How to Train Your Dog to Not Play Aggressively

Medium
2-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You’ve just settled down to watch this week’s episode of your favorite show, but your dog is demanding attention. He’s had had his walk for the day, but still wants to play! Perhaps he’s a puppy or just particularly energetic, but whatever it is, he won’t take no for an answer. But their idea of playing can often lead to aggression, such as growling, nibbling and even full on biting. Everyone wants to be able to play with their dog, but a dog that displays aggressive behavior when playing could potentially be a risk not just to you, but children, strangers and other dogs too.

Training your dog to NOT play aggressively could save you from a world of future problems. Not to mention it means you can play with him without the risk of losing a finger. Thankfully, with patience and a proactive attitude, you can nip displays of playful but aggressive behavior in the bud relatively quickly.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog not to be aggressive can be done through a variety of methods. You can try and encourage them to play with toys instead of your body, you can ensure they have a cool off period when they start to show signs of aggression, plus you can let them know when you are dissatisfied with their behavior.

The key to training aggressive behavior out of your dog is consistency. You need to keep up the training until all displays of aggression have gone. Combating aggressive play is seriously important, otherwise, their aggression could manifest itself outside of play and could lead to serious injury. It is not a straightforward and easy road to tackling aggression, but with persistence, in several weeks or months you could have a transformed dog. While training aggression out of puppies may be easier, even graying dogs can respond to this sort of training too.

Getting Started

Before you begin tackling aggressive behavior, you’ll need to get a few things together. It is firstly worth getting a toy for your dog that will be used instead of your hands and arms. You may also want to get some treats to reward your dog for playing gently. These could be actual dog treats, or their favorite food, be it cheese or some lean meat. The only other thing you need is patience and a proactive attitude.

You’re now equipped with the knowledge and some tasty treats, it’s time to get to work!

The Toy Substitute Method

Most Recommended
7 Votes
Toy Substitute method for Not Play Aggressively
Step
1
Begin playing with your dog gently
Try to keep play gentle, soft and strictly friendly. You don’t want to get them too worked up, but if they do...
Step
2
Introduce a toy into the mix
Encourage your dog to chew and play with the toy instead of your hands, arms and legs. Try to keep your hands away from his mouth and on the toy only.
Step
3
Tug of war
Encourage the dog to pull the toy with its mouth while you pull at it too. But always let your dog win so they feel encouraged and want to play again in future.
Step
4
Stop when a line is crossed
If your dog gets too aggressive and starts growling, barking or biting, then it’s time for a cool down period. Leave or ignore your dog until he has calmed down.
Step
5
Praise your dog for gentle play
If your dog has behaved well during play, be sure to praise him or give him a treat – he will then associate gentle play with rewards in the future.
Recommend training method?

The Distract & Discourage Method

Effective
7 Votes
Distract & Discourage method for Not Play Aggressively
Step
1
Exercise, exercise, and more exercise
If he is well and truly tired out, your dog won’t have the energy for aggressive play. If you can’t walk him anymore than you already do, throw a ball for him regularly while walking to tire him out.
Step
2
Teach tricks and obedience commands
Teaching your dog to ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’ and ‘roll over’, will all help you control your dog’s behavior. It will help him respond to your commands promptly, making it much easier to stop aggressive behavior quickly when they start to exhibit signs of it in play.
Step
3
Use positive reinforcements only
Never punish your dog when he is aggressive, it may work your dog up even more. Instead, focus on praising your dog with words or treats when he is gentle and well-behaved. This will encourage him to repeat that good behavior again.
Step
4
Discourage aggressive attention-seeking
If your dog does get too excited and starts to growl or bite, move your arms behind your back, lean away, and look away to show him you will not engage with them if he is going to be aggressive.
Step
5
Stay off the floor with an excitable puppy
Puppies can get overly excited very quickly if you’re down at their level. Instead, stay above them, this will help them to see you are the pack leader and prevent them exhibiting signs of aggression.
Recommend training method?

The React to Behavior Method

Least Recommended
6 Votes
React to Behavior method for Not Play Aggressively
Step
1
React
Say ‘NO’ in a firm voice if your dog displays aggressive behavior and bites you. Also ensure you relay that you are unhappy by walking away and ignoring him until he has calmed down.
Step
2
Use taste deterrents
Dogs that have a habit of biting when playing can be deterred with unpleasant tastes. These deterrents can be bought online and from pet shops and once your dog associates biting with a horrible taste, they should soon stop biting.
Step
3
Keep your hand away from his mouth
If your dog has a habit of trying to bite when you playing, then stick to stroking their body and handling their toys only, don’t play with their mouth or head. This will reduce biting and direct their attention to the toy instead.
Step
4
Never play roughly
It sounds obvious, but if your dog has a habit of aggressive play, then don’t allow him to get worked up by also roughhousing with them. Remain quiet and soft so he can’t get overly excited and aggressive.
Step
5
Don’t be afraid to use a muzzle
If your dog consistently bites and you cannot stop him getting aggressive, then it might be time to consider a muzzle. This will prevent him biting, and when he plays gently you can remove the muzzle to signal to them they have behaved well and should continue to play in the same manner.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Cartier
AnimalBreed object
8 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cartier
AnimalBreed object
8 Weeks

Overnight her playful nibbling has turned into biting! This is something I do not want. She is too adorable to have this trait. Not only people but anything she encounters. She was scared at first when I brought her home now she’s like a firecracker.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
93 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is some information on nipping/biting. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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Question
rudy
AnimalBreed object
3 Months
0 found helpful
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rudy
AnimalBreed object
3 Months

