctively more playful than others meaning that the transition from an aggressive vs playful dog will require more attention and familiarity with your dog to recognize. The English Springer Spaniel, a medium to large-sized dog, is one of the most well-known for being eager to enjoy masses of high-quality fun and games with all the family. Small and energetic Jack Russell Terriers are full of curiosity and love to chase balls and play. Golden retrievers or Labradors are great companions and often adore splashing about at the edges of pools or the seashore. Pugs are fairly docile companions, enjoying intense bursts of play, but they can become particularly attached to one person in the family.

Which dogs are the most temperamental?

You’ll have to have your wits about you at all times if you adopt a Doberman Pinscher, an intelligent dog with a proud instinct that can translate as aggression towards other dogs. Rottweilers can be great bundles of fun when they are with their owners but have a tendency for being over-protective and territorial which can result in displays of aggression. American Pitbull terriers are often bossy, temperamental and need careful handling.

How can I influence my dog’s playtime behavior?

Adopting a puppy rather than an adult dog is the best way to ensure you have a direct influence over his behavior. suggest that teaching your puppy to socialize with lots of people and other dogs from a young age is vitally important. The more your pup is around others, then the better he will learn to appreciate different characters just as we do. You’ll provide him with more opportunities to understand various situations. A few lessons at a puppy training school is beneficial not only for your dog, but for you! The instructors will teach you valuable tricks to ensure you know how to keep your dog well-mannered.

When and how should I start socializing my dog?

Rachel Casey at Dogs Trust UK writes that the age of three to twelve weeks is an ideal time to introduce your dog systematically to a variety of situations. This can include handling, grooming and meeting strangers who come to your home. She also says that letting your puppy investigate objects such as walking frames, umbrellas and work hats can make him more relaxed when he encounters them on his first outings to the park. The idea is if your dog is not scared of everything he sees, he’ll be more relaxed and able to enjoy his fun and games.

What toys are best to take to the park?

Dog and Owner Playing aggressively with a frizbee

The favorite toys for you both to enjoy are simple tennis balls or a Frisbee. Taking them to an off the leash dog park will provide fun and entertainment as your pooch chases them and brings them back. However, to avoid spoiling your fun, if another dog comes to join in, it’s best to hide your toys. All dogs have a basic instinct for possessive, territorial behavior and your own dog won’t appreciate someone else muscling his way in to take away what he regards as exclusively his own.

How can I make sure my dog has a good time?

To summarize what we’ve learned so far, you need first and foremost to teach your dog his manners. A well-behaved dog who understands his limits and obeys commands is easier to restrain and control when you are in situations that could get out of hand. Socializing with people, dogs and objects will help him to remain calm when he encounters something new during your outings. Remember to respect your dog’s inner feelings, there’ll be days when he might be feeling more sensitive.

How can my dog stay happy while enjoying playtime fun?

Always observe your dog closely while playing to quickly identify the difference between dog play, aggressive dog play behavior, and dog aggression, as it’s your duty to help him enjoy his fun and games. At the first sign that his Play Bow is turning to aggression, help him relieve his stress by distracting, then removing him from a potentially explosive situation.

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