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
4 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
4 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.
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The React to Behavior Method

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2 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

Question
Charlie
beagle pug
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Charlie
beagle pug
5 Months

We have a 4 year old cat and adopted a rescue puppy in October. I think that our puppy believes that the cat is a moving play toy. But my concern is that he always tries to jump on the cat and nip or chew on his ears. The cat will tolerate this up to a point and then get to higher ground. I would like to know how to stop this behavior so that they can play gently and become friends and companions to each other. Please help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carolyn, Don't expect the animals to play together, instead teach the puppy to respect the cat's space, then if the cat decides she wants to play, she can initiate it when the puppy is more mature and calmer - but very few cats ever initiate play with dogs so don't expect it. If it happens it will be a pleasant surprise. A more realistic goal for the animals is for them to be able to calmly hang out in the same room and simply get along without getting rough or scared. Just because they do not play, that does not mean that they will not enjoy each others company though. Our cat growing up simply liked to lay near our cat-friendly dog - even though they didn't play or touch usually. When Charlie starts getting rough with the cat, get between the animals, tell Charlie "Out" (which means leave the area) while you point to where he should go to (away from the cat), and walk toward Charlie until he moves to where you have pointed to - away from the cat. Pretend that you are a goalie or a herding dog, trying to herd him away from the cat using your body. Be calm but firm when you do this. You don't want to add even more excitement to the scenario by being excited or angry. When Charlie is "Out", then stand in front of him and block him from going back to the cat until he stops trying to get back. When he stops trying to get around you or fixating on the cat, or leaves completely, then walk back toward the cat yourself. If he tries to follow you back, then tell him "Ah-Ah" and repeat walking toward him to get him out of the area again. Practice walking him out of the area, standing in front of him to block him from returning to the cat, going back over to the cat yourself, and walking him out of the area again if he tries to follow you back. When you are ready to let him come back, tell him "Okay!" in a cheerful tone of voice and encourage him back over - he does not have to come back over though. Be consistent and don't let him go back over to where the cat is unless you have told its "Okay". Expect to have to repeat walking toward him and blocking his way a lot at first. He will not understand what you are doing at first, so needs to practice this. He also will likely not want to obey, but should learn to obey if you are consistent and show him through your consistency and insistence that obeying that command isn't optional. Also, when he is calmly hanging out by the cat, laying down while the cat moves around nearby, or obeys your "Out" command when first told - without you having to walk him out of the area, then reward him with treats and praise. By doing that, you are teaching him to continue to love the cat but also to be respectful toward her and calm around her. Your cat will probably appreciate Charlie's new manners and might choose to be closer to him if she feels as if she can trust him more. I also recommend teaching a "Leave It" command, so that you can tell Charlie to leave the cat alone when you know that he is thinking about bothering her but hasn't yet. Check out the article that I have linked below and use the "Leave It" method. When Charlie can do the "Leave It" training with food and objects, then practice with moving things, like yourself, other people and the cat walking by. Block him from getting to the cat if he disobeys - by getting between him and the cat like you did with the "Out" command. When he stops trying to get to the cat, then you can reward him for leaving her alone. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Paxi
American bully
1 Year
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Question
0 found helpful
Paxi
American bully
1 Year

My bully started playing aggressive recently. She is Not an aggressive dog; she is friendly with dogs and people alike. When she plays with our other dog, a border collie mix, she will go for the legs and sometimes ears. She started to bite and sometimes she will pull. Mostly she will nibble. Her breed is very strong and may not be aware if it. Our other pup is starting to pick up the same behavior. Do you have any tips on how to modify this behavior?

p.s. I'm not sure if this information is relevant, but the bully was attacked by a dog 3 times her size about 2-3 months ago

