Dominant dogs may seem like they are roughhousing all in good fun while playing, but that is not always the case. Many dogs who are predisposed to feel and act dominant are not really "playing" when they get rough -- he is working to control the situation. Whether he is keeping his favorite toys close by or making sure his buddy plays with him and not another dog, he has a purpose for his behavior. Below are some tips on how to make sure an overly rough, dominant pooch doesn't get out of hand and hurt his playmates.
Tip # 1 - Train your dog to come when called, no matter what. Challenge him by increasing the distance you are from him, going around a corner so you are out of eyesight, and working with him where there are distractions (e.g. during a walk). Only when he comes when called every time, should you put him in a situation where he can play with others. If playtime looks like it's escalating into roughhousing, call him towards you to nip it in the bud. There is no reason to punish him, simply call him to you, attach the leash and leave. If he is too distracted and doesn't come when you call, walk over and calmly retrieve him. Continue practicing and reinforcing the "come" command.
Tip # 2 - Remove items that may be in dispute. Resource guarding is a common trigger for aggressive behavior, so if a ball, rope bone or other item is generating a lot of interest, it is best to remove it from play.
Tip # 3 - Keep play groups small. The larger the group, the more aggressive the behavior can become. Dogs form a loose pack structure when playing together, and a dominant dog may take the opportunity to assert himself by dividing the group or claiming one dog as off-limits to the other. Try to keep groups to three dogs or less to minimize the likelihood of personality conflicts and bad behavior.
By Stephanie Dube Dwilson
About the Author
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.