Training Tips and Tricks! Appropriate Play and Body Language in Daycare
Who doesn’t love watching their pup have tons of fun with dogs in the neighborhood or at the park?
Free play is a great way to help your dog burn off some energy, meet friends, and practice social skills.
If you want to let your dog have some playtime, be sure to watch carefully for body language and movements during play to ensure all dogs are safe and having fun! Here’s what to look for:
Play Signals: Behaviors like a play bow (elbows on the ground with booty in the air) show a dog is ready and excited to play! You’ll also see goofy facial expressions like an open or smiling mouth as well as bouncy or exaggerated movements. Sometimes you’ll even hear a sneeze or a huff — dogs use these to show their actions are playful and not serious!
Movement: During play, it should look like the dogs are taking turns. There should not always be one dog initiating or chasing after the other. You should see many stops and starts with moments of both tension and release. Movement should be fluid and wiggly! It’s great to see dogs copying each other; for example, when one stops for a quick “shake off,” the other will, too, or when one stops to get a drink of water, the other does as well.
Be the Referee: Dogs may have different social skills, be different ages, or just like different types of play (one may be a wrestler while the other is a chaser). It is up to us to make sure both dogs are having fun and following “dog rules.” For example:
- If one dog stops to drink water or have a break, the other dog should not follow them and try to continue play by biting or hanging on them.
- If one dog yelps, walks away, or avoids the other dog, it is up to us to separate them.
- If the dogs were enjoying the play, they will try to move back towards each other and re-engage.
- If the dog was not enjoying playtime, they will not want to join back in, and playtime should be over.
Never force a dog to engage with another if they do not want to or are uncomfortable. Helping your dog engage in safe play and understanding body language is a key part of being a responsible pup parent. Is your dog a daycare dog? If not, training could help!