Dogs Playing or Fighting?


Knowing when to intervene when your dogs are playing is a precaution that one must learn to take when dealing with your own pets, strange new dogs, and even old familiar friends just dog playing the fools.

There are signs to look for when your dog is displaying aggressive behaviour that could be potentially dangerous, even if he is not dog fighting or playing. 

Warning signs include:

  • walking away or disinterest in the situation
  • laid back ears
  • stiff posture
  • raised hackles

These are common signs that a dog is in distress and may be ready to attack, but how can you predict situations where the dog is approaching another dog?

For example, a dog is rolling the grass and the other dog is approaching, trying to sniff. The dog rolling in the grass becomes agitated and stops her pleasure behavior, warily watching ears laid back, and mouth closed. She then rolls into a crouched position, paws pulled in for quick spring action and snaps two or three times with her teeth bared.

What happened?

First, the sniffing intruder did not recognize the interruption of the other dog's activity. With her body poised for attack, you could see the normal warning signs, such as hackles or laid back ears.

In a mere second, she has gone from dog playing to dog fighting and while we with naked eye might have missed it, the signs are there. When two old pals are playing out in the yard, there are also times when it may get out of control and need an intervention.

Play and fighting largely sound the same, and most of the rolling and frolicking is normal.

There is a play bow, where the dog invites the other to make the next play move. The movements are loose and fluid, but when the body posture changes, it is time to pay attention 

Dogs that stiffen up or consistently try and stand over the other are in fight mode. Growls that come from deeper in the throat and chest should be payed close attention to and the situation should not be allowed to escalate.

Learning the aggressive warning signs of dog fighting behavior and the differences between that and dog play behavior is a good idea for any dog owner worth their salt – pet owners should be educated for their own safety, and for the safety of their dogs.

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