A man at home with his dog and looking like he might be about to wrestle the dog.

Should I Wrestle My Dog?

7 mins |

Some dogs show love by curling in our beds and cuddling, some love to play in the park and run with us, and some just like to wrestle playfully. Wrestling with our dog can be a frequently used type of play. However, a common thought that goes through our minds is, “Should I wrestle my dog? Or is it a show of aggression? Should I stop or support that behavior?”

Wrestling is a type of game that can help a dog burn off extra energy and become less aggressive. Your dog will not become more aggressive from wrestling when done correctly, but dogs that wrestle with their owners must develop bite inhibition and play by the owner’s rules. Ideally, there won’t ever be any real fighting between you and your dogs, but if there is, it’s critical that you know how to spot it and learn how to intervene.

Why Is Play Important For Dogs?

Some dogs playing with each other.
Looks like they’re having fun!

Dogs, like humans, experience stressful situations, new and terrifying conditions, as well as health problems. Humans have their hobbies, sports, movies, books, board games, and so much more to relieve stress and bring joy to their lives. This way, they build their personalities as well as maintain a healthy life. 

To paint our dog’s life in colors and defeat the everyday dullness of its day we have to encourage different types of play. Everyday play does not only serve its purpose to entertain, but it also has many benefits in building a healthy and loving dog. Here are a few reasons why having fun and playing are crucial for dogs:

  • Physical health – Active play benefits your dog’s heart health, lubricates the joints, and enhances its balance and coordination in general.
  • Mental well-being – Your dog must use its head and maintain concentration in addition to its body when playing games with rules. 
  • Social skills – Playing with other dogs and people helps your dog develop its overall social abilities. 
  • Bonding – Whenever you spend quality time with your dog, no matter what you’re doing, it always enhances the bond between the two of you.
  • Your well-being – What better way to unwind after a long day at work and get some exercise than to play with your dog when you get home?
  • Makes them happy Finally, play is important for dogs because it improves their overall mood.

The Basic Rules Of Play

To keep it fun and safe at all times, we must set up some ground rules for playtime. Here are some of them: 

  • Control the game – Dog commands help you with strengthening good behaviors in a game. You are the one to decide when it is time for the game and when it ends, not the dog.
  • Don’t be forceful – Do not try to take away things with force from your dog. Instead, learn proper dog commands such as “leave it” or “drop it.”
  • Play often – Play frequently and regularly, both at home and when out walking.
  • Be supportive – Use an engaging voice while performing and offer plenty of encouragement.
  • Promote good behavior – If your dog is eager to play, only begin the game when they are acting in a way you want them to, like lying down calmly. This will promote appropriate behavior.
  • Be safe – Most importantly, always play in areas that are safe. Be watchful of anything that could cause injury, and stay away from other dogs and people.
  • Have fun – Have as much as you can!

Wrestling And Play Fighting With Your Dog

Wrestling is an engaging and exciting game for you and your dog. It is an effective way to burn off extra energy for both of you. Because of the nature of play fighting, many dog owners are conflicted about how safe it is. In reality, if you have control over the game and set some basic play rules, it will go just fine.  

Wrestling is a very tiring play and will lead to draining and calming your dog down afterward. The following are some guidelines for roughhousing in order to maintain control of the situation:

  • You should start the play – Teach your dog to only jump up on you or engage in rough play when given the appropriate trigger or sign.
  • Be watchful for aggression – Watch for symptoms of stress in your dog so you can identify aggression before it gets out of hand.
  • Be watchful for other people – When around other people, especially young children, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly, keep a watchful eye on your dog.
  • Rest! – Take brief rest periods or timeouts to let your dog relax.
  • Set boundaries – Let other people know only you are allowed to play with your dog in this way

Does Wrestling With My Dog Make Them More Aggressive?

Many dog owners enjoy playing “fight” with their dogs, especially those with larger breeds. It can be really enjoyable, but if it goes too far, it can also be harmful.

This, or any other game played right, should not result in aggression and harmful behavior from your dog.  

Remember, your dog loves you and does not intentionally want to hurt you. Therefore, mostly intimidating scenes or incidents are the reasons behind some accidents and harm done through aggressive play.

Teaching A Dog Bite Inhibition

Puppies spend a lot of time playing, chewing, and exploring new things. Puppies frequently bite, chew, and mouth on people’s hands, limbs, and clothing while they play with humans. 

When your puppy is seven weeks old, this type of behavior might be amusing, but when he’s three or four months old—and getting bigger by the day—it’s not quite as cute!

By teaching your dog how to be careful and not harm you, you can easily prevent accidents. 

A teaching technique called bite inhibition teaches canines to bite without applying pressure, significantly lowering the possibility of a highly dangerous bite. Although bite inhibition doesn’t totally stop dogs from biting, it does teach them to do so without actually hurting someone.

Bite inhibition is the capacity of a dog to regulate the force of his mouthing. Because they don’t understand the sensitivity of human skin, puppies and dogs who haven’t learned bite inhibition with people often bite excessively hard, even when they’re only playing. 

A dog who has learned to use his mouth gently when engaging with people may be less likely to bite someone hard and break skin if it ever bites someone in an environment other than play, such as when it is scared or in pain.

Other Types Of Entertainment For Dogs

Walking, running, and playing are all forms of physical activity, whereas many diverse things can stimulate the mind.

Even if you do not want to engage in wrestling with your dog, there are many forms of other entertainment or enjoyable activities you can practice. For example, walking, running, and playing fetch are good options. Toys at home are also ways for a dog to stay entertained throughout the day.

Since we are their primary source of amusement, if we don’t provide them with things to do, they will create their own activities, which is frequently how we end up with chewed-up shoes and table legs. And the play doesn’t have to be over the top or well planned out in advance. It can be small sessions, long afternoon sessions, or spare moments.

Final Words: Should I Wrestle My Dog?

Wrestling with your dog is a great way to engage in a mutual activity with your dog and build a stronger bond. Even if the safety of the activity may concern some owners, with the right rules and behavior it is perfectly safe. 

So, what’s your favorite way to play with your dog? Let us know your thoughts and why in the comments below!

Sandra is a veterinary undergraduate student based in Macedonia. She combines her two passions: veterinary medicine and writing, and she also tends to raise awareness about animal welfare as much as she can. As a student, she has attended many seminars and conferences related to the veterinary profession, and currently, she is focused on veterinary content writing. Although she owns a cat, she strongly claims that “dogs are her favorite people”.