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 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.



General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

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Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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