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March 27, 2013

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Does Your Dog Play Nice?

By Phil Monroe, PetSafe Village Kennel Representative proper dog play behavior

Monitoring dogs playing can be hard work. Our Day Camp counselors have good advice on what behaviors to look for.

Is your buddy really a bully? Do you know if your dog is “playing nice” with others? Do you know how to recognize when Fido is displaying behaviors that can turn into an ugly playground spat? At PetSafe Village, our Camp Counselors have seen thousands of dogs come through our play camp over the years. Visitors are often amazed to see upwards of 40 happy dogs playing together, all seemingly the best of friends. This sight often elicits one of our most frequently asked questions: “How do you have so many dogs playing together without a fight breaking out?

Though an altercation may occur from time to time, like in any group on the playground, it’s a rare occurrence. There are two main reasons for this. First, no dog is allowed to be the Alpha. A group of dogs is a pack and, naturally, every pack needs an Alpha. But in our Day Camp the Alpha is always a Camp Counselor. No dog is allowed to be dominating over the others. They’re all equal in the play yard.

The other important reason is our counselors are experts at spotting potential trouble before it starts. I recently spoke with two of our Camp Counselors, Bev and Niki, about bad play behavior they watch for. They were happy to share their list of behaviors not allowed in Day Camp:

Mounting – Unless a female is in heat, this behavior has nothing to do with mating. Both males and females will mount another dog to show dominance.

Muzzle Punching – This is characterized by a dog “punching” another in the back of the neck with its muzzle, another dominance behavior discouraged in the play yard.

Chest Thumping – Ever watch two dogs play, and they come up off their front feet, chests together? That’s a situation that can deteriorate into scrap. Also, chest thumping can be when a dominate dog runs deliberately into the side of another- a pushy, bullying behavior. The occasional chest thump will happen from time to time, but when it’s purposeful and deliberate it is discouraged.

Toy Guarding – Mine, mine, mine! Like it sounds, toy guarding is characterized by not letting other dogs near a particular toy. Sorry, Coco, but it’s not nice to be stingy! Share and share alike.

Excessive Licking – Though not a dominance behavior, some dogs will just lick another’s face to annoyance. This can cause the “lickee” to react with a natural “Get outta my face!” response. Much like children, dogs play and mingle with a myriad of personalities and play styles. Proper and alert adult supervision will go a long way to keeping the fun going all day long!

What is your dog's favorite way to play? Be sure to watch for these behaviors.

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