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Does your dog not play well with other dogs? Whether at the dog park, at doggy day care or even in your own home, a dog who's mean to other dogs can create stress and havoc. Here's how to tell whether your dog is being a bully and what you can do about it.
It Seems Like My Dog is Bullying Other Dogs — Are They Really?
Before jumping to the conclusion that your dog is actually bullying other dogs, it's important to understand the difference between a bully and an alpha dog. It's natural for one dog to emerge in a group of dogs as the alpha, or pack leader. Alpha dogs are confident of their position, says Cuteness. They generally don't feel the need to push other dogs around or get bossy or demanding, because other dogs naturally defer to their position in the pack. Although an alpha might correct another dog who steps out of line and violates the dog code, they're generally calm and patient with other dogs.
A bullying dog also differs from an aggressive dog, Cuteness points out. A dog might bully a certain dog who they don't like but may get along fine with other dogs. A bullying dog might pick on a dog who they perceive to be weak or fearful, or might inadvertently bully other dogs by simply being obnoxious and overbearing — often due to overstimulation or because they weren't properly socialized as puppies. When a fight breaks out with a bully dog, it's usually because the other dog has finally had enough. Aggressive dogs, on the other hand, tend to be aggressive toward all dogs and are usually the ones who attack or pick fights.
How to Spot a Dog Who Is Mean to Other Dogs
When assessing whether your dog is has taken to bullying behavior, it's just as important to pay attention to the behavior of the dogs interacting with your pooch. If the other dogs appear to be having fun, then your dog probably isn't being a bully. On the other hand, if any of the dogs appear stressed, fearful or start showing signs of aggression toward your pup, then it's possible your dog is actually bullying and it's time to intervene.
Here are more signs of bullying behavior in dogs:
- Pushy and bossy behavior
- Other dogs are overwhelmed by your dog's style of play
- Stealing other dogs' food or toys
- Shoving other dogs around
- Being too rambunctious when playing
- Ignoring signals or warnings from other dogs that it's time to stop
- Not leaving other dogs alone
- Pinning other dogs to the ground
Nipping Dog Bullying in the Bud
If you're thinking that your dog is a bully it's important to intervene. Letting bullying continue can be detrimental to both dogs involved. The bullying victim can develop fear and anxiety if exposed to too much bullying. And the longer your dog goes on being a bully, the harder it will be to break the habit. Here are some steps you can take to curtail bullying behavior in your pup:
- Give your dog timeout: Putting your dog in timeout when you notice signs of bullying is a good way to give both dogs a chance to calm down before things escalate. Simply remove your dog from the play area until they're more relaxed. Use a verbal cue and repeat it each time you put your dog in timeout. That way, they'll eventually make the connection and understand why they're being placed in timeout.
- Be selective about who your dog plays with: Rather than taking your dog to the dog park where it's a free-for-all, providing ample opportunities for your pup to get into trouble, set up play dates in less stimulating environments. Arrange these doggy dates with dogs who aren't bothered by your pet's style of play.
- Consult a trainer with a model behavior dog: If you need help, a trainer can help you teach your dog impulse control. They might also have access to a well-behaved alpha dog who can model good behavior for your dog and teach them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate play behaviors.
However, you deal with your dog's bullying, it's important to remember not to touch or get between dogs who are in the middle of a disagreement. If your dog is prone to bullying, it's a good idea to have them wear a harness with a tab or handle that you can grab if necessary to remove them without risk of getting bitten.
Bullying doesn't mean that your dog is hopelessly mean. It simply means they need to learn better social skills. They might also need more exercise or mental stimulation so they don't take out their boredom or excess energy on other dogs. Stepping in, controlling who they play with and modeling better behavior can all help your dog become a better playmate.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her back yard while drinking her morning coffee.