How to Train Your Dog to Not Play Rough

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

All living creatures can become overexcited and get caught up in the moment. Dogs are definitely no exception! Although it can be fun to watch or even engage in excitable play, too often your dog can misread your signals and think it’s acceptable to play rough. It’s critical that you train your dog to stop an unwanted behavior once it begins, and especially one where you, your dog, or your family members can get hurt.

Puppies are especially prone to get wound up, and because they are still learning, they often don’t realize that using claws or teeth while playing is unacceptable in their new homes and environments. However, some adult dogs, including those who were never taught proper boundaries to begin with, can also play too rough. It’s up to the owner to set the ground rules so a dog can be a happy, healthy, and safe member of a family.

Defining Tasks

The purpose of this type of training is to provide your dog with proper socialization. This practice is necessary for puppies or any dog who never received the right kind of training before. Don’t misunderstand this behavior as being sweet or cute, as you won’t have the same opinion on it when your puppy grows up and plays much more roughly as an adult dog.

Rough play often comes from overexcitement, or a dog learning to play rough from other dogs. In some instances, dogs can play rough because their owners have taught them that behavior or it may be a dog exerting dominance over another dog or person. This latter group can be dangerous, as dogs trying to dominate others are not playing at all. These dogs may growl or even bite and cause serious injury. Whatever your dog’s circumstance, she can be trained to stop rough play by following any of these effective training methods.

Getting Started

Make sure you are in a calm mindset and remain patient and consistent throughout the training session. It may be helpful to have a toy or tennis ball on hand as tools to use for training or even a head halter. Careful observation is needed as well to determine the point at which your dog crosses from happy and energetic to overly excitable.

Remember that if you find yourself becoming angry or frustrated, stop training and take a break. Any negative emotion or action used toward your dog during this type of training is counterintuitive and will only cause more problems. Keep a positive attitude, and soon your dog will be able to play gently.

The Positive Distraction Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Watch body language
Make note of when your dog goes from playing gently to a hyperactive, overexcited state.
Step
2
Interrupt an overexcited state of mind
Distract your dog from her mental state by giving her something to chew on, asking her to lie down, or throwing a toy or ball for her.
Step
3
Get the leash
Further distract your dog with more positive behavior that also lets her expend her extra energy. Put on her leash and take her for a walk.
Step
4
Practice obedience exercises
While outside on the walk, have your dog practice obedience exercises like sitting, staying, and heeling while walking. Continue in this manner until your dog calms down.
Step
5
Repeat steps 1 - 4
Repeat this training process anytime your dog gets overexcited. Remember not to punish, hit, or yell at your dog. Stay patient at all times, and with consistency, your dog will learn to play nicely.
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The Proactive Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Walk your dog multiple times a day
Take your dog for frequent walks. This exercise will allow your dog to burn some energy and lower the chance for any overexcited outbursts. Walks also encourage your dog to focus on and listen to you.
Step
2
Provide unstructured playtime
Set aside time each day for unstructured play. It can consist of games like fetch and retrieve or hide and seek. Avoid games that promote rough behaviors such as tug of war.
Step
3
Reinforce basic obedience exercises
Help your dog focus on listening to you by having him roll over, sit, stay, or shake hands.
Step
4
Redirect your dog
If your dog loses focus and begins to play rough, redirect him right away. Do not engage your dog. Instead, say "no" firmly, push him away gently, and turn your back to him.
Step
5
Repeat steps 1 - 4 as needed
This training process can take a few weeks for your dog to master. Continue to follow these steps and repeat them as necessary.
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The Recall Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Work in an enclosed room
To help teach your dog to listen to you at any time, instead of playing roughly, you want to practice the recall command. Start in an enclosed room like a living or family room.
Step
2
Use a treat to get your dog's attention
Hold the treat in a flat but slightly cupped hand. Your dog will notice and focus on what your hand is holding.
Step
3
Give the 'come' command
Hold the treat out toward your dog and give the command 'come' in a confident, strong voice.
Step
4
Repeat 'come' once if needed
If your dog doesn't respond to the first 'come' command, repeat the command once and lower your hand toward the floor. This may make the treat more enticing to the dog.
Step
5
End on a 'sit' command
Once your dog comes over to you when you give the 'come' command, have him complete the process by ending the training with a 'sit'. Repeat this training segment whenever your dog needs to calm down and focus. In time, your dog should come when called outside and around other distractions with no issue.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Erin Cain

