puppy play/aggression?

Jake is GP/lab 8 months old. Bear is Newf/lab also 8 months old. We are neurotic dog owners who don't understand what is going on. Both dogs were neutered two weeks ago. Jake likes to tease Bear a lot. He is sometimes/most of the time the dominant dog. Jake is not a barker. When Jake and Bear play and get hyper they seem to pretend to fight. This involves lots of teeth, growling, jumping and nipping on the back of the neck or the front of the neck. Sometimes Bear responds to Jake's teasing by escalating the snarls with higher pitched growl/snarls that sound scarey. He seems to get irritated/tired of Jake's teasing and reacts in this way. Bear also barks at people going by. Not as much as the neighbor dog but he has a loud voice. We want to know if this is just something that puppies do and we should butt out, or if this is going to get worse and what to do? Note: as a rule these guys are buddies and love to be together. They are not people aggressive and have never harmed each other.

Asked by Jake! on Jun 18th 2009 in Behavior & Training
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Jake and Bear seem to be exhibiting NORMAL PLAY BEHAVIOR from your description. As long as you supervise and don't allow it to escalate or become too rough it is actually a good exercise in proper socialization of dogs. For one, it teaches puppies how hard (or soft) they should bite when playing. This will make it a lot easier on humans who have very soft skin compared to dogs when playing with them.

Growling and barking are also a normal part of the play. You should be able to distinguish with a bit of experience the difference between play barking and agressive barking. One dog will usally be a bit higher energy than the other and will sometimes push the other dog to its limit of tiring. When this happens the other dog will let out a more aggressive growl or bark to warn that it no longer wants to play.

Another sign of play is when a dog bows with its front two feet out in front of it. Also watch the ears...forward=aggressive when barking. Back=play when barking.

Jack answered on Jun 18th.

Other Answers



Hi Jake and Bear!
As usual, Jack has excellent info and advice. I'll add my trainer's guidelines for "When is puppy play too much?"

(A) If one dog squeals or cries and the other one keeps doing whatever he's doing, they should be separated.
(B) If one dog is trying to get away from the other by hiding under furniture or behind a bench, they need a break. (Note: if the one who is trying to get away keeps coming back, this is just part of the game!)
(C) If one or both dogs has a "serious" growl, stands tall with a stiff neck, or is really snarling and snapping, they need to cool off.

Here is a link to my trainer's site, where you can find an article on how to stop Bear from barking excessively: www.k9techsupport.com

You can also find some great activities for both dogs, and tricks to learn.

Just enough room for one more idea: Try taking the boys to the dog park so they can play with others, too. This will continue their socialization. Enjoy!

Katie answered on 6/18/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


It is a fine line between fun and too much for one dog. Usually the high pitched growls are OK, but if they turn to low rumbles and the hair is up, it is time to chill. Also if one dog retreats and doesn't come back for for more, the other one needs to be left alone.

We frequently let puppies of different ages have at each other and only sometimes have to settle them.

Aster answered on 6/19/09. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer