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Otis and Mabel playingWhat is Your Dog’s Play Style?

by GR Dog Adventures guest blogger, Kristie Swan- CPDT- Head Trainer at Whisker’s University

Does your dog play great with some dogs and not get along with others? Have you ever wondered why? We asked Kristie Swan (CPDT- Head Trainer at Whisker’s University) for some insight in to your dog’s “Play Style” and here’s what she had to say:

When it comes to play it is important to make sure dogs are well suited to each other. Many are aware that boxers like to use their paws and bat at other dogs during play. Other boxers get that! More reserved breeds and mixes may find that weird while others may think “Have you lost your mind? We’re dogs we use our mouths for everything!” Husky to husky play may involve a lot of neck grabbing, while a Beagle may run for cover thinking “OMG, he’s trying to kill me! Can’t we all just sniff around?”

There is more to it, though, than simple breed dispositions. Individual preferences matter a lot. When you look at your dog’s play style pay attention to all she has to say. Watch for cues of discomfort like lip licking, body curving and lowering (trying to be small), belly showing, these are a dog’s way of asking to be left alone.  There are more serious signs like stiffening, leaning forward or up on toes, mouth closed tightly, lowering the head while eyes show whites under or to the side and more that can say “I don’t like what you are doing and I’m getting ready to show you”. Not all bows are invitations to play, some are meant as a break or a show of discomfort.

This subject is actually quite in depth. This is a way of giving a brief overview and expressing that all play is not equal. If you have questions regarding your dog’s comfort level during play, you’re seeing something that you aren’t quite sure about, ask a professional for help. Err on the side of caution rather than trying to ignore that little twinge that says you may be seeing something your dog is uneasy with.

Look for give and take in play. If your dog starts to look uncomfortable does the other dog notice and act accordingly? Good play partners notice when they are getting too rough with a friend and take a break. Dogs that like to chase often stop if they catch another and wait for them to go running again. Dogs that like to be chased will usually slow down and stat flirting if the chaser begins to lose interest. The wrestling type should involve a rotation of who is on top and who is on bottom. Always interrupt what you are not comfortable with and remember that dogs are not always the best decision makers.

Finally, know that not all dogs really want to play with other dogs and that is just fine! Dogs have centuries of breeding geared toward becoming “man’s best friend”. Some only care to play with their people or close friends and there is nothing wrong with that. The term socialization is a buzz word that gets misconstrued. It means your dog handles a lot of different situations well, it doesn’t mean your dog wants to play with every other dog on the planet. Just like people, some are the life of the party and some only want a few close (human) friends.


Kristie Swan- Head Trainer- Whisker’s University



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