6 min read


Can Dogs Feel Harassed?



6 min read


Can Dogs Feel Harassed?


We live in the age of bullies, guided by their insecure attempts to rank number one in their zone. Perhaps they inherited their arrogance or saw an opportunity in the school yard or corporate playing field

Dogs can harass other fur babies in the local dog park, on the streets, or in your own home if there is more than one woofer. Sibling rivalry is the key factor with quarrels about toys, food bowls, and owner affection. Having the bully dog in the neighborhood could see you and your pooch ostracized by owners in the local dog park. Its time to delve into the reasons why dogs harass other pooches. This could be helpful reading if you have a bully dog!


Signs a Dog Could Be a Bully

Harassment is an everyday occurrence, especially in the workplace where gender equality is tested and competition urges the strong to dominate. If we are the office bully, we may have unwittingly created the same character in our dog.

An hour spent in the local pooch park sees whispers and backs turned while your Standard Poodle takes on a dominant role. Poodles have monarchical origins in their homeland of France, where many a King Louis sat upon the Chateau de Versailles throne, with a spoilt Poodle in their lap.

Is your pooch growling and snapping at another dog or trying to mount them? These are all signs of attempted dominance, and the lowly pooch will generally comply if your dog is “a lover, not a fighter”. Bully dogs will harass every dog in sight, barking and lunging to establish who's boss.

Doggy tantrums are common if you have multiple pooches at home. If one or both is vying for owner attention, there could be a few scraps. Pinning one dog to the ground tells them who's boss, which could easily aggravate even the most submissive pup, who retaliates by biting the other one's paw

If you’re out for a lovely walk in the sun and the local Terrier stops and stares menacingly at your pooch, it might pay to move on. A stiffened tail with a rigid body stance is the signal trouble could be brewing. Another notorious sign of harassment is when a bigger mutt literally bowls over your dog.

When your Boxer is constantly harassing the other dogs in the park, you might be tired of apologizing to owners and you may feel ashamed you have a bully for a dog. The same goes for toddler parents, who can be surprised to find junior is a terror-bug making other kids cry. If you want to relate your dog to a 2-3-year-old, as most scientists do, it could be a wake-up call to know your naughty pup may be acting like a child that is testing their boundaries and learning what is appropriate behavior. Science tells us dogs have a brain similar to us and cognitive ability of a toddler age.

Real problems can arise if the bully dog in question is also a giant or muscular breed. These are big and powerful dogs that can do a lot of harm to a person or pup and when they attack, it’s usually a bad ending for the bully mutt. Barbara Woodhouse, a dog trainer of the 80’s, quoted “There are no bad dogs – only inexperienced owners”

On the other side of the dog fence, there's a woofer getting bullied. This sensitive pup will show the submissive signs of yawning, tail tucking, rolling on their back, or whimpering.

Body Language

Signs a pooch can harass other dogs include:<br/>

  • Growling
  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Snapping
  • Biting
  • Stiff Tail

Other Signs

Signs a dog is a bully are:<br/>

  • Pinnings Another Pooch To The Ground
  • Bowling Over Another Dog
  • Dominating The Dog Park
  • Trying To Mount Other Dogs
  • Fighting Over Toys And Food
  • Being Jealous Of The Owner'S Attention

The History of Dogs Harassing


The infamous zoo study of captive wolves in the 1930’s by Rudolph Schenkel, a Swiss animal behaviorist, started a war of words with dog trainers who concluded if wolves bully each other to become the Alpha leader, why would dogs be any different? Quora informs us that the wolves studied were not in the wild, so how they behave in their natural environment was not dully noted.

According to Psychology Today,  harassment is universal with monkeys, observed by primatologist Dario Maestripieri, picking on a weakened member of a group. A bully macaque bit a monkey named Buddy, who did not retaliate but instead, ran away. When Buddy came back to the group, the bullying was worse, as he was depicted as vulnerable, so he was taken away permanently for fear he would be killed. Animals can be unforgiving of weakness, as can humans, who exploit the vulnerable and prey on their fragility to lift their own esteem. 

Instead of blaming wolves for dogs asserting their dominance, we might want to examine how dogs learn from us. They watch our body language and facial expressions and can tell if we are unwell. It's, therefore, likely they pick up on the harassing ways of humans. 

