A golden retriever paces in and out of your home garden, chasing, nipping, tackling, skidding and sliding, only to repeat the performance over and over again. Does that situation sound familiar? Well, if you are a pet parent, you will know it. Dog play may seem like a fun activity, a joyful waste of time to interact or fight with their pet mates but there’s often more than what meets the eye. Could the goal simply be pleasure? Or is there a biological reason that dogs love to play?
Dogs engage in play to communicate under a moral code, that is not simply to establish dominance. Research studies in the past show that dogs’ behaviour during play is a language of its own, and every shift of the eyes or wag of the tail is a form of communication.
Dog Play also has a set of rules. And if one of them breaks the rule, they are most likely to be excluded from the group. It suggests that dogs experience a range of emotions when they enforce moral conduct and also recognize these emotions in other canines.
Let us understand the science behind the different play behaviours of dogs.
- Play Bow – When dogs lower their body in a bow-like stance, it is often an invitation to play. It is an indication for other pet dogs and humans that your dog would like a playmate. It is often complemented with fun jumps, nips or roughhousing.
- Roll over – Dogs rolling on their back while playing is common. It is considered a submissive gesture and usually exhibited by the smaller or the weaker of the dogs engaged in a play. It is also their way of decreasing play. In some cases, rolling also means to facilitate play.
- Let female puppies win – A 2008 study revealed that male puppies frequently let their female puppies win during their play time. You may wonder why! Because the act of playing is more than winning for the male dog.
Playtime has immense health benefits for dogs too. A recent report released by Bristol University claims that daily play is directly proportional to the well-being of dogs, quite like humans. In fact, the study revealed that dogs who don’t engage in a lot of play often suffer from behavioural issues such as anxiety and aggression.
- Developed Motor Skills and Defence – Playing helps your fur babies gain important motor skills. Behaviours such as rolling, jumping and shaking increases their mind body coordination, balance and awareness levels. Their play time also helps them to learn how hard they can bite or growl without scaring their play partner. Soon they develop the ability to communicate with other pet friends or masters.
- Enhanced Social Relationships – Canine-Canine play also unleashes a different side of the dog’s personality. When to get aggressive, when to become submissive through the intense play session determine their social bonds. While play time is pure fun time for them, it improves social cohesion and familiarity in your pet pups. They understand body language better and learn to interact closely
- Mental Well-being – Physical fitness certainly but dog play also ensures mental well-being and agility in dogs. Perhaps the importance of mental well-being for pets is equally critical for their overall health and behaviour as their human friends. It stimulates their senses and they learn to get more receptive and interactive through their play sessions.
Dogs have relatively longer periods of juvenile development than other animals like cats or rats. They appear to play more frequently not because they enjoy it more, but simply because they grow at different rates and in different ways