Is my dog playing, bullying, or fighting?

In our Puppy Socialization classes, one of the lessons we try to teach new puppy owners is how to recognize the signs of appropriate and healthy play between dogs.

On one hand, we have some owners that are “helicopter parents” and at the onset of anything more physical than polite sniffing, they feel like their dogs are in mortal danger.

On the otherhand, we have some owners who believe their dog who is bullying or over-aroused is just playing with good intentions, and we are being too uptight. “Let dogs be dogs, let them work it out”, they’d say.

As instructors, our job is to either help those who are worried feel safe that their dog is having a good time – yes that includes facial and ear nips and tumbling and wrestling.

Our job is also to identify when a dog is getting overaroused, or is *not* picking up on the cutoff (please stop!) signals of other dogs and to interrupt or time-out.

To help our students (and anyone, anywhere!) we commissioned Hyedie Hashimoto to create an infographic. Please download a copy and print it off for your dog training facility, dog daycare, dog park – wherever it might be useful!

PDF: whf_appropriateplay

PNG: whf_approriateplay

2 Replies to “Is my dog playing, bullying, or fighting?”

  1. Great post. I have a dog who doesn’t understand “please stop”. He isn’t a puppy. Can one train a teenaged dog to play a little nicer?

  2. The diagram is really helpful! My two dogs look and sound violent sometimes, but when I look closely, I notice my bigger dog staying low to the ground to give her “little sister” a chance to feel like the winner, and even pretending to be startled by her. I could watch dogs play for hours, two well-matched dogs are like a lava lamp!

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