Published: 12/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
cruiser
Pitbull lab mix
2 Years
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cruiser
Pitbull lab mix
2 Years

hi! My family has never had a dog before we adopted cruiser from the SPCA a couple years ago. We never did any formal training other than basic recall. when cruiser is around dogs his size or smaller dogs, he tends to get over excited and kind of jumps up on them or plays too rough. He never bites aggressively or humps (sorry i didn’t know how to say that better) but I can’t get him to play easier with dogs his size or smaller. With larger dogs he plays completely fine. I assume it’s a dominance thing? I’m not sure where or how to start training on this.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start with taking Cruiser to obedience classes. It is an excellent way to socialize dogs in a good environment and at the same time, you have the benefit of a trainer right there. Obedience training also cements the bond between you. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-pitbull-puppy-basic-commands - these are basic ways to start off. You can try the Mind Your Manners Method here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-hyper-dog-to-calm-down. Choose a command word when you want Cruiser to change a behavior and be sure to consistently enforce it. Listening is key to stopping a behavior when you ask: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you. Teach Cruiser "No" for example when he plays rough https://wagwalking.com/training/understand-no. Then enforce it with the listening skills. If you are not able to get the behavior under control you can seek an in-home trainer. All the best!

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Millie
Chocolate Lab mix
5 Months
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Millie
Chocolate Lab mix
5 Months

Hi! About 4 months ago we got Millie. She is a great puppy and everything was going smoothly until she started biting and playing rough with me and my family. She knows how to sit, and most of the time will listen to us when we give her a command. However, the past few weeks she has gotten more aggressive with me on regular occasions (not times when we’re playing). For example, today I was laying in my bed with her when she started biting my hands and barking at me out of nowhere. She’s a really sweet puppy but has a wild side 😂. Please let me know if anything I can do that will help. :) thanks!

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

Hello! Here is 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
Stevie
Siberian Husky
3 Years
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Stevie
Siberian Husky
3 Years

How do I stop my dog from playing roughly? She doesn’t ever hurt other dogs, but she seems to get excited about chasing and being chased to the point where she’s nipping at their hind legs and tails so they’ll come after her, but she freaks them out. She will also chase down smaller dogs and bite them on the back hard enough to freak them out, but not to hurt them. She’s a social dog and I’d hate to never be able to let her have friends, but I can see it’s very concerning to not only me, but everyone involved.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Talitha, First, I would work on pup's off leash obedience so that they are under voice control around other dogs. Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Out - leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Second, recruit friends that have dogs that your dog gets along well with, and have your own play dates with no one else around - Don't do this at the dog park when others are there because it's not safe to use leashes and treats around lots of dogs. With both dogs on long training leashes and harnesses, once they have learned the above commands well, allow them to play for a couple minutes, then call them apart, practicing things like Out and Come, rewarding each dog when they both return to their own owners, practicing a couple more commands until they calm down, then releasing them to play again if both are still interested in playing. Once pup can respond well to you and learns how to calm themselves back down quickly during play at your instruction, then you can begin practicing with other dogs. I would practice with several different dogs in a private fenced area, until pup is extremely good at responding to you, before allowing pup to play with the larger group again. During this time I also recommend avoiding the dog park so pup doesn't practice the unwanted to behavior while you are trying to teach better manners, practicing the unwanted behavior can it almost impossible to succeed in your training efforts - you want all interactions to be better managed while pup is learning. I would pursue things like fetching, structured heeling walks (under the guidance of your vet, lightweight weights in the form of a hiking dog pack could be added for an extra challenge if pup is already in good shape), obedience classes, canine sports, and other means of exercising, socializing, and stimulating pup mentally in the meantime. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Athena
Doberman Pinscher
7 Weeks
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Question
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Athena
Doberman Pinscher
7 Weeks

My 7 week old puppy bites my 2 year old pug on his sides and mostly his ears. I tell her no and remove her from his area. She runs right back to him and tries to jump on him and continues to bite him everywhere. Now my pug is scared and runs away from her. What do I do ?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alyssa, For the biting, I recommend teaching pup the Leave It command. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I also recommend teaching pup Out - which means leave the area, and using the section on how to use out to deal with pushy behavior, and you enforce Out on behalf of the older dog so they don't have to deal with pup. This helps pup learn respect for them as an extension of pup respecting you, and takes the pressure off the older dog to handle things. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Finally, when you aren't supervising pup with the older dog, I also recommend confining pup to an exercise pen or crate with a dog food stuffed chew toy, to give your older dog a break and keep pup out of trouble, like chewing. The Surprise method can be used to teach pup to handle some alone time. When you are home, you can also tether pup to yourself with a hands free leash (add a carabiner to a normal leash for a cheap option), to keep pup closer to you and not bothering your older dog as needed too. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate/ To help build your older dog's confidence, whenever puppy enters the room or your older dog is being especially calm or tolerant of pup, give your older dog a small treat without puppy seeing you do so - you don't want pup to rush over and overwhelm your older dog, so be sneaky. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Mona
Shar Pei and German Shepherd
2 Years
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Mona
Shar Pei and German Shepherd
2 Years