We know they mimic us, so with less time to worry about work or paying the bills, a dog has plenty of hours to check us out. There is also the scientific fact they are evolving genetically alongside us. The human race is known to get stuck on ideas and keep the status quo for centuries. It’s not until a voice we respect tells us different that we assess our stand on a subject.

The fairy-talish epic of wolves having the arrogance to become friends with humans doesn’t fit the theory of Alpha males and fighting within the pack. Why would a leader relinquish their “top dog” role to be ruled by humans? It must have been a rare event, with either wolf-pups being taken or a few wolves being pretty darn hungry.

The Science of Bossy Dogs


When breeding of dogs began thousands of years ago, the idea was to make them physically astute for the job at hand. Molossian dogs were bred by an ancient Grecian tribe who wanted physically muscular and intimidating dogs for warfare. From the Molossis dog came the Mastiff, and a new vocation for fighting dogs for Roman amusement in the Colosseum.

Today, dogs with a powerful stance are called bully dogs and are on many banned nation lists. Early breeders looked to create a high level of performance in their canines and, considering there was no concept of genetics or DNA, some would say the creators of dogs, like Border Collies with their innate ability to herd sheep and the super sniffer Beagle, didn’t do so bad.

The problem was dogs that were designed to be aggressive looked the part as well. Dog fighting is still a popular sport and kept alive by merciless humans with no regard for the dog. It’s this focus that makes people nervous when a Pitbull appears at the dog park, even if this family pet is a big softie.

Woofers that harass other pooches may never have been socialized, so they leap all over the other dogs thinking its fun. Like kids who’ve been left to figure life out for themselves, an un-socialized Mastiff or Pitbull could be hell on paws.

Park-ground bullies lack the social skills that should have been taught during puppyhood, and if the breed has an aversion to aggression, trouble could lie ahead. If a Maltese or Chihuahua hasn’t learned how to interact with other dogs, they could be tiny-tot ankle-biters, making the big mutts run for cover in the park, or worse - attack in self-defense!

Training Your Dog Not to Harass Others


If you have the dog park bully lying on your sofa, it’s time to action a behavioral change. Victoria Stilwell, an advocate for positive encouragement, says dominance in the animal kingdom is generally devoid of violence, so asks why dog trainers insist on physical punishments.

In the 60’s, a scientific study suggested punishing a dog that’s done something wrong is futile unless you catch them chewing your shoes or defecating on the floor. Their attention span is short, so when you start disciplining a woofer thirty minutes after the event, they will be confused and lose trust. Studies show that harsh discipline can be met with aggression - and rightfully so. It’s demeaning to be hit and yes, actually painful.

Younger dogs with no socialization will harass other dogs whether in the home or park. If you see this playing out, don’t try to get in the middle of it but wait for the opportunity to get your dog out of there. Pet-Helpful suggests “Time Out” so the bully pooch realizes their actions will be interrupted. This can be done with a negative connotation such as “UhAh!” so your pooch aligns this term with the behavior.

You could also train your dog with a command that stops the rough play before the bullying ever begins. If your dog can’t resist stand-over tactics with other pups, the doggy park is not the place to take them. Like humans, a dog can meet their match and that could end in an expensive time at the vet.

Sometimes dogs can harass their pet parents with constant attention-seeking and demand-barking. This can be truly disturbing, as a small or large dog tries to get control of their guardian. You may feel like leaving home as your woofer watches your every move. This behavior is born of an insecurity and could be because they are sick or have experienced trauma.

Teaching a dog the ways of the world when they are older can be a challenge. If they jump all over dogs or try to nip them, use a muzzle while you are out on a walk. Take them to the dog park, but walk around the perimeter on a leash. You want them to get used to dog park etiquette so you can trust them with the other dogs. 

Have questions or concerns about your pet?

Chat with a veterinary professional in the Wag! app 24/7.

Get Vet Chat

Safety Tips for Dogs that Harass:

  1. Keep a bully away from the dog park.
  2. Choose a command that interrupts them when playing too rough.
  3. Talk to a dog trainer.
  4. Teach your dog social skills.
  5. Read articles about how to help your dog from being bullied.
  6. Share your story - it might help other dog owners.

Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 06/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
Need to upgrade your pet's leash?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.