Q&A: Should I discourage rough puppy play?

We have a 6 month old lab mix and a 3 month old terrier mix (both rescue puppies). They both really want to play, but but the older lab pup gets way too rough and hurts the little one (I’m quite sure he’s not teeing to hurt her, he just plays rougher than she can take). How do we get him to play a little less aggressively workout discouraging play between them all together? ~Barbara

You do not need to separate your puppies permanently to keep them safe. It is important for puppies to be able to interact and learn from each other as a part of their socialization. This is how they learn to “speak dog” and respect each other, making them safe to be around other dogs in the future.

The older, larger dog can be worked with on his energy levels before allowing play between the two of them. For example, you can take him on a walk on his own or play ball with him before allowing the two to play together. Helping him use up some of his energy will help him interact with the smaller puppy in a less excitable way.

Another option is to take part in puppy socialization classes at your local kennel club or dog obedience school. Dogs of the appropriate sizes are allowed to play and romp and they will naturally learn what is and is not okay while playing together. This can help the larger puppy to learn his strength and self control while playing with another dog.

Meanwhile, I am including a training exercise to teach your dogs a positive interrupter noise. The purpose of this noise is to help your dogs immediately stop whatever they are doing, no matter how much fun they are having, and give their full attention to you. It will help to redirect their attention if play gets too rough and you need to get them to stop without anything negative attached to it.

Positive Interrupter Noise

When you make this noise, once it has been trained with your dogs, they will be able to stop whatever they’re doing and pay attention to you. This could be anything from an unwanted behavior to rough play that you need to interrupt, and you can do it simply by using a noise that will peak their interest.

You can use a kissy noise, a whistle, or even a certain word. Just remember that whatever you do use, it should not be used for any other purpose than as an interrupter noise.

Teach each dog one on one instead of working them together. Start with a high value reward, like real meat or cheese and sit at their level. Make your sound, and when they give you eye contact, give them the treat. Don’t give the treat immediately, wait for the eye contact! You can do this for about 5 minutes or so and take a break. You can do multiple training sessions in a day, but keep each session short and fun!

After your first few sessions, begin adding this interrupter noise into your daily lives. Your puppy could be just relaxing in his bed or sniffing around outside. Use the noise and when he comes to you and gives you eye contact, give him a treat!

As your sessions progress, ask for longer eye contact. Go from 1 second to 5, then to 10 and all the way up to 30 seconds. However, if your puppy gets bored and frustrated, you have moved too far too soon, and it’s time to dial the time back a bit.

I hope this helps you and your pups learn to play safely together! If you have any questions, feel free to message me!

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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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