Dog Play vs. Dog Aggression

Dog Play vs. Dog Aggression

Dogs love to play!  It is a great way for them to socialize and get to know other dogs and people.  Often, people mistake roughhousing for dog aggression, but it is just part of the fun in most cases.  It is completely safe and harmless, however, sometimes it can become dangerous if a dog takes it too far.  Please note that it is perfectly normal for dogs to nip, play-bite, bark, chase, and tackle other dogs – if it is done in a playful, friendly manner.  On the flip side, it is extremely important to identify the signs of aggressive behavior in dogs.

First, pet owners must identify the influences of aggressive behavior:

  • Social Development – Dogs who were isolated growing up are more likely to show aggression towards other dogs. Therefore, training is beneficial at a young age.


  • Stress and Fear – Dogs who feel stressed or in fear will most likely show aggression. Be on the lookout for signs and do your best to prevent the issues at hand.


  • Learned Behavior – If a dog displays aggression and the thing that they feared goes away, the behavior may have been reinforced and will most likely happen again.

How do you know if fun dog play turns into aggression?  There is a variety of signs such as direct staring, stiffness, growling, and snarling.  As a pet owner, you need to watch carefully for these stress signals and warning signs.  If you encounter an aggressive moment between dogs, it is often not enough to let them work it out on their own.  You will need to intervene and break up the aggression before it gets out of hand.  Keep in mind that dogs with aggression may have “tunnel vision” and you may be at risk of injury if you are in the line of fire.

A solid training program with socialization should be introduced to your four-legged friend to try and prevent dog aggression.  Utilize positive reinforcement to treat your dog when they are doing well.  As always, never leave dogs unattended as this is an easy way for them to adopt inappropriate behaviors.