By Jane Harrell, Petfinder.com associate producer
Dog parks can be a great place to let your dog socialize and burn off some excess energy. (Find — or add — your nearest dog park on Animal Planet’s Dog Park Map.)
But can you tell when play between dogs has gone from fun roughhousing to bullying? Watch our video and check out these tips.
How to Spot a Dog-Park Bully
Bullying means one dog is playing too rough for another (remember, the bully might be YOUR dog!), and when it happens, it’s time to leave. Here are signs that play has stopped being fun:
- One dog repeatedly pins another down, with no reciprocation
- One dog repeatedly chases another, with no reciprocation
- A dog does not back off when the other dog gives a high-pitched yelp
- A dog continues to pursue another who is trying to end the play session by, for example, hiding behind your legs or jumping on a bench
- You see anything that makes you uncomfortable (you know your dog best, so trust your instincts!)
Signs Your Dog Is Uncomfortable
Your dog might not come to you when he’s feeling bullied or uncomfortable, so keep an eye out for these body-language cues:
- A tail that is low or tucked under
- Lip licking
- Barking while backing away from another dog
- Avoiding eye contact and turning his head away when another dog approaches
What Does Good Play Look Like?
While it’s important to remove your dog from a bullying situation, it’s also good to know when play that looks rough to you is really fun for him. Here are signs your dog is having a great time:
- A tail wagging in wide sweeps or fast circles
- A playful bark that’s slightly higher than his “alert” bark at home
- Play bows (see photo)
- Reciprocation: each dog taking turns doing the chasing, pinning, etc.
The fact is, any dog of any breed, size, sex, age or temperament can be a bully — or a victim of bullying — and many dogs can go from bully to bullied in different contexts.
If your dog doesn’t have a group of pals with whom he can play in a positive way at your local dog park, reach out to local pet parents, or check out Meetup.com, and organize playdates at a safe, fenced-in area. Your dog will thank you with a nice long nap afterwards!