How to Train Your Dog to Not Play Rough

How to Train Your Dog to Not Play Rough
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Positive Distraction Method

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1

Watch body language

Make note of when your dog goes from playing gently to a hyperactive, overexcited state.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Proactive Method

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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.

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.

3

Reinforce basic obedience exercises

Help your dog focus on listening to you by having him roll over, sit, stay, or shake hands.

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.

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.

The Recall Method

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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.

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.

3

Give the 'come' command

Hold the treat out toward your dog and give the command 'come' in a confident, strong voice.

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.

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.

By Erin Cain

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Annie

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Chuinee

Dog age icon

8 Weeks

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Question

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She bites, plays rough, and doesn’t drink water from a bowl. She barks and nips and growls when playing.

Feb. 25, 2022

Annie's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is information on puppy 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.

Feb. 27, 2022

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Rosie

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Lurcher (greyhound x suluki)

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5 Years

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Rosie quickly gets too rough with other dogs often barking in their faces and then grabbing them usually the scruff of their necks.

Feb. 23, 2022

Rosie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amy, It sounds like pup's prey and herding drive is probably coming into play while rough housing with other dogs. When this type of behavior is related to a dog's natural instincts it's often not something that you can completely get rid of the tendency to try to control another dog these ways. If this is the case, teaching management skills so you can help facilitate pup's interactions and give instructions when pup gets too rough, and choosing dog social activities that are more structured and less arousing can be helpful for pup. Some activities that are less arousing but still fun for pup and good for maintaining social skills are structured heeling walks and hikes, canine sports like lure coursing, herding, obedience competitions, agility at times, and sometimes free style dance. Obedience groups and group hikes or walks will be the most social. Pup might even be able to have one on one play dates with other dogs who get along with them well without getting as aroused as they do in a group setting. This depends on the dog and your management practice. I recommend teaching an Out command and Come command. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Once pup has learned those commands, practice them often using a long training leash, 15'-30' long and a padded back clip harness. Gradually work up to more and more distracting locations. You can even practice pup's recall at places where there are other dogs that can't get to your dog, like regular parks or outside a dog park (don't go inside the dog park fence area though since having pup on leash in there isn't safe and could lead to fights). Once pup is really good at Come and Out on the long leash, recruit a friend and their friendly dog who pup gets along with. Have the dogs play in a controlled, fenced area without other dogs around, while they are wearing a back clip harness and drag leash. Periodically call the dogs away from each other when they are not entangled wrestling. Have each person call their dog from different areas of the yard so the dogs go in different directions when they disengage. Use the drag leash to carefully and quickly reel pups in to each of you if they don't obey when you call. Once your dog gets to you (because they obeyed or because you reeled them in with the leash), have pup obey a couple commands like Sit or Down, and give high value treats - this is why the dogs are being called to separate locations, you don't want competing for the same food while aroused from playing). After both dogs are focused on their people and calm from the obedience practice, allow the more timid of the two dogs to go first, telling them "Go Play" and releasing them. If they still want to play, let the second dog go also, telling them to "Go Play" as well. Practice this for 10-30 minutes a training session, often, until your dog will obey Out and Come consistently while in the middle of playing without having to be reeled in. While doing all of this, I would avoid going to the dog park where pup could ignore your command and that would undermined your training efforts. Once pup is very good at obeying while aroused, then you can use the new commands in real life to help pup manage their behavior around other dogs. You may still find if this is instinctual, that play needs to look more structured or just with one other dog at a time though going forward. Learn how to read the body language of other dogs if you do not already, so you can easily spot when the dogs are getting too aroused or one dog wants to stop and isn't being allowed to, and you can intervene before things get tense, moving your dog to another part of the park/yard and letting them calm back down again, before playing with a new dog while that one rests Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Feb. 23, 2022


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