Dog or Puppy Playing Too Rough with other dogs?

I was on a doggie forum the other day and had an interesting
conversation with a person about his pup’s rough play at dog parks. I
thought you would be interested so I’ve posted it here. Let me know if
you found this helpful.

Jack: “Hello my 7 month old Brittany has suddenly become aggressive
towards certain dogs while in the local park. He has had plenty of
socialization since day one. It appears that he will test the other
dog for a reaction and if he gets nothing back then it seems to fire
him up to the point where he is close to full on attack. This is
embarrassing as well as annoying as my wife now refuses to take him
out and tonight I was told by 2 regular walkers that he has already
got a bad name and people will avoid him because of this . Can anyone
help me with this dilemma?”
Jim Burwell: “Sometimes putting a pup with only older mature dogs that
can teach your adolescent pup to better read dog body language and
respond appropriately is the way to go. Pups come into their
Protective/Agressive stage of development at around 4 1/2 to 6 1/2
months of age.

You should not set your dog up to fail by allowing play with other
adolescents who challenge his assertive and reactive behavior. This
sends him the wrong message about appropriate play.

To a certain degree you can help your dog communicate calming signals
(no harm intended) to other dogs on walk by turning your dog sideways
(arching around the oncoming dog) as you pass. This can be a long
process that takes time and dedication on your part. Seek help from a
professional “positive reinforcement” trainer in your area.

Hope this helps.”

Jack: “Thanks Jim. Having read this it does make a lot of sense
because when he is around older dogs he is very well behaved and the
dogs he is aggressive towards are all around his age. Although there
is one dog which is mature that Marley is very fond of playing with
and has as much energy as him that sometimes takes the playing a bit
too far and then turns on my dog. Do you think he may be picking bad
habits up off this dog?”

Jim Burwell: “How your pup plays with one dog will, to a certain
extent, shape how he plays with other dogs until he finally learns to
read other dog body language -calming signals and distance increasing
signals specifically. It will be difficult to isolate him completely
from all adolescent dogs unless you don’t allow play at all. This is
not advisable because he needs gobs of socialization. Pups can learn
quickly; however, reliability only comes with experience and maturity.
He’s got to have the experience as he matures. So now it gets down to
training, training, training. If your pup will respond to “off!” or
“leave it!” then “come!” around other dogs you can stop the rough play
when he ignores other dog’s calming signals and he will eventually
“get it.” I enjoyed our “chat” here and look forward to hearing about
your eventual outcome.

Hope this helps and….good luck.”
Jim Burwell, Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

6 replies
  1. client care
    client care says:

    Lorna: Two ways Jim can help you: There are hundreds of articles on our site that Jim has written – all free and very helpful information on dog behavior
    issues, puppy training and more.

    The other way is to hire Jim to help you with your issues. If you do NOT live in Houston then we can help you this was:
    Dog behavior is always, always related to the relationship the dog has with it’s owners and the environment in which the dog lives. Happy to help.

  2. Lorna Lane
    Lorna Lane says:

    We just got a puppy (Schnuazer mix) & we already have an adolescent Standard Poodle. The teenager Poodle is much larger & wants to play but is being too rough & insistent. The pup is intimidated & either hides, rolls over to expose his belly, or cur;s his lip & snarls/barks back or yelps in a high pitched yelp.
    We are uncertain what to do… our poodle is fixated & has barely slept or ate (we are on Day 2).
    We don’t know when or how to intervene. We have given our poodle a few timeouts when he has been too aggressive, keep saying “gentle” or “nice”, and when he has gotten too aggressive/rough, we have squirted him with a water bottle to divert his attention.
    Our poodle seems to want to play but is scaring the pup. We got the pup as a companion for the poodle because the poodle has seemed depressed since losing his companion this summer (a much older Schnauzer).
    We need advice!

  3. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Maria: a 4 month old puppy is like a crawling baby. No stop that does not compute;-) Do a more consistent job of keeping the puppy under control by having the puppy on a leash that is ATTACHED to
    you. When unattended, the leash is NOT on. She is simply trying to play but you have existing dogs that are used to things being a certain way and she’s an intrusion. Tons of articles on the site
    about puppies and how to get them adjusted to being in your home. Here’s one to read:

  4. Maria
    Maria says:

    I have a 4month old 25lb catahoula mix puppy and I have 2 12lb chihuahuas that are 10 years old. My new puppy wants to play with the other dogs and they don’t want anything to do with her because shes so rough and they try to attack her to tell her no but she thinks they are playing, and they aren’t. One of the older dogs has lost 2 teeth doing this. I try to correct it by telling her no/stop and by taking her or the other dogs out of the situation but know luck yet. Any suggestions???
    I’ve had the puppy for about 4 weeks now


  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:


    Thanks for your inquiry. There is such a thing as play aggression where a dog’s ability to turn off or tone down their level of play way down becomes impossible.

    A few things:

    1.) Suspend dog park privileges for the time being. Do not set your dog up to fail or rehearse his aggressive tendencies while you are working on these issues.

    2.) Training, training and more training “around distractions that are relevant to you” i.e. other dogs There is absolutely no substitute for having a dog listen to you in intense play with other dogs.

    This takes time to build with your dog who must learn to listen to you around other dogs

    Teach your dog off, come, sit and down first with no dogs then with a few older, less reactive dogs and at a distance where you can obtain successful results.

    This is no easy task. It takes patience. It is something on which you must build.

    3.) At some point, Bruno needs to be re-introduced or put with older more mature dogs who will teach him to “read and respect” body language “calming signals” of other dogs.

    The right older dog mentality will simply not tolerate or become reactive with Bruno but simply say, “Leave me alone. I will not play when you play too rough or become aggressive.”

    Continue to work on your training and socialization and remember, do not set him up to fail.

    Bruno is at a critical juncture in his life so build a strong, positive foundation of leadership and training.

  6. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    This describes by 16month old lab-spaniel cross ‘Bruno’ to a tee!!
    I was almost in tears with him at the park today. I have spent so much time, effort, love, patience and not to mention money, trying to socialise him and train him…. but when around other dogs of a similar age he seems to get over-excited, and then for no obvious reason, his play escalates to become really aggressive and nasty….and when he’s reached that point, any attempt to call him off falls on deaf ears. I’m at the end of my tether and don’t know what to do….I really don’t want him to spend his whole life locked in the yard, but he is so ‘antisocial’ that I don’t seem to have any other option. He’s just such a bossy stubborn pig-headed dominant aggressive dog!!
    Any advice would be much appreciated!!

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