Is it OK to wrestle with your dog? Surprising Answer

Does Playing Rough and Wrestling With Your Dog Lead to Aggression?

In one of her books, animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell tells about a case with a large Lab that was in the habit of biting its owner. The dog wrestled each evening with the male owner, a man who weighs over 200 pounds, but during the day was with the small female owner and would bite her when she would not play rough. Dr. McConnell recommended that the male owner stop wrestling with the dog.

But is not wrestling with a dog the solution? Not too many years ago, many trainers claimed you shouldnt play tug of war with your dog since that game was said to be one of the causes of aggression. Tug of war is not the cause of aggression. Tug of war is one of those games that can be used to burn off excess energy and make a dog less aggressive. Now those who recommended no wrestling state “play tug of war instead.”

Wrestling will not lead to aggression, but dogs who are going to wrestle with their owners do need to learn bite inhibition. If you teach your dog bite inhibition, your dog may bite if something bad happens to her, but when she does it is not going to cause as much damage as the bite of a dog who does not know how to control herself.

Teaching bite inhibition has nothing to do with a dogs breed. I have worked with many dog breeds, and have yet to come across a dog that was not able to learn to control himself. It does not matter if the dog is small, large, or even giant.

How to handle it: If you do what your dog expects 99 times out of 100, the occasional deviation won’t matter much, says Baugh.

The unexpected sights and sounds of sex can seem startling, Baugh says. Your dog may start barking—or even try to interrupt the action.

How to handle it: Teach him how to associate playtime with very specific actions and commands.

When you’re upset, so is your dog, Baugh says. If he isn’t used to seeing you pissed off, your shouting or angry gestures will put him on edge—and that could lead to barking, nipping, or trying to settle the fight himself.

Maybe you tell your dog you’re going to the park when you’re really headed to the vet. Or you train him to jump and hug you when you come in the house, but then scold him when he does the same thing to your guests.

If we still chose to roughhouse with our dog, a few rules will help keep the situation under control:

Roughhousing with our dog is a personal choice. If we’re training for a specific task, in which speed of reaction and hard actions are needed, like in police work, playing with the dog this way could develop those needed drives. If we’re not, we have to fully understand what behaviors we are encouraging and what consequences could occur over time. Just like children, dogs need us to be consistent. If one moment we’re allowing jumping and mouthing, we can’t expect them to understand that just because we’re now wearing expensive work clothes, that behavior will no longer be tolerated. Certain movements that we make or things that we say, that are similar to those used during roughhousing could trigger rough responses from the dog.

Dogs chase, grab, push and sometimes play rough with other dogs. When dogs have all the right social skills, they have many ways to keep the situation under control. They stop and pause regularly, allowing for the excitement to go down and adapt to the size and strength of their playmate (self-handicap). Some dogs however play too rough, in a hyper-aroused state. Playtime with others takes the dogs to very high levels of energy, increasing the chances for things to turn bad. When we roughhouse with our dog, because we’re not dogs, we don’t master the rules of play and will often bring the excitement level out of control.

In my house, dogs learn to be gentle with people. When working with service animals, this type of play could have disastrous consequences for a person with limited mobility. We’re responsible for our dog’s behavior during their entire life. When a dog is allowed to play with humans like they would with rambunctious dogs, we take the chance that the dog may react in the same way with other people. We’re teaching the dog that humans are fun playmates to wrestle with and jump on. If we adopt the dog when we’re young adults, will it be OK for the dog to play this way when we have toddlers or when our friends visit with their children? Will our aging parents be able to keep the dog under control? The dog will not always know the difference and understand when it’s alright to play this way or when it’s not. Fido may also solicit attention for instance, by jumping or mouthing, behaviors that are rewarded during playtime.

There are many fun and dynamic ways to have a good time with our dogs, like playing fetch, that don’t encourage behaviors that are considered problematic in all other instances. The choice of roughhousing or not has to be taken wisely since it may have negative implications for the dog. Any behavior that has the potential to hurt a person can lead to injuries or lawsuits and the dog will pay the consequences. The question becomes: how important is it for us to roughhouse? Keeping everybody safe, the family, the visitors and the dog should always be the priority when making the decision to roughhouse or not.

Should you roughhouse with your dog?

One of the fun parts of owning a puppy is getting to wrestle with them and play rough, along with games like Tug of War! However, not all types of play are appropriate for puppies.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the best ways to play with your puppy, and how to set boundaries so that you set your puppy up for success in the future.