Will Wrestling With My Dog Make Her More Aggressive?
The pitbull ran alone on the beach and stopped when she saw a large piece of driftwood that she could hide behind. As soon as the man got close she leaped out, charging toward him and jumping up at the last minute. She growled fiercely, her mouth wide open, and as she lunged, her teeth clamped down on his arm.
But did she bite?
No, of course not. A dog who learns bite inhibition will not break the skin.
I know this because I wrestle with my dog almost every day. She puts her teeth on my bare flesh frequently but would never bite me.
Does Wrestling With Your Dog Lead to Aggression?
In one of her books, the animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell tells about a case with a large Lab who was in the habit of biting his owner. The dog wrestled each evening with the male owner, a man who weighs over 200 pounds, but during the day was with the small female owner and would bite her when she would not play rough. Dr. McConnell recommended that the male owner stop wrestling with the dog.
But is not wrestling with a dog the solution? Not too many years ago many trainers stated “do not play tug of war with your dog” since that game was said to be one of the causes of aggression.
Tug of war is not the cause of aggression. Tug of war is one of those games that can be used to burn off excess energy and make a dog less aggressive. Now those who recommend “no wrestling” state “play tug of war instead”.
Wrestling will not lead to aggression, but dogs who are going to wrestle with their owners do need to learn bite inhibition. If you teach your dog bite inhibition, your dog may bite of something bad happens to her, but when she does so it is not going to cause as much damage as the bite of a dog who does not know how to control herself.
Teaching bite inhibition has nothing to do with a dog's breed. I have worked with many dog breeds, and have yet to come across a dog that was not able to learn to control himself. It does not matter if the dog is small, large, or even giant.
Do you wrestle with your dog?
When Can I Wrestle With My Dog?
Your dog needs to learn when it is okay to wrestle and when it is not. It is okay when you say it is! It is never okay for the dog to start the wrestling match.
There are some trainers out there who say “never allow your dog to wrestle, since he may end up being aggressive and wrestling with an elderly person or a small child.” This is wrong.
A dog can be taught to understand when he is given the signal to wrestle. I grunt and do a “Frankenstein walk” with my arms held out so that my dog will know it is okay to start wrestling. She also knows it is okay to wrestle with one of the neighbor girls, but would never even try to jump up on kids she is not allowed to play with.
So can you wrestle with your dog? Of course you can. All it takes is a little training time. Your dog is worth the effort.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I cannot get my dog to puppy class. Is it very bad to miss the socialization window for dogs, 12 to 16 weeks?
It is called the sensitive socialization period because if you miss it there is no way to make it up. After your dog reaches 16 weeks (more or less) he reaches a "behavioral wall" and he cannot deal with new things outside of that wall. So yes, it is bad to miss this period. If you cannot take your dog to puppy class, make sure that he meets other dogs outside of class, and make sure that you take him for walks so that he is not afraid of new things.Helpful 3