Is My Dog Playing or Being Aggressive?

The dog park is a wonderland for canines and dog lovers alike. The pups get to burn energy and play while the humans can mingle with like minded doggie parents. It’s a foolproof scenario, right?

Well, almost. Our tail-wagging babies love to play, but sometimes it can go too far, turning into aggression. 

Rough-housing is normal and healthy for dogs, whether they’re growling at each other, lunging, wrestling or even biting- it’s all part of how they play.

Sometimes though, the lines are blurred when it comes to distinguishing between what is friendly and what is fighting. 

How can you tell the difference between playing and aggression?

First, you need to know the distinct signs of aggression.

How does your pup act out when stressed? Are you noticing any of the following warnings?

  • The Snarl: When the dog lifts the lip to bare teeth, just before a growl or bite, this is called snarling. This is a definite sign of aggression, not play.
  • The Growl: Dogs do growl while playing, but there are two ways to tell different growls apart. An aggressive growl will be accompanied by snarling and snapping, while a playful growl is just a sound, accompanied by relaxed body movements (no tension).
  • The Freeze: A sure sign of stress is when a dog’s body “freezes” or goes rigid with stiff legs.
  • The Stare-off: If a dog is intently staring at another dog without breaking eye contact and following that dog around, this is an indication of stalking.

How Can You Prevent Aggression at the Dog Park?

If you wish to sign your fur baby up for doggie daycare or you want to start bringing her to the dog park, but you’re worried about aggressive behavior, you can take action to help her feel less anxiety.

Making socialization a priority from an early age is vital for dogs to get them used to being in unfamiliar environments, meeting unfamiliar pets and people.

Socialization can be implemented in two ways:

  • Take your dog to the park and keep her on a leash for the first few visits so she can sniff around and meet other dogs at a slow, controlled pace.
  • Enroll your dog in a training program that will help her build confidence and learn to listen to and trust your commands.

Remember, dog parks are full of new sounds, sights and smells. It’s a sensory overload that can be overwhelming!

Staying consistent with socialization is key to helping your dog relax and handle stress calmly. 

Reduce hormone-driven aggression by having your dog spayed or neutered.

Keep a vigilant eye on your dog by correcting bad behavior firmly, but also with positive reinforcement.


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