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

ribbon-method-1
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.
Recommend training method?

The Proactive Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
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.
Recommend training method?

The Recall Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
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
Enos and havick
Pit
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Enos and havick
Pit
6 Months

I have litter mates both boys and when they play it gets way to rough and they make each other bleed

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sara, It sounds like the pup's lack impulse control and bite inhibition. I would work on the commands Leave It and Out, and teach both dogs Place (for times when you want them to just co-exist calmly in the same room and no one try to initiate play. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means 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 Once pups knows Out and Leave It, I would use those commands and long drag leashes to practice letting them play briefly and calling them apart, enforcing with the leashes if they don't obey, when things start to get a bit too excited. When they come to you, practice a couple of commands and give treats for obeying, to help them calm down but also make the interruption to play something they enjoy instead of find stressful. Once they are calmer again, let the more timid/tired of the two pups go first to see if they re-engage play. If pup does, they can play a bit more, then repeat calling them apart, the commands and treats, and testing if the most tired pup pup still wants to play. You can also watch for when pup's seem to be getting so tired that their self-control goes down and their arousal goes up. Try to end play time before that's happening too, or as soon as you see signs it's starting. When pup doesn't re-engage playing, end the play session also and have both dogs go do something calm, like chew a dog food stuffed chew toy on their separate place beds in the same room, but on opposite ends of the room on individual beds. At this age you are going to act like their referee to help them build a good foundation for how to interact now and in the future. When highly aroused some dogs will also redirect that aggression to whoever is closest. If pup's rough play is more than just rough play - and it's rough play that's turning into actual fights, or you have seen any signs of either pup redirecting onto you, I wouldn't allow chasing and rough housing play at all. Instead, work on commands like Leave It, Out and Place, keeping them apart when you can't enforce house rules. Some dogs go from the arousal of playing into the arousal of fighting, and playing that way consistently leads to a fight. For those dogs, teaming them to only interact in calm ways, and providing other bonding activities, like structured hikes and walks together, is what I recommend. If there is aggression present, I also recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and comes well recommended by their previous clients, to work with you one-on-one, evaluating pups and training based on what they observe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jasper & Lexie
Shih Tzu & ShihPoo
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jasper & Lexie
Shih Tzu & ShihPoo
10 Months

Thank you Caitlin for your training advice regarding my fur babies. I think I may have been completely off base with my assumption that Jasper was being the aggressor, I think maybe it just looked as if he was being more rough with her maybe because of the size difference it just looked that way because today I noticed Jasper wasn’t being as eager to rush and play with Lexie and I picked him up and noticed he had a pretty good size gash under his eye and it was a bit swollen and they both would always go for the faces and necks. I think maybe I had this backwards cause after watching them for the past week Lexie does seem to be alittle aggressor. Right after I reached out on Wagwalking.com I started putting Lexie on a leash and she does lunge at Jasper whenever given the chance and she is biting hard cause I put my hand inbetween them during one of there “playing fits” and I felt how hard she was biting so I think it’s safe to say I’ve not seen once any kind of wound on Lexie from Jasper this past week since bringing her home but here Jasper has a good size gash under his eye. Unfortunately I live in a very very small town and nobody offers any kind of puppy classes or daycares. So I’m on my own with this situation

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tina, I am glad to hear that you are noticing that Jasper does have good bite inhibition, and you feel like you have a little more information to address their interactions. It can be hard when there aren't a lot of options for things like classes. Check out the Bite Inhibition method from the article I linked below, that in addition to the commands like Out and Leave It and Place can help pup learn bite Inhibition too. Bite Inhibition method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite If you do know people/a person with puppies below six months, you can also start your own puppy play group that meets at least once a week. One, two, or three other puppies is enough to do this with. The more the merrier to an extent but even one other puppy can help a lot. If you are able to do this and meet at someone's home for it, then you can moderate their play to ensure no one feels bullied and all are learning good social skills. Watch the puppies and look for signs that all pups are engaged, trying to take turns being on top during wrestling, body language looks relaxed, taking turns being the one chased vs. chasing, and giving another pup a break when they yelp if someone bites too hard. This will be awkward at first since they won't know how to do these things right away, progress not perfection is the goal. When you see one pup feeling overwhelmed or yelping and another pup not backing off, have each person call their puppy to themselves excitedly with treats, gently grabbing their collar and leading them happily over to where they called them from if they don't come, then practicing a couple simple commands like Sit and Watch Me to get pup engaged with the human again. Once everyone is apart and focused more on their person (again this won't be perfect, especially at first), then let the overwhelmed/more timid pup go first. See if they go over to another puppy to try to play. If they do, let the other puppies go too by telling them "Go Play!" When the pup doesn't re-initiate play, either give the whole group a break for a bit, or let that pup leave the area for a bit while the other's play, to give them a break until the tired pup is ready to come back. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jasper
Shih Tzu
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jasper
Shih Tzu
10 Months

