Play between dogs involves intricate communication, which often we miss, or completely misunderstand what it communicates.
When play gets too boisterous it can often lead to fights. This is either because arousal levels are too high or communication has been ignored, and often it’s both.
Play begins with behaviour prompts. Some common prompts are a play bow (legs flat, bum in the air) this is an invitation to play. Play barking is another popular behaviour, usually high pitched, often it is both.
Dogs are masters of learning what works, their survival instinct is to seek pleasure, and avoid pain/discomfort. This means that often pessimistic dogs won’t play.
My dog Bert has never played with another dog, it sends him into a meltdown if another dog wants to play. So he will choose to avoid it. But if your dogs want to play they will engage.
So how do you know if your dog wants to play?
This is dog dependent. They will display avoidance behaviours such as creating space away from the dog, stillness, looking away and showing their belly.
If the other dogs read this and reciprocate and do not push play then it’s all good, however, sometimes dogs ignore these signals and push play.
This should be avoided as this can create aggression in both dogs, and increase pessimism, particularly in the dog not wanting to play, and in future events will create a negative response, possibly reactivity.
Check back and I will discuss what effective reciprocal play looks like.