Dogs belong to the living beings, which partly play until old age. But how do such dog games look like and when should you better intervene?
Why do dogs play together?
Young dogs playfully practice all the behaviours they might need later. But also the motor subtleties are developed and social contacts are made.
Dogs learn to adapt quickly and to respond flexibly to the communication of their play partner. This communication is practiced in the game. On the one hand, dogs learn to which signals their conspecifics react best, on the other hand they learn to interpret the different signals of the others. The more different the play partners (especially in the socialization phase), the easier it is for them to maintain good communication later on.
Their musculature is also strengthened, their movement sequences are practiced and their ability to react is strengthened. In addition, dog games can help to reduce stress and are simply fun, because the body’s own reward system is activated. Provided that all dogs involved feel the situation as a game and do not feel overwhelmed or become the victim of a hunting.
How do you recognize a dog game?
- The typical game challenge is the play bow.
- A game can be recognized by the fact that the gestures are usually shown in a completely exaggerated way. Behavioural patterns from hunting, aggression and sexual behaviour are combined in an attenuated form. This means that there are no final actions, i.e. bites are hinted at, but not really executed. Different movements and actions are mostly shown alternately and mostly without any recognizable connection. When playing there is no goal.
- It is important that all participants play voluntarily and gladly and that the dog game can be ended at any time. Dog games can only take place in a relaxed environment where everyone feels comfortable. Also the basic needs should be satisfied to promote a relaxed play. If you are hungry, thirsty or even in pain, you are unlikely to be in the mood to play.
- Dog games are characterized by role changes. Sometimes one is on top of the other, sometimes one is running after the other. So there is a balance. Preferably, dogs play with each other who prefer similar playing styles. Some like it more wild and loud, others more gentle and less physical.
- Also the body language gives information about a game. Mostly the bodies are soft and curvy. They make grimaces and the movements seem completely exaggerated and clownish.
- The excitement has ups and downs. With the dog’s game, short breaks are made again and again. This loosens up the game and ensures that there is no overheating or quarrelling.
When is it no longer a game?
- When one of the participants, it no longer feels like fun
- When one pursues a goal (often seen is hunting behavior)
- When it turns into a commentary fight
- Lack of space. Often a game tips over when a dog feels cornered or cannot move far enough. This can be observed especially in small dog areas.
- Already at the meeting it can be determined on the basis of the body language whether a relaxed play results from it. No good conditions are about: Lurking and fixing, stiff or frontal approach, threatening, fending off
How should I react?
If your darling is rather “rude” when you greet him or if you notice that it is getting too much for your play partner, call your dog to you. Some dogs have not learned how to play friendly, are insecure or overconfident. Help your dog to use his body language correctly, ask a dog trainer for help.
If your dog is the “victim”, it becomes too much for him or you see that he does not enjoy it, offer him protection. Let him hide behind you and shield him from his fellow dogs. Please ask the owners of the dog to call their dog to get some peace in the situation.
Not every dog wants to play and certainly not with every dog. We humans often believe that our dogs always have to understand each other and force their pets for example in dog zones to social contact. But also our dogs choose their contacts and play only with selected play partners. Depending upon mood and daily condition dog games can arise. Puppies generally play significantly more than adult animals. So don’t worry, your dog doesn’t have to be friends with every conspecific and certainly doesn’t have to start a dog game.
Pay attention to the body language and respect your dog. If he should avoid playing because of pain or fear, consult a vet or trainer to help him.
Dog games are created in a relaxed atmosphere, when the dogs get along well and both have fun. Never force your dog to have social contacts and make sure that it is still a game for everyone involved.