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Maria, When the two dogs start telling rough, you can help them learn to keep their play calmer by teaching them both an "Out" command. "Out" means: get out of the area. It's a bit like telling two human boxers to go to their corners for a minute. First, teach each dog the meaning of "out" individually: by calling that dog over to you, tossing a large treat a few feet behind her (so that she moves away from you), while you say "Out" and point to where you toss with your treat-tossing hand. When she goes over to the treat, praise her. After she eats it, tell her "okay" and encourage her to come back. Repeat this exercise until the dog will move away from you when you say "Out" and point, before you have tossed the treat. Once she starts moving to where you are pointing then toss the treat to her as a reward for obedience. Practice this, until she can do this consistently too. Once the dogs both understand what "Out" means, use it in other areas of life, like when you want them to leave the kitchen or not bother a person. If the dog obeys, give her a treat. If she disobeys, get between her and whatever she is supposed to leave alone and walk toward her until she backs out of the area and goes where you pointed to. Once she is out of the area, block her from coming back in until she gives up trying to go back. Once she gives up, go back into the area yourself. If she follows you back, repeat walking toward her to get her out of the area again. Imagine yourself as a linebacker, soccer goalie, or brick wall. You should be calm, but very firm and business-like when you do this. Now, once the dogs understand the "Out" command and have learned that you will enforce it, use it when they start playing too roughly. If they disobey, grab a pillow, put it in front of your body at the dog's level, and block the rough-house instigator and walk her out of the area, like you practiced at other times. Only do this if there is no true aggression, but just excitement. If there is real aggression during the fights, this needs to be handled differently, with more preventative measures to keep everyone safe. Your description sounds like normal dog rough play. Give the dogs a few minutes to calm down, practice some obedience like sit and down, and when both dogs are focused on you and calm, if you want to let them continue playing, you can tell the less excitable dog (usually your Border Collie) "Okay" first -- to see if she still wants to play. If she does, tell the second dog "okay" also. I also suggest teaching both dogs a "Place" command or "bed" command and really working on their obedience with that. You can use that command when they just need to leave each other alone. They do not need to be wrestling all the time, but since they are young they are going to want to without other constructive things to do. Teach a "Place" command and give each dog a fun chew toy on her bed -- one that won't cause fights and jealousy if that's ever an issue for them. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Maggie
Australian Shepherd
8 Years
2 found helpful
Question
2 found helpful
Maggie
Australian Shepherd
8 Years

I need help with my parent's older dog being overly aggressive with our two year old female Austrailian Shepherd. Initially, Maggie will play well with Ruby. However, after she gets tired from chasing a dog that's 6 years younger she will begin getting snippy and noticeably aggressive. Can you provide any thoughts on how we might be able to avoid this from happening?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tyler, It is fairly common for older dogs and younger dogs to disagree because of the differences in energy levels. Maggie is probably getting tired and feeling overwhelmed after playing for a bit because Ruby does not let up when Maggie is giving her signals that she is ready to stop. Maggie may be resorting to aggression because she feels like she has to to get Ruby to give her space. You will need to do a couple of things. The first is supervise their play and be Maggie's advocate. When you see that she is getting tired and not having fun anymore distract Ruby away from Maggie. Perhaps have Ruby do something with you, or go lie down with a toy, or even have some quiet time in her crate, if she is use to being crated, with a fun toy, like a Kong chew toy stuffed with her kibble and a little peanut butter. If you separate the two dogs before Maggie feels overwhelmed she will begin to feel like you are handling the situation and that she does not have to be the one to control things. The second thing that you can do is to reward Maggie with something she loves, such as treats or a favorite toy, whenever Ruby comes near her. When Ruby is away keep things boring for Maggie and when Ruby comes close give Maggie something special so that she will associate Ruby's presence with good things and begin to want Ruby around. I would suggest doing both of those two things, as well as rewarding Ruby for leaving Maggie alone when you interrupt their play. Teaching a "come" or an "out" command can be great for Ruby. An out command is simply a command that means get out of the space you are currently in, that space being wherever Maggie is. Best of luck with your dogs, your girl is beautiful in the photo. Thank you, Caitlin Crittenden

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