This question came hot on the paws of another pet owners question,as to when to stop their rottweiler puppy from playing too roughly. It is always a difficult decision to make to know when play time is becoming more like a free for all. Let’s face it, any parent with more then one child knows this dilemma. So, I tend to use the same guidelines. Name calling and perhaps physical shoving may be ok, but anything rougher is unacceptable. How does this translate in the pet world.
It is vital for both dogs and cats to have physical contact when puppies and kittens, in the form of rough play. At this time, I have had the unique experience of studying six week old puppies in our house, from birth, and make note of the different stages of play and temperament building. There is much growling at this time, and the start of posturing and staring. However, most interesting, is watching the mother dog step in when things get a little too serious, but use the art of distraction to break up a situation.
This is what you should do as well. If nothing else, it should be very much in the front of your pets mind that you do not tolerate fighting in your presence. This is also a safety mechanism in the wild. There has to be a leader, and fights within the pack simply weaken it. A team has to stay together to survive.
You should also be aware that sometimes they may be play fighting. For example, our ten year old cat will rule over the food bowl and definitely put the twenty two year old cat in it’s place. But, if there is an argument over a particular chair the older one reigns supreme and the younger one allows him to chase him around the house. I think the two boys just like the idea of a fight but have learnt that the end result may not be worth it.
Next time your younger pet seems to be going too far, do what a mother would do. Use distraction in the form of food or a toy to dissipate the impending situation.