Puppies play, and puppies play hard. Occasionally, depending on the size of the puppy, they may even draw blood. Quite surprisingly, this behavior may be perfectly playful and not aggressive in the least, even though it hurts tremendously.
It’s not uncommon for first-time puppy owners to wonder, “Is my puppy aggressive?” Snapping, barking, growling, nipping, jumping and bouncing are all signs of puppy play. If that’s the case, how can you distinguish regular play from aggression?
Puppy Play vs. Puppy Aggression
During regular playtime, a pup my lower his head to the ground with his behind way up in the air. He may dart back and forth, wag his tail, bark or growl and attack when you’re not expecting it. This is all perfectly normal and even fun to engage in. However, if things escalate or become too intense, your pup may be exhibiting puppy aggression.
If your pup is truly being aggressive, he is likely to have a stiff posture, a fixed gaze and a long, deep growl rather than a high-pitched playful one. Additionally, true aggression is rarely spontaneous. Oftentimes, it is situational or directly related to a specific stimulus. This type of aggression may be possessive, fear, pain or conflict-based, and it is recommended that you take your pooch to a behaviorist for professional help.
How to Stop Aggressive Play
If playtime takes a turn for the worse and your pup starts exhibiting aggressive behavior, what can you do?
Interrupt – Interrupt your puppy’s behavior with a loud noise. A shaker can or water gun may work to grab his attention and make him stop what he’s doing.
Distract – Always have a favorite toy on hand that you can give him if he starts biting uncontrollably. Redirect him to something he can chew.
Ignore – Make a loud “yipping” noise or yell “Ouch!” loudly and walk into another room. Ignore your pup until he settles down.
Leash – Consider keeping your pooch on a leash even in the house. If he becomes too aggressive, you can quickly get him under control and stop his behavior.
Timeout – If he gets too out of control and nothing is working, it’s time for a timeout. Place some treats in his cage, and let him get some quiet time until he settles. This will help him calm down until he’s ready to play nicely again.
Preventing Puppy Aggression
As with most things, prevention is easier than correcting bad behavior after the fact. To help minimize puppy aggression or prevent it any further, keep some of these tips in mind:
Exercise – If a bored dog is a bad dog, then a tired puppy is a good puppy. Sometimes, excitable or destructive behavior may stem from a lack of exercise. Make sure to take lots of walks and set aside time for play.
Mental Stimulation – Mental stimulation also helps pups exert focus and energy. Certain toys, such as KONG balls, keep your furry friend’s attention and divert his attention away from your flesh.
Obedience Commands – If your dog knows commands such as “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” “Down,” etc., it may be easier to stop him mid-action when he’s behaving poorly. Distracting him with “Sit,” is a good option to redirect his attention.
Socialization – Socialization helps minimize fear and aggression when puppies are exposed to a variety of other dogs, kids and people. Playtime with other dogs also allows your pup to learn when his bite is too hard or he becomes too aggressive by taking social cues from his fellow playmates.
Avoid Sitting on the Floor – As much fun as it is to sit on the floor next to your pooch, this can actually get him overexcited and stir him into a frenzy.
Positive Reinforcement – Reinforcing good behavior by giving praises and treats when your pup is playing appropriately works far better than negative reinforcement.
Never Use Punishment – Physical punishment can actually increase your pup’s aggressive behavior by making him more fearful. A more fearful puppy makes a more aggressive puppy.
Thanks for stopping by! We’re glad to see you. If you’ve raised a puppy, we’d love to hear your tips as well! Have you ever had an aggressive puppy that loves to play rough? What worked for you?