Robin and I were at a Home Dog Training session in Jefferson yesterday evening working with two Jack Russells.  They were both about two years old and, of course, very energetic. One of the reasons that we were called out was that the client believed they were aggressive towards each other and was afraid that it would escalate to other dogs and even family members.  We observed the dogs for a period of time and determined that the issue our client was facing was not canine aggression.

Most dogs love to play and many of them love to play “hard”.  They love to nip at each other, growl, jump, chase, and pin each other down. The problem with this is that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate this “playful” activity from the more dangerous “aggressive activity.  The difficulty to determine this very fine delineation can often cause a great deal of worry for many dog owners.  After training over 5,000 dogs over the last thirteen years, Robin and I have become pretty accurate in identifying the difference between “play” and “fight”.  We offered our client some simple tips to determine his dogs’ “actual behavior”.

  • If you hear one of the dogs giving off a high pitched yelp or crying sound, he is being hurt. If you do not see the other dog back off immediately, they are fighting and it should be stopped.
  • If there is a large disparity in the sizes of the two dogs, there should not be rough play, period.
  • If one dog is constantly in the dominant role (always the chaser, on top, etc.), this could be a fighting situation. When dogs play, they quickly switch roles because “it is only a game”.
  • If one dog is hiding behind you or backed into a small area with the other dog right there, it has gone beyond any sort of “play mode” and should be halted.
  • If you see one dog with his tail between his legs or his hackles raised, this is not playing and the situation should be stopped.
  • To be on the safe side, if “it just doesn’t feel right”, stop it.

Follow the above guidelines and you should be able to keep the dog on dog activity a fun and social event for all involved.  Now, I would like to move on to another subject on playing.

Many of our clients are fine with their dogs playing and can understand when they might be fighting.  What they don’t understand is what to do if the dogs start to play too roughly.

This is an interesting topic and one that stumps a lot of people.  The answer is very simple.  Let your dogs play to a level where you no longer feel comfortable.  Many puppies will play, nip each others’ ears, and even cause holes in their ears.  They don’t care, they are having fun.  You do care because you don’t want to pay the Vet bill.  In that instance, you would stop them.  If your dogs are rough housing too close to a breakable object, you would probably want to stop them.  If they are about ready to continue their play in the lake, you would probably want to stop them.  Remember, you are the boss and if it isn’t OK with you, it isn’t OK for them to do it.

So remember to watch your dogs’ body language to help to determine if they are just playing or ramping up to a dangerous fight.  Let them play on your terms and stop them if they pass your personal boundary.

Robin and I encourage you to contact us at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Jefferson Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Jefferson Georgia.