What to Do When Your Dog Plays Too Rough

Labrador Retriever

What should you do to correct the situation when your dog plays rough?

Problem: Dog Plays Rough


How can I help our six-month-old Lab learn proper playing behavior? She is very good natured, but when she gets very excited and she wants to play, she begins jumping and nipping at our hands and arms. She never intends to hurt anyone, but we have a five-year-old and a three-year-old child as well as a six-month-old baby in the home.

This behavior has to stop promptly, but I'm not sure how to do it. We try to make it a routine to let her play outside nightly, and the kids do run with her in the yard throughout the day. Other than being within our property line, she is not penned in any way and has free reign of the yard.

Currently, the way we handle her overzealous behavior is by putting her on her back, telling her "no" and making her submit to us. We praise her well when she shows good behavior, but not too excitedly so as not to rouse her again.

Is there something different we should be doing? Sometimes I'm concerned for the safety of the kids, mostly with her accidentally being too rough.

I look forward to your response.

Blessings~~ Naomi

Expert Reply

Hi Naomi,

Basically you are off to a good start with your dog's training. However, you're going to have to adjust your expectations a little while your dog is still a puppy.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Continue with the submissive time outs. This is an excellent way to let your dog know she's gone too far.
  • Realize that as a six-month old pup, she has a somewhat limited capacity to understand and retain the refinement in behavior you are asking of her. There's not a problem in asking for it, because she'll eventually get the idea, it's just going to take longer than you originally expected.
  • In the meantime, set her up for success. Don't allow the play to get too far out of hand. Keep the session mildly fun without getting her too revved up.
  • End the play time when the submissive correction becomes necessary. This really drives home the message that nipping puts an end to all the fun.
  • You can also limit her contact with your children during designated play sessions. This will allow you to protect the children, as well as allow your husband or yourself to completely focus on her behavior during play time and make the needed corrections.

I do believe you are on the right track, but your puppy won't become a model citizen overnight. There is no perfect training plan that fits all dogs. It's a matter of making subtle adjustments as you go to find a way to work things out.

Thanks for your question, and good luck.

~~ Kelly

Puppy Chews Fingers

My daughter's ten-month-old Rat Terrier is a wonderful little dog. She's friendly, playful, energetic and very entertaining. The problem is, she seems to think I am her human chew toy. Why does she chew on my hands when she doesn't do so with anyone else?

~~ Gloria

Expert Reply

Hi Gloria,

Let me ask what you do when the chewing begins. Do you allow it, only offering mild complaints or are your firm in telling your daughter's dog "No" when the chewing begins? The thing here is that you have to be firm and consistent in order to teach the dog to stop the unwanted behavior.

There may also be a different scent to your hands that the Terrier finds attractive. Are you the main cook in the family? If so, the scent of some foods lingers even after hand washing, so you might still smell tasty.

I recommend that you use the firm no command every time the puppy begins to chew your hands, and keep a suitable chew toy nearby to offer her instead. If this doesn't work, you have a couple more options.

  • Tell the puppy no and put her on the floor immediately. This means the affection and attention stop when she doesn't do what you want. This can be very effective with some dogs.
  • Try spraying your hands with Bitter Apple spray and let her try to chew them. Hopefully the taste will put her off. A couple sessions of this conditioning just might do the trick.

Good luck, and thank you for your question.

~~ Kelly


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What to Do When Your Dog Plays Too Rough