How do I stop my one year old pit bull from being so rough while playing with other dogs? He is a gentle dog but very strong and has drawn blood of another dog from simply playing. He likes to grab the saggy jowls of his boxer friend. He hasn’t bitten people so far, however I would like to stop the biting altogether is that possible?

Melissa Smith
Norristown, PA

Cesar Millan’s Response

Set limits
Without a doubt, stop him from holding another dog’s skin. My suggestion is that at the moment you see him starting this type of play, stop him. Make sure he goes all the way into a complete level of relaxation before allowing him to engage in any play again. On a level of zero to 10, get him back to zero with regard to his state of mind.

Running at a 10 or playing chase is fine with me, but wrestling shouldn’t escalate. Dogs can be vocal when they play, but you should be able to tell the difference between aggressive wrestling and playful wrestling. Dogs also have various styles of play. Pit bulls for example like to use their chest and bounce up and down, others like to run in circles, or use their arms and paws.

Control the excitement
Dogs, like humans, have many levels of excitement. Grabbing another dog’s skin would be a 10 or close to it, and that’s potentially entering red zone behavior. For my pack to play, I must be able to control their intensity. And ideal level of excitement for play is around a five. You need to be the judge of this and of course, for every person, the level of excitement is discretionary and has many variables. Use your best judgment and feel the energy.

My advice to you is to not let your dog use his mouth in any way when he’s playing, especially when he’s mouthing on skin and drawing blood. He hasn’t learned proper play etiquette. It will take some time and vigilance on your part to supervise play.

Practice makes perfect
You can practice playing with toys and treats before engaging with another dog, so you know that you have control over his level of excitement. Practice building the excitement and taking it down several times in a row. Get the dog used to looking to you for direction on what’s acceptable. This is essentially providing him with rules, boundaries, and limitations!

 

 

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