I wanted to get my Jasper a friend so I have brought home a 8 week old Shihpoo it’s been over a week now and Jasper still seems to be playing alittle rough with her. He is 11.2 lbs and she’s 4.3 lbs and while there playing it never seems to be a give snd take type of play it’s always Jasper lunging snd in her face and when she does Yelp he doesn’t back off. Than she becomes angry and she tries to let him know but that just edges him on more. I want them to get along so badly and I’m not sure if maybe I’m seeing aggressive play but maybe it’s not IDK please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tina, What you are seeing is probably a combination of the different play styles young puppies have versus older dogs. Puppies tend to do best with other young puppies in play, so they can have a chance to learn proper social skills and bite control. If Jasper never had that with other young puppies while young, he also probably never learned how to back off, give breaks, and control his bite pressure. When one dog doesn't know how to adjust, I would enroll the puppy in a puppy kindergarten class that makes time for off leash moderated puppy play with other young puppies, so she can learn those skills and not have him as her only example - otherwise she might end up doing the things he does and when she gets older that's likely to lead to fights between them. With him, I would work on the commands Leave It and Out, and teach both dogs Place (for times when you want them to just co-exist calmly in the same room and no one try to initiate play. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means 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 Once pup knows Out and Leave It, I would use those commands and long drag leashes to practice letting them play briefly and calling them apart, enforcing with the leashes if they don't obey, when things start to get a bit too excited. When they come to you, practice a couple of commands and give treats for obeying, to help them calm down but also make the interruption to play something they enjoy instead of find stressful. Once they are calmer again, let the young pup go first to see if they re-engage play. If pup does, they can play a bit more, then repeat calling them apart, the commands and treats, and testing if young pup still wants to play. When pup doesn't re-engage playing, end the play session and have both dogs go do something calm, like chew a dog food stuffed chew toy on their separate place beds in the same room, but on opposite ends of the room on individual beds. Right now he is probably bullying her. It might be intentional and be finds that fun, or it might be just because she never gained the social skills needed to adapt his play style with her. Either way you are going to act like their referee at this age to help them build a good foundation for how to interact now and in the future, while ideally also giving the younger puppy a chance to learn proper social skills from playing with other young puppies, so his rough style doesn't negatively impact her much. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Porsha/baby girl
Chihuahua/pitbull
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Porsha/baby girl
Chihuahua/pitbull
9 Years

The pit bull is new to our home. She is 9 months. The chihuahua is old. The pit bull plays really rough with the chihuahua and the chihuahua does not want to play with the pit bull. The chihuahua bites at the pit bull every time she approaches. The pit bull thinks it’s okay and pounces in the chihuahua. Which hurts the little dog. The pit bull drinks her water, ears her food and attempts to take her toys. I’m worried the pit bull will not adjust to the chihuahua and hurt her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Robin, Because of the age and size difference I would teach puppy to leave your older dog alone completely, unless the Chihuahua is the one who initiates playing. I would teach the puppy Out and Leave It, and use a crate and hands free leash to help moderate their interactions until puppy has learned to respect your older dog's space. Some puppies will sound like they are dying in the crate volume-wise, this is normal too if you are still in the first two weeks of crate training. Do not let a puppy that is otherwise alright out of the crate when they cry. That will only make it worse the next time and the puppy will not overcome their dislike of the crate. Use the Surprise method from the article linked below to gradually help her learn to be calm in the crate and to relax by using rewards for being Quiet. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Crate pup at night and when you leave, and you can tether pup to yourself with a hands free leash. When you cannot directly supervise the dogs together, puppy should be crated or tethered, or in an exercise pen if pup will stay in one and you have on that's stable enough for pup's size and strength. When you are supervising, teach both dogs the Out command (which means leave the area) and make whoever is causing issues leave the area as needed, which will mostly be the puppy. Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would teach both dogs a long duration Place command, gradually working up to 1-2 hours overtime with practice. Place can be a great way to have pup be in the same room with the older dog without bothering them, since they would both be on separate place beds resting or chewing their own chew toy. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Decide what your house rules are for both dogs and you be the one to enforce the rules instead of the dogs. No aggression, no pushiness, no stealing toys, no stealing food, no being possessive of people or things, or any other unwanted behavior - if one dog is causing a problem you be the one to enforce the rules so that the dogs are NOT working it out themselves. For example, if pup comes over to your older dog when she is trying to sleep, tell pup Out. If she obeys, praise and reward her. If she disobeys, stand in front of your older dog, blocking the pup from getting to her, and walk toward pup calmly but firmly until pup leaves the area and stops trying to go back to your older dog. If your older dog growls at your pup, make your older dog leave the room (to teach her to move away when uncomfortable) while also disciplining pup similarly if puppy was pestering first and not respecting your older dog's space. Be vigilant and take the pressure off of your older dog - you want her to learn to look to you when there is a problem, and for puppy to learn respect for your older dog because you have taught it to her and not because your older dog has had to resort to aggression or hide all the time. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lee
American Pit Bull Terrier
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
946 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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