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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.
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.
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
Watch body language
Make note of when your dog goes from playing gently to a hyperactive, overexcited state.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Reinforce basic obedience exercises
Help your dog focus on listening to you by having him roll over, sit, stay, or shake hands.
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.
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
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.
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.
Give the 'come' command
Hold the treat out toward your dog and give the command 'come' in a confident, strong voice.
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.
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