It can be hard to know if your dog is playing and happy or if things are getting a little tense.
So how can you tell if your dog is playing happily of it's time to break things up?
Luckily, there are lots of clues to help :)
Do both dogs have relaxed, loose bodies, bouncy movements?
Are their eyes soft and squinty at times?
Are their mouths soft?
Is the play even? If one dog is constantly initiating the play or chasing the other this can be a sign that one of the dogs is not so keen
Do the dogs 'mirror' each other? (play a similar way)
Are there lots of break offs? (where the dogs stop, turn away, sniff or shake before initiating play again)
Self handicapping - does the larger dog tone down their play so as to not overwhelm a smaller play partner?
Do the dogs switch roles?- the chaser becomes the chased, the one on top becomes the one underneath
This is an old video of mine and my daughter's dog playing together. I have slowed it down slightly because it is such a good example of great play! See if you can spot the mirroring of play between the dogs, the calming signals-tongue flicks, shake-offs, head turns, break offs etc- and notice how when things get a little tense both dogs calm the situation down with a mutual break off.
I cannot stress how important good, balanced play between dogs is. Watch your dogs and see how they play.
Inappropriate dog play can be spotted by again watching the dogs. Signs to look out for are
Tense stiff body
ConLots of neck biting and holding on
Pinning the other dog to the floor
Larger dogs playing roughly with smaller dogs. Larger dogs should self handicap when with smaller dogs and play more gently and often lie on the floor rather than loom over them.
Larger dogs chasing smaller dogs - this can kick in the predatory motor sequence and is not safe play
Escalating arousal levels
Standing over the other dog - head over neck
Barking in the face of the other dog
Continued relentless chasing or wrestling from one dog
Dogs play for lots of reasons. To strengthen social bonds, to improve social and motor skills, to burn off energy and ultimately playing is fun!