Mona is a well behaved dog. She barely ever barks and she’s mostly fine with people and loves other animals. However, she plays a bit too rough with other dogs and can get very overexcited when multiple dogs are playing at once. And she will want to join in and I’ve been trying to figure out how to train her to not do her bad behavior and to not join in when all the dogs are wanting to play with one or a few dogs cause it feels like they’re all ganging up but I’m not sure how? She does know sit, down, heel, and she periodically checks in with me. She listens when I correct her with her no commands but when it comes to other dogs that’s when it’s hard for me to get her to listen. Can you help with this? Thank you!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Morgan, I would work towards off leash commands like Come and Leave It. I would practice those commands on a long leash - 20 foot then 40 foot when pup is ready for off-leash. Starting with lower distractions and progressing to practicing around other dogs - don't practice inside the dog park on leash due to the safety issues of having pup on leash in there. Instead recruit friends you can have one- on - one play dates/training sessions with, where you practice letting them play and calling them apart, rewarding them with treats for obeying a few commands, then letting them play again. Practicing until they will come apart without having to be reminded with a long leash. Use a padded back clip harness with the long leash to prevent neck injury, and be careful with how you play the leash out to make sure pup doesn't take off running with too much slack in the leash and hit the end of it at a high speed. You can also practice commands outside a dog park or regular park, where there are dogs in the background, but a fence between them, and pup simply getting used to obeying commands in the presence of the other dogs. Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lee
American Pit Bull Terrier
1 Year
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Question
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Lee
American Pit Bull Terrier
1 Year

We rescued him from the pound and when we first got him he wasn’t as playful cause he was sick. Well he is better now and has his puppy energy. He tends to start playing really rough a lot lately with us and he gets so wound up and when we try to calm him down and get him to stop he just barks or tries to do a playful lunge towards us. We want to stop this before it becomes dangerous for us or anyone else. He is an amazingly sweet boy but that puppy energy is a lot. How do we get him to listen and stop biting? Also any heavy duty toys recommended cause he demolished 3 toys in one week. Thank you in advance

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
833 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shelby, Kong has black rubber toys made out of their most durable rubber. There may not be any stuffed toys that are durable enough but Tuffy toys have durability scales, and the 10 tuff ratings may work for him under your supervision. articles linked below. If pup is biting to try to get your attention, opposed to true aggression, then I would work on teaching pup Leave It to build their self-control and understanding of what you want, as well as use the Step Towards method to move into pup as soon as they are about to jump, or the Leash method when you have a leash on pup or when guests visit, and finally the Out command. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Step Toward and Leash methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Out: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Depending on how hard pup is biting, you may need to desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle in general - so pup doesn't mind it and so that it's not only associated with situations pup jumps in. After pup is desensitized, then set up scenarios where pup commonly jumps and bites and practice your commands like Leave It and stepping toward. When pup doesn't jump when you do things that normally cause them to, like jump up and down, turn away from them, hold a toy, first get home, ect...then reward pup with a treat hidden in your pocket through the muzzle's holes. A basket muzzle should allow you to do this, opposed to a standard muzzle. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s You will want to build impulse control overall too. Teaching a long Place command, a structured Heel, and Down Stay can help pup learn impulse control. Practicing Jazz Up, Settle Down also builds impulse control. During training, get him a little excited, then command "Stop" or something he knows like "Sit", and freeze. Wait and completely ignore him until he calms back down. As soon as he gets calm or sits, praise and give a treat. Tell him "Let's Play!" again, and start playing and getting him a bit excited again. As soon as he starts to get a little worked up (not too much at first), command "Stop" or "Sit" again, then wait, reward with a treat when he calms down, then continue the game after he is rewarded. Repeat this a few times each training session, then end the session (have lots of frequent shorter sessions throughout the day at his age). As he improves, and can really calm down quickly, let him get a bit more excited before calling Stop. Gradually work up to him becoming more and more excited and having to calm down quickly from a higher level of excitement as he improves. Also, understand that this will take some time and practice. Puppies have to learn self-control just like any other skill, while young. This game can help him develop it sooner though. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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