Hello,

My dog bites us and our clothes a lot. He does not want to go for a walk. When we take him outside, he immediately wants to go back. He never pays attention to me. What can I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
674 Dog owners recommended

Hello Omer, For the biting, check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The Out method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just playing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command for you to use if pup is biting guests or kids who don't know how to enforce no biting themselves. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. A class can help with the fearfulness of new things too. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help her calm down and rest. Practicing regular obedience commands or having pup earn what they get by performing commands like Sit and Down before feeding, petting, tossing a toy, opening the door for a walk, ect... can also help stimulate pup mentally to increase calmness and wear them out. Commands that practice focus, self-control, and learning something a bit new or harder than before can all tire out puppies. For the walks, it sounds like pup needs more socialization. I suggest taking pup outside and simply spend time relaxing, playing games, and training with treats outside. Pick a calm area like your front yard, then gradually choose other spots to take pup to and also spend time. Increase the amount of exposure pup is getting, rather than decreasing it to help pup overcome their fears, but work on calmer locations first, bring lots of pup's kibble or small healthy treats like freeze dried meat or liver treats, and practice fun activities outside to help pup like being there. Pay attention to any noises or specific things in the area like a dog barking that might be scaring pup and need extra attention making a fun experience. Reward pup for their curiosity and bravery outside especially. To get pup to listen better, use pup's meal kibble. Call their name and toss a treat each time you do so. When pup starts to expect a reward with their name at these times, then surprise pup throughout the day, periodically saying their name, then waiting until they look or start to approach you before you toss the treat. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
B
AnimalBreed object
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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B
AnimalBreed object
5 Months

Hi - My 5 month old mixed rescue dog (mostly australian cattle dog) is super smart, but he will NOT stop biting us aggressively. Most of the time it's while we're playing with him, but other times it's out of the blue. For example, we can be playing fetch with a tennis ball and he'll be doing great, but then if I throw the ball again, he'll look at the ball, start to run after it, but turn around, run back at me and start chomping on my arm, hand, feet, legs, clothing while growling. Other times we can just be standing at the sink or sitting on the couch and he'll run up and bite the backs of our legs hard or jump up on the couch and start attacking arms or legs. We have had 2 trainers in the home - neither methods worked (time outs, water bottles, air compressors, yelping, stern NO, getting up and leaving/ignoring him, etc). I'm just kind of at a loss and don't know what to do to fix the issue.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
674 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I check out the article linked below and work on teaching the Leave It command from the leave it method first - work up to practicing with things like gloves and socks and clothing, then doing it while wearing the clothing after that, like the method outlines. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark My guess is that the person pup bites often vocalizes when he does it or reacts strongly - because most people do when something hurts a lot! Since pup seems to be doing it to gain attention or when highly aroused, that type of response likely encourages pup even more - they feed off of the excitement of a big response. As annoying as if is, try to wear shoes and thick pants while inside for a bit too - since pup is most likely to grab at those areas first when you are not low, to keep the pain to a minimum to save your skin and decrease loud startled responses pup may like. Keep a drag leash on pup when you are home to supervise to help you enforce rules better also. Work on the methods from the articles linked below to build respect and self-control calmly with pup - calmness is super important it sounds like. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Also, practice working up to a 1 hour place command with pup to build those things as well. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s You do need some type of consequence for the biting, but it a good leave it command needs to be practiced first so that pup develops self-control as a skill, understands what you want from them, and is given a chance to obey first, and doesn't just get more aroused when given a consequence due to not having enough self-control to be able to obey or understand what you want - right now pup likely thinks the consequences are you playing roughly or it just arouses pup even more. The consequence might be something you already tried but it also might be something like enforcing an Out command or drilling pup - which is when you clip a leash onto pup (or pick up the drag leash they are already wearing) and run through 20 commands in quick succession - like quick heel work with lots of turns and little praise or rewards, then sit, down, stand, stand, down sit, more heel, watch me, stay, ect... Working pup like this quickly and calmly without treats (think cadet drills without the yelling) can help pup calm back down, get pup into a working and calmer mindset, and encourage respect without being harsh. You can tell pup good when they obey, but the good should be an extremely calm almost matter of fact praise while doing this, not adding energy, just to let pup know they did it correctly. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Heel - Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Sit: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Down and Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Stand: https://wagwalking.com/training/stand-and-stay Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Maya
AnimalBreed object
14 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Maya
AnimalBreed object
14 Weeks

She is very mouthy. She wants everything in her mouth and she always bites when she's playing,not hard, but if we tell her no or walk away, she thinks we're playing and she gets even more worked up.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
93 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to send you information on the nipping/biting. While this is a "normal" puppy behavior, it is something you want to put a stop to now before it becomes a learned habit. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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Millie
AnimalBreed object
16 Months
0 found helpful
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0 found helpful
Millie
AnimalBreed object
16 Months

Every time she is off lead she does not listen. She has gone for people not bitten but I am scared she will. She does not respond to anything commander come back. Her brother is the opposite he does not run away. She is scared of traffic true I do try to reassure it ok but she tries to chase cars. Any help will nice, these are out fourth and fifth dogs, brothers and sisters from same litter. We have never experienced anything like this before my dear is she bits and I would have to put her sleep. Regards Karen

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
93 Dog owners recommended

Hello! So I am going to give you some tips on teaching recall. It is something you will have to practice to ingrain it into her so she is responsive in those settings. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.

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