Recognizing the game in dogs

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Many dogs love to play and frolic with other dogs, especially when they are young. However, it is unfortunately not always pleasant and it can even end in a fight. If it really doesn’t click between two dogs, you usually notice this pretty quickly. Yet it is sometimes difficult to recognize the difference between playing fun and playing aggressively. In addition, it often happens that not all dogs involved like the game equally. In this blog, you can read how you can recognize whether the game is fun and when you can intervene better.

Why and when do dogs play?

Dogs play for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they play out of curiosity or because they are looking for a bit of excitement. It can also reduce stress and promote bonding between dogs. Play is also good for development, as it helps dogs practice motor and social skills. It can also help train self-control.

Dogs often only play when they trust each other a little more. Usually, there must be some sniffing first and it starts slowly. If two dogs just meet, chances are they’ll start playing right away, even though it may seem like it. What you see can be tension or communication.

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This is how you recognize game

The main feature of the play is that it comes from both sides. Both dogs have to want and like it, otherwise, it can’t really be called play. When the game comes from both sides, the roles will alternate each time. For example, one runs after the other for a while, and then it turns around.

Playing dogs will also adapt to each other. For example, a faster dog will slow down so that a slower dog can keep up, or a larger dog will lie down to make contact with a smaller dog.

Play usually also includes short breaks, where the dogs stop for a while and then continue again. They do this to relax and to prevent the tension from rising too high.

Finally, it is important to look at the body language of dogs. This one should be relaxed. Dogs regularly lie down, sit, roll and they jump and wag their tail. They challenge each other by making biting movements, for example, without actually biting. Playing dogs will mainly walk-in curves and circles and not in straight lines.

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This is how you recognize tension

Sometimes it happens that one dog likes playing more than the other dog. This is usually the case when it’s the same dog running away from the other one every time. It then starts to look more like a chase than a game. Especially when a dog runs away at high speed and in a straight line, it looks like it is trying to run away. If you recognize this behavior in your dog, keep walking and don’t force him to play. You’d better walk away before real tension sets in.

When the speed picks up and the movements in both dogs are purposeful and straight, this is a sign that the game is starting to take on an aggressive form. Are you unsure whether you should intervene? Then pay attention to the body language of the dogs. Do they growl in a low, threatening tone, do they bark a lot, are the back hairs standing on end, the tail stiffly raised or back, and the corners of the mouth tense? These are all signs that the dogs are not just playing sociable and harmless. Separate the dogs before things really get out of hand and you can’t get in.

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How do you prevent tension and how do you intervene?

It is very unpleasant when your dog gets into a fight with another dog. You feel powerless and the dogs are often so engrossed that it is difficult to separate them. That is why we would of course prefer to avoid this situation. But how do we do that?

It is important that you learn to recognize and understand your own dog’s body language. Not all dogs react the same to stress and tension. When you recognize this in your dog, you can intervene before the situation gets out of hand. Do you notice that your dog is being chased by another dog and is not waiting for this? Then walk away before your dog lunges at the ‘chaser’.

When one dog is on a leash, but the other is not, conflict arises more quickly than when both dogs are ‘equal’. If your dog is off-leash, never let him approach a dog that is on a leash. You don’t know what the reason is that the other dog is on a leash. Maybe he is aggressive or scared or he has had an unpleasant experience with another dog. A conflict can also arise because one dog is free, but the other is not.

You cannot always avoid a conflict, especially because it sometimes happens very quickly. Try to stay as calm as possible, no matter how difficult that is. There is no point in yelling and yelling at your dog, this can cause even more stress. Getting angry at the ‘bully’ doesn’t get you much either, because he usually acts out of stress and doesn’t know how to handle the situation. In addition, it is not always the culprit who growls, but this can be a warning that the other dog is too heavy-handed or pushy. In short: it is often not clear which dog is the ‘culprit’ and getting angry will not solve anything.

The best way to calm the dogs is to try to distract them. Focus on your own dog and try to lure him out of the situation by taking him out of ‘fight’ mode. Also, after the dogs have stopped, try to talk to your dog in a calm voice and calm him down. You naturally want to prevent your four-legged friend from being left with fear or trauma.

In short, sometimes there is a fine line between play and tension in dogs, but there are a few things you can look out for to spot the difference. Pay particular attention to your dog’s body language and continue walking or keep the dogs separate if you don’t trust the situation.

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