Since dog-dog play is similar to serious activities such as hunting, fighting and reproducing, dogs have ritualistic ways of demonstrating that their intentions are peaceful and fun-loving.
“HEY! WANNA PLAY?”
The classic play bow is the dog’s invitation to play. The dog’s tail and butt is in the air, and the front legs are lowered. The dog’s ears are up and forward, mouth is open in a “grin” and eyes are relaxed. This invitation says, “We may be chasing and pouncing, but it is all in fun!”
Reciprocity is one key to healthy play: “I chase you, you chase me. I pull your ear, you nip my tail.” Lack of reciprocity could mean that someone isn’t having a good time, and you should intervene.
The general rule is to let dogs decide what is and what isn’t appropriate. Butt-sniffing, rough playing, barking in each other’s ears, mounting and other actions would not be acceptable in human company but are perfectly normal dog behavior.
However, if you see that your dog’s actions are annoying, scaring or angering another dog, you need to intervene. If your dog is too excited or intense, take him a few feet away from the action for a light-hearted but calming time-out.
“I’M SENSING SOME STRESS HERE.”
Dogs use calming signals to reduce stress for themselves and others they interact with (including humans). Calming signals include yawning, looking away, lip licking, moving slowly, circling, sniffing the ground, becoming suddenly “distracted,” sitting or lying down.
While most dogs will heed these signals, some just don’t listen and keep pestering to play. If you’ve got a persistent pup, watch for other dogs’ signals and help redirect him to another activity.
“I AM A CRAZY DOG.”
Just like kids, dogs can become too aroused and need a time-out.
An intense play session should be interrupted frequently to give everyone a break and keep things fun. It is a great time to work on recall; have those treats ready.
“I’M REALLY SCARED!”
Most aggressive dogs are not dominant. They are scared.
A dog that is scared will often growl or snarl and stare intently with narrow, fixed eyes. They usually look like they would run at the first opportunity. They are stiff and may growl or snarl.
“LIFE IS GOOD!”
A confident, happy dog smiles. His or her lips are drawn back but relaxed. The tongue hangs loose and the breathing is easy. The tail wags in a wide sweeping motion.
Special Thanks To Taurus Training And Doggy Play Day