VCA Animal Hospitals

What's up with my dog's play behavior?

Published: Jan 18, 2013

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Some dogs are more playful than others, but there is one thing that is universal among them all - the playful bow. You may recognize this behavior from your own play sessions with your canine companion, and you'll definitely see him doing it when he plays with other dogs. The pose - his front legs extended, shoulders and chest low to the ground and bottom sticking straight up in the air - is also usually accompanied by a wagging tail.

What does this pose mean?
This pose is a universal sign for "let's play" in dog language. Some people might mistake it is a sign of dog aggression, since it can also include dog barking. In a case of aggression, though, a dog might be baring his teeth with his ears back. In the playful bow position, your dog will seem happy and energetic.

The pose does not conform to any dog standards of hierarchy. In a group of dogs, the alpha or another dominant member could bow to a lower-ranking canine, or a more submissive dog could approach a more dominant dog with the play bow, according to Vetstreet.com. When one dog meets another for the first time, he may bow to get a feel for the other dog's personality. If the other dog feels like accepting the invitation to play, they will likely become friends.

How should I respond?
If your dog is bowing to you during play, you can respond just as a dog would, by assuming the position yourself. You can even initiate play by plopping down into this pose. This is a perfect way to kick off a game of fetch, tug-o-war or just running together in the yard. If you and your young canine bow together during puppy training, make sure to show him the limits of such play, stopping if he bites or jumps inappropriately.

 

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