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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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.

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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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.

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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Daisy

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Siberian Husky

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4 Years

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Question

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Very friendly, but brought home, and tries to fight with other dogs

Oct. 12, 2021

Daisy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kim, I would hire a professional trainer to work with you in person in this situation. Look for someone who is very experienced with behavior issues like aggression, comes well recommended by their previous clients, and will come to your home to work with you and your entire pack of pup and household. I would get your dog used to wearing a basket muzzle, and have your dog wear the muzzle and a leash when not crated around the other dogs. Use a basket muzzle so pup can still open their mouth and be given treats through the muzzle's holes. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s I would crate train all the dogs and teach a solid 1-2 hour place command. Life needs to be very structured and dogs played with and fed separately, to avoid competition early on. Basically home would be very obedience class-like when they were together, to prevent potential fights. I would work on building trust and respect also so that the dogs are not making and enforcing rules for each other, but looking to you to do so. You want to add in a lot more structure and boundaries for now, working on things like the working method linked below, teaching both a 2 hour long Place, directional commands like Off, Out (which means leave the area), Down, Leave It, and Off, so that you can tell them where they should and should not be in relation to being pushy with you or bullying each other, and all dogs should be crate trained. Working and Consistency methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Keep a drag leash on pup when you are present (and crated when not present) if they won't listen to your directional commands once learned well. Calmly lead pup where you tell them to go as needed by picking up the end of the leash. If you see any signs of aggression toward you, pause and connect with your professional trainer to help to deal with aggression toward you also. Training will likely need to be mortified to take extra precautions to keep you safe. Don't risk a bite. I recommend teaching all the dogs things like Place, Out, and Leave It too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 12, 2021

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Enos and havick

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Pit

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6 Months

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

Sept. 22, 2021

Enos and havick's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 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

Sept. 23, 2021


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