How to Tell If Dogs Are Playing Well Together
Tell-tale signs of both good and bad get-togethers. Pus, The Dog Trainer has tips on reading your dog's body language.
Good dog-dog play can involve chase, wrestling, or tug over a stick, but in all cases you’re looking for loose, wiggly movement.
In healthy play, you’ll see the dogs switch off—they’ll take turns chasing each other or being on top. Big dogs with good social skills may handicap themselves by lying down when they play with smaller dogs. If one dog’s tail is tucked or he avoids the other dog, he’s not having fun. Rising arousal is a yellow flag—if the dogs seem to lock into position or if play-growls suddenly go deep-toned, it’s time to separate.
How to Tell When Dog Play Is Going Wrong
Look for brief freezes or if the dogs are stiffening up or making more staccato movements. If the players are vocal types, listen for growling that grows deeper and more intense. Boxing, with the dogs standing on their hind legs face to face, can be benign or can mark the prelude to a fight. Much depends on the individual dogs—some de-escalate easily, whereas others get more and more amped until suddenly it’s toddlers out of control on the playground and you’ve got a fight.
Pit Bulls and various terriers often seem to have hair triggers, especially with dogs they don’t know well. If you’ve got such a dog, the crowding and random mingling at dog parks probably aren’t well suited for her—play dates and hikes with compatible dogs would be a better choice.
Want to raise a happy dog who loves to play and cuddle -- but still comes when called and doesn't chew up your favorite shoes?
Then check out The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet!