Buying a Puppy from a Breeder|Dog Training, Agility, Dog Obedience, Southern Maine, Falmouth, Tree Frog Farm
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Liz Langham, MS, CPDT-KA
239 Mountfort Rd.
North Yarmouth, ME 04097
207 837 1613
Dogs Can be Bullies Too

Can dogs be bullies? Indeed they can. Often times dogs’ exhibit bully behavior due to lack of socialization, fear, or because of what they were bred to do. For instance, there was a Rhodesian ridgeback that frequented a dog park I used to go to with my dog. What would happen is: My dog would run after the Frisbee. Her running would kick in the prey drive of the ridgeback. He would chase and grab onto the center of her back. Ridgebacks are bred to hunt lions. The dog was exhibiting the innate behavior he was bred to do. Was the behavior appropriate at the dog park? Absolutely not! At that point the dog was not a good prospect for the dog park because the owner did not do the necessary training. With some attention training and a solid recall the dog would have been a fine prospect for the park. In addition, the owner would have benefited this dog by focusing his drive through lure coursing or tracking (see previous article on dog sports).

Dog bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and status. According to the Atlanta Humane Society “A ‘bully’ is a socially inept dog who may enjoy playing with other dogs off-leash but is more than likely unaware of the proper play protocol. He may be overly zealous in his attempts to play, and knock other dogs around, chase them mercilessly, or growl or posture in ways that seem antithetical to play.” Dog bullies are generally under-socialized dogs that cannot read dog body language well. It must be trained by the owner. Often time’s dogs are unaware of dog body language because they were taken away from their mother and litter mates too early (before 49 days) or were under-socialized within the prime socialization period. A dog benefits from socialization between 3 and 12 weeks of age. Socialization is: exposing the pup to various sights, sounds, smells, surfaces, other dogs of different breeds and play styles, and different people, to name a few.

Well socialized dogs can detect dog body language. They see subtleties that many humans can overlook. Body language signals come from the shape of the eyes, tightness of the mouth and/or brow, body and tail carriage. Dogs exhibit bully behavior by picking on dogs that are more submissive or dogs that have a different play style. The bully will get aroused very easily and this is shown by hackles up, tail high and tight, stiff body, stalking behavior, and by giving hard eye contact. Bullies do not tend to back down from a challenge. A dog can be a bully regardless of their size or breed.

All dogs benefit from formal training. If your dog is around other dogs, and is a bully, than training is critical. Train your dog to pay attention to you when he is in a high arousal state. Recognize signs of arousal like vertical playing (playing from his hind legs rather than four feet on the floor), humping, grabbing another dogs’ neck repeatedly, or body slamming.

Be selective with your dogs play mates. Dog parks are not appropriate for bullies until extensive training has been done. This is because various dogs, with different play styles visit the park. The more your dog practices bully behavior the stronger the behavior becomes. Pick play-mates that have a similar play-style until your dog has had extensive attention training and appropriate play experiences with different play styles of play mates. Dogs that bully can cause significant damage to other dogs because bullies do not tend to back down. Train your dog to look at you when cued (by using his name or a sound that tells him to pay attention to you). Your job as a dog owner is to be your dogs advocate. If play at the park gets too stimulating than leave the park or go for a walk with your dog. Do the work. Your dog is your companion and is brilliant in so many ways. Open up his world by building your relationship though training.


*This puppy does not want to be pursued. Her ears are flat, butt and tail are low. The husky has ears forward and is focusing intensely on the puppy. This would be time to stop the play by recalling the husky away from the puppy. Is the husky a bully? Hard to tell from the picture but what is clear is that this is NOT equal play.
Written by Liz Langhan
Liz Langham MS, CPDT-KA is the owner of Tree Frog Farm Dog Training and Agility in North Yarmouth, ME. She has been training dogs and their people since 1994. Liz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, mother of three, Master Gardener, and the guardian of 2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 guinea pig, and 11 chickens. Tree Frog Farm Personalized Dog Training and Agility Farm
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