Do you know that you’ll do more harm to your puppies if you stop them from playing?
Yes, small as they are, puppies can make loud growls and other noises when they play — which can be quite disturbing for fur parents to hear. After all, who wants their fur babies to get hurt? Especially when you chance upon them wrestling as if there was a trophy at stake, and the “violent” game includes biting each other here and there.
Well, it’s what you call play fighting. It’s how most dogs and puppies play and experience fun. The sight and sounds may be concerning for us humans, but this kind of play is natural for dogs whose social skills, intellect, and physical bodies undergo healthy development through their unique, noisy games.
According to vetSTREET, “Games challenge your dog mentally and physically, both important for keeping your dog calm and well-behaved at home. Lack of exercise is implicated in many behavioral problems. Play is also important for physical and intellectual development. Puppies run, twist and wrestle, developing muscles, agility and strength.”
Between 2 and 4 weeks of age, puppies begin to play with their mothers and siblings. This is the time they learn to socialize and about bite inhibition. When a puppy bites too hard, its playmate will cry in pain and refuse to play anymore. This teaches the first puppy to be gentler in biting when playing.
By 4 weeks of age, puppies also start to show interest in toys. Balls and other safe playthings can help stimulate their brain. And by the 8th week, you can begin training your pups to fetch things and play games with them to strengthen your bond.
Here are the signs that your puppies are enjoying a play fight as published on PetHelpful:
- Play bow. The puppy will lower its front legs, causing its rump to be in the air with its tail often wagging side-to-side.
- Tail wags. But you should also take note that all tail wags are friendly.
- High-pitched barking and growling
- Running back and forth to tease its playmate to chase
- Normal bounciness
- Rocking-chair gait
- Presentation of the side of its body
- Good bite inhibition
- Pausing between bouts of play
But, should you observe that one of the puppies is behaving like a bully and its playmate is reacting with fear, then you should stop the game gently but firmly. You should also intervene if the puppies are not taking turns, biting becomes frequent and painful, growling becomes more serious and low-pitched, or when puppies play fight mostly on their hind legs. Don’t let the situation escalate, but you want your puppies to grow up into playful yet well-behaved dogs.