Monday, August 25, 2014

Play with Me- The Pros and Cons of Dog Play

Dogs need to play, in some way. After all, life isn't all about eating and sleeping. Most dogs love to play. Not all dogs like to play with others. Not all dogs play well with others. Kelly doesn't like to play with other dogs, but she enjoys playing with toys, and interacting with us for a little tug or catch, or just some good ol' belly rubs and tickles.

Belly rub, please.

For the most part, play is positive.
Play is healthy, providing good exercise .
Play develops bonds with others.
Play teaches dogs etiquette and rules of behavior with one another. An adult dog teaches a puppy when Bitey Face is acceptable play and when he's gone too far. Ike is a very patient teacher and lets puppy Zeke gnaw on his lip, neck and legs for quite some time before telling him to scram.

What I like about dog play is when two or more dogs run after each other full tilt, ears flying. Pure joy!

 What I like is when dogs play Keep Away and make quick, sudden changes of direction.

What I like is when a dog play bows and the other dog responds, and I feel smart for understanding the body language.

What I don't like about play is when it sounds like two wild bears in the woods.

Okay, I really don't like Bitey Face, but I'm learning to accept it as the way some dogs play.

Can play go too far?
This is a question I've asked repeatedly since I've been babysitting puppy Zeke. Especially with two senior dogs in the house. Kelly made it easy--she made it clear that she's the boss, and at 13 years old she has no interest in playing with a young whippersnapper, and furthermore, he'd better stay out of her way. And he obliges.

Ike is 9, very laid back, very submissive, very, very gentle. He lets Zeke climb all over him, bite him all over, shake his limbs, and steal toys out of his mouth. It's all okay with Ike.

I like when Zeke takes the toy out of Ike's mouth, then Ike takes it back out of Zeke's mouth, then Zeke takes it's usually very gently, very calm and sweet. They're playing, sharing, and the give and take is equal.

What I don't like is when Zeke hangs onto the fur on Ike's neck and shakes really hard.

I don't like finding scratches and marks on Ike's skin because of the puppy's sharp baby teeth and nails.

I don't like that Ike doesn't tell the puppy off just a little more often.

But I've learned not to step in and interfere unless Ike seems in distress, or if Ike is trying to get away from Zeke and can't, or if the play seems to escalate into a fight.  If this happens at any point during your dogs play, stop them, distract them, separate them, give them a break. I've given Ike and Zeke a few breaks when Ike seems tired, but otherwise they've never seemed to be agitated or upset.

What I like is when dogs are clearly having fun. Can you see them smile?!

What I like is when they sleep comfortably, peacefully,  afterwards. Maybe dreaming of another play date.

Do your dogs like to play? What is their favorite type of play with other dogs? Have you ever worried about how rough the play becomes? Do you have a dog who doesn't like to play?


  1. Monty and Harlow can play very rough and yes, I don't like bitey face either. I have to bite my tongue not to interfere every time they play it. Right now it is too hot to take them walking so indoor roughhousing is what they do.

    BOL - I try to look away.

    Monty and Harlow

  2. @Sam I'm glad to know I'm not alone in feeling a bit uncomfortable at the game of Bitey Face. But we both understand it has it's place, so I guess looking away is all we can do!

  3. We have lots and lots of play time. Mom says it's very important
    Lily & Edward

  4. I do wish that Ginko had put his foot down a bit more with Lilly when she was young. I think she would have bossed him around a lot less later, if he had told her to knock it off more earlier.

    It looks like Ike is doing a great job. Try not to worry too much.

  5. @Lily and Edward Your mom is smart!

  6. @Roxanne It's hard to step in because most of what I read, and what I hear from trainers, is not to interfere unless it is dangerous or one is clearly stressed. Athough hard when you've got a laid back one like ours, I think you did the right thing with Ginko and Lilly.

  7. They look like they're having a lot of fun! I think that they're generally very good at self-regulating play. These guys are very rough, very loud players. I avoid stepping in because when Cooper is being super obnoxious(it's always Cooper...), the others let him know. I think by letting them make and enforce their own doggy rules, Cooper's learned his limits better than if I were stepping in to regulate with my own "people rules."

  8. @Maggie You are so wise not to impose too many people rule on play. I can't help think of what Sheldon says on Big Bang Theory. "You're having fun wrong." lol

  9. First - I love the relaunch of the blog and the title! Congrats! Yes, my FiveSibes love play time! Sometimes they can get rough, especially "bitey-face" games, but for the most part they are really respectful of each other - even though to the untrained eye it may look like a wolf fight! Sometimes they get going too fast and we've had an injury or two (torn CCLs)...but otherwise, they love to play and we love to watch them and sometimes even join in!

  10. I love watching animals play. I have to intercede on Maya's behalf from time to time. Pierson can get rough and when I see Maya clearly wants him to stop but doesn't tell him so I step in. I wish she would make him stop too, but it seems to be a retriever thing to just take it, doesn't it?

  11. Sheba can look SO mean when she and Luke play, but we have gotten more used to it know (though we still watch closely). They actually play much better now that Luke is closer to her size. Maybe when Zeke gets a little bigger (and his teeth aren't as sharp) things will be better. I think Sheba is more apt to correct Luke now that he's older too. The older goldens are just so gentle and patient though, aren't they?

  12. Callie is very patient with Ducky, as she was with Shadow; but sometimes she's a little too patient. The one time she turned and told Ducky off, she surprised all of us. Shadow has her moments with Ducky, but for the most part has become much more patient with her. In the beginning I thought I was going to lose my mind if they kept up their "arguments"!

  13. Thanks to older, gentle dogs who taught her the ropes, Honey has great play skills. I suspect that as Zeke gets older, Ike's tutelage will make him a wonderful dog.

    When Honey was a puppy I worried like you do that some play might be too rough. A trainer told me to watch Honey. If I pulled her away from the action and she was anxious to go back, she was doing okay.

    That was really helpful because as a puppy, Honey would yelp in play and I worried she was hurt. Turns out she was just being "girly."


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!