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Is It Okay To Play Fight With Your Dog?

 by michelle on 03 Jul 2014 |
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Many dog owners, especially those with larger breeds, like to play fight with their dogs. It can be lots of fun, but also dangerous if it goes too far.


Play fighting or roughhousing can include wrestling, rolling around, or tug-of-war games in which your dog may play-bite, lunge, and bark at you. When you participate in this kind of play, you’re basically mimicking how dogs interact together.


If you choose to play fight with your dog, there are certain things you need to take into consideration. In general, you need to understand what behaviors you are encouraging, and what the consequences may be. For example, if you allow your dog to play with you like he would with another dog, your dog may try to play that way with all humans. This could be risky when there are toddlers or elderly people around.


In order to keep the situation under control here are some rules for roughhousing:

  • You should initiate the play fighting. Teach your dog that its okay to roughhouse, or jump on you, only when given a cue to do so. This will prevent your dog from trying to play rough with others. This is also beneficial for the times you may be wearing clothes you’d prefer to stay in one piece. Without training, you can’t expect your dog to understand when it is a good time or bad time to roughhouse.
  • Teach your dog a cue that will indicate that playtime is over such as “game over” or “settle.” This command is good for anytime rough play gets too intense or there is excessive mouthing or nipping. Your dog needs to know those behaviors are not acceptable.
    • Look for signs that your dog is stressed so you can spot aggression before it escalates.
    • Supervise your dog closely when around other people like children, those with disabilities, and the elderly
    • Avoid chasing your dog as part of play, this could make it difficult to get a hold of him in an emergency situation.
    • Take short breaks or timeouts to allow your dog to calm down.

    There are plenty of fun and dynamic ways to play with your dog that will not encourage behaviors that may have problematic consequences. Whatever you decide is right for you and your dog, make sure to be consistent so your dog understands the rules.



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