Is it normal for dogs to bite necks when playing? Find Out Here

Neck Biting as Sign of Aggression

If your dog’s neck biting becomes aggressive, address it as soon as possible. Several underlying triggers may cause it:

Fear: Fear often leads to aggression. They feel vulnerable, so they compensate for that vulnerability with aggressive behavior.

Overwhelming excitement: Excitement can shift and become aggressive, turning what started as a playful neck bite into something not nice.

Feeling territorial: Dogs can become extremely territorial or possessive of their people, their toys, or their space. If they feel like another dog is trying to take over what’s theirs, the reaction may be intense.

High prey drive: Certain breeds have an innate drive to hunt other animals. When dogs simulate a relationship between predator and prey, it can trigger a more authentic response.

Pain: If a dog is in pain while playing, he might lash out in response to the pain.

When a dog’s neck biting becomes aggressive, the other dog will probably try to escape the situation. You might notice the interaction become one-sided with no role reversal.

Since an aggressive dog will not exercise bite inhibition, the dog being bitten might yelp or cry out.

An aggressive dog might try to make more of an impact by shaking the other dog by the neck.

This is extremely dangerous and could quickly cause injury or even death, especially if one dog is a lot bigger than the other.

What playtime neck biting looks like

The main way that dogs interact with each other is through play fighting. This is an important part of any dog maturing because it teaches them how to use bite inhibition, respect boundaries and helps them to understand when aggression is and isn’t appropriate.

This is why more socialised dogs are easier to train, because they effectively learn their own ‘social’ skills from interacting with one another. Actions like chasing, wrestling, growling and neck-biting are all part of this harmless play.

Is it normal for dogs to bite necks when playing?

It is easy to see when a dog is biting another dog’s neck as part of playtime by studying their body language. If both dogs appear to be smiling, leaning into the action, bowing to the other dog and appear to be ‘frolicking’ and ‘bouncing’, you can assume that any neck-biting is nothing more than harmless horse – or ‘dogplay’!

How to break up aggressive neck biting:

If your dog begins to neck aggressively, and it develops into a fight, then you’re going to have to break it up before either dog becomes seriously hurt. However, you can’t just go up to your dog and try to separate them by grabbing them from the front or above, or by standing between them, because chances are you will end up getting hurt. Keep in mind that the dogs will be in a frenzy.

Instead, you can try to pull your dog away by grabbing the back legs and dragging away, or by throwing a jacket or blanket over the dog before trying to grab him. You can also try to distract the dogs from each other, or ask for help!

Why Is My Dog Neck Biting During Play? | DogVela

As animal behavior researchers, we have been studying dog play for more than 10 years. Together with our colleagues, we have analyzed hundreds of hours of data to test hypotheses about play. We present our results at animal behavior conferences and publish in scientific journals. One thing we’ve found: Dog play that some might consider “inappropriate” or “not safe” is actually just play fighting.

In the field of animal behavior, researchers often refer to social play as “dog play fighting” because it includes many of the behaviors seen during real fights and might look rougher than it really is. For example, during play, one dog might chase and tackle another, or use a neck bite to force a partner to the ground. Dogs will also hip check or slam, mount, rear up, bite, stand over, sit on, bark, snarl, growl, bare their teeth, and do chin-overs (i.e., place the underside of their chin over the neck of their partner).

However, despite the overlap in behaviors, some clear differences exist between dog play fighting and real fighting. When dogs are playing, they inhibit the force of their bites and sometimes voluntarily give their partner a competitive advantage (self-handicap) by, for example, rolling on their backs or letting themselves be caught during a chase — behaviors that would never happen during real fighting.

In addition to inhibited bites and self handicapping, dogs clearly demarcate play by employing signals, such as play bows (i.e., putting the front half of the body on the ground while keeping the rear half up in the air) and exaggerated, bouncy movements.Â

Anthropologist Gregory Bateson called play signals meta-communication, meaning communication about communication. Humans employ meta-communication a lot. For example, when teasing a friend, we may smile or use a certain tone of voice to indicate that we’re just kidding. Similarly, dogs play bow to invite play and to convey playful intentions during play.Â

Marc Bekoff, while at the University of Colorado, did a study showing that dogs are most likely to play bow just before or immediately after performing an especially assertive behavior, such as a bite accompanied by a head shake. This pattern suggests that playing dogs recognize moments when their behavior can be misinterpreted as serious aggression and compensate by reminding their partner, “I’m still playing.”

By using meta-communication, social beings can step through a looking glass into a world that operates by different rules. Meta-communication allows humans and dogs to pretend — that is, to perform actions that appear to be one thing but actually mean something completely different. To people unfamiliar with the notion that some nonhuman animals have this ability, play that includes archetypal aggressive behaviors, like snarling and growling, can be quite confusing. Close attention to the context, however, can help us differentiate between play aggression and real aggression.

Even though play fighting is very different from real fighting, people often feel the need to intervene. Sometimes it is obvious at the beginning of a bout that two dogs are playing, but once the dogs start growling or their arousal intensifies, observers may no longer be sure that the dogs are still playing. After all, humans instinctively avoid a dog who is snarling or baring his teeth, and it is natural to think that our dogs should do the same. When people interrupt really rowdy play, they assume that they are “playing it safe,” that is, doing no harm. But what if this assumption is mistaken?

Our research shows that for many dogs, play fighting is the primary method used to negotiate new relationships and develop lasting friendships. Although play is fun, it also offers serious opportunities to communicate with another dog. In this sense, play is a kind of language. Thus, when we regularly break up what we consider “inappropriate” play, are we doing our dogs a service, or confusing them by constantly butting into their private conversations? Most importantly, how can we tell the difference?Related article