Friendly Dog Play
Learn to recognize friendly play and let dogs do what they do best!
As a new dog or puppy owner it’s very important for your new furry friend to play with other dogs for socialization and exercise. It’s also very important for YOU to learn how dogs play. Some of it is new and some of it you may already know. So read up so you and your dogs can have a fun and relaxing time at the park and make new friends!
Here is another good overview, explaining the different styles of play and games that dogs play. We’ll go into more detail below.
The way dogs play is mainly pretend fighting and wrestling. Appropriate playing between dogs and puppies is fun, wiggly, and sometimes loud. These are the things that dogs SHOULD be doing when they play:
A Play Bow is a dogs way of saying “I’m ready to play, are you ready??”. Sometimes the other dog may want to play, and sometimes not. but it is polite to ask with a play bow. Lying down is another way of not being scary, so it’s very playful in this situation. And of course, playful dogs are wiggle and loose, not tense!
Dogs like to play the same games that human do. Chasing each other is a very fun game. It’s like playing tag – “I chase and pounce on you, and then you chase and pounce on me!”
Tug-of-War is also very fun and can get very intense, as long as nobody is trying to “guard” the toy.
This one is very important to understand because dogs making noise like barking and sometimes even growling while they play is OK! It’s all about the context and the whole situation. Here’s some good examples of dogs making noise while playing, but you can tell that it’s all in good fun!
Everyone knows that a nice wagging tail is a good sign that dogs are happy. Look for tails with big, wide wags.
Also, when dogs greet each other and are playing, it’s polite for them to sniff butts and that whole area. Sometimes it makes us humans feel awkward, but LET THEM SNIFF! It’s how dogs politely say “hello”!
So now that you know more about how dogs should look when they’re playing nicely, here’s how they SHOULDN’T look. If you see this type of behavior, you may need to step in and stop it. You may also want to get an experienced trainer to help you teach your dog how to play more politely with other dogs.
This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing to look for when it comes to knowing when a dog isn’t happy and might snap at another dog. It’s a good idea to pay very close attention to how a dogs neck, tail, and whole body can stiffen up. Here’s a good example:
When dogs play, they like to chase back and forth and play-wrestle. They are practicing for real fights, but this should be a lot less intense. If you see that one dog is doing all the chasing and the other keeps walking away and not wanting to play, you should step in and stop them.
If there are any toys, treats, or food around, sometimes dogs will try to guard them from the other dogs. They may even try to guard their owners! You should just make sure that there’s no food or treats lying around if you know your dog resource guards. you can also check out the lesson on RESOURCE GUARDING
When dogs yelp very loudly, it’s to let the other dog know that they got too rough and accidentally hurt them a little. This is ok, and normal, as long as the other dog stops whatever they were doing for a little bit. If they don’t stop, then that is very rude and you should step in to stop it. The yelp noise is very similar to how we teach puppies to stop nipping in the section on: PLAY BITING
The best situation is where the puppies or adult dogs learn how to understand each other and be respectful of dog body language. If someone is being rude or too rough, you should step and stop the play. You may also want to scold the rude dog a bit. This is one of the few times you can use a light PUNISHMENT to help them learn to not be rude. Stepping in to enforce polite play should look like this: