Understanding your dog can be challenging. Dogs obviously don’t speak our language, and there will always be a communication barrier, but one thing is for sure: dogs don’t play the same as humans.
They don’t just play with toys or dolls. They jump, bite, growl, chase, and wrestle! It can look like aggression, but it is most commonly your dog just messing around.
So how can you tell when those actions mean playtime instead of business?
In this article, you will find the benefits of play for your dog, signs to look for that show healthy play, and safety for your dog and yourself.
Benefits of healthy play
When your dog plays, it isn’t just about having fun. Your dog reaps so many benefits from his or her playtime, like mental stimulation, physical benefits of exercise, bonding time with you, and an outlet for pent-up energy.
Active play helps keep their hearts healthy, joints lubricated, and improve their balance and coordination, making them an all-around stronger and healthier animal. When playing games with rules, it can force your dog to use his or her brain and can assist in developing a sharp and focused mind.
Play can also improve social skills too.
Dogs are social animals
When playing with other dogs or people, it can improve overall social skills and learn basic rules. Even if you and your dog are only playing for a few minutes a day, it can help strengthen the bond between you and create a better, more understanding relationship.
Lastly, while your dog’s health is benefited with play, yours is too! It can alleviate stress and check off some exercise off your list, plus it’s so much fun!
Signs to look for in healthy play
So how can you tell when that display of shiny teeth means fun instead of business? Here are a few signs of healthy play to look for.
Role reversal and reciprocity
When dogs are playing, there should frequent role reversal in friendly dogs. If one dog is consistently tackling another and not offering the opportunity to be tackled back, it is more bullying than playing.
This indicates more aggression in a specific dog and not just fun playtime.
Taking frequent breathers
Breathers are essential for dogs to gather themselves before re-engaging in play. These breathing breaks don’t need to last long but give dogs enough time to reinitiate with each other.
If the dogs are not giving each other these self-imposed breaks, you should step in and make them do so before realizing your dog to join the fun.
When dogs enter the dog park with a stiff tail or body, the play interaction will most likely not be super enjoyable for anyone. When dogs are happily engaged, their body language is loose, and they are more welcoming to others.
Their tails are squishy, bodies are wiggling, and their bodies are wiggly, showing to other dogs that they are inviting and open to play.
Go with the flow
When dogs play well, they naturally go with the flow. You’ll see consistent fluidity in their movements, and if something looks like a disruption to this flow, you’ll want to pay attention.
Along with this, if the dogs stop and stare at each other in a stiff manner, you should step in and diffuse any tension.
Smart owners equal happy dogs
The best sign that dog play will go the right way is when you, the owner, carefully select your dog’s playmate, know your dog well, and teach yourself about play and body language.
If you want your dogs to play around in the backyard, you need to maintain a cautious and safe space, and if you are heading out to the dog park, it is important to keep your dog’s safety in mind at all times. Here are some tips for keeping your pup safe and happy.
Ensuring your dog doesn’t get hurt in the backyard begins with protective landscaping. Fences in the backyard create a private space and ensure the safety of your dog.
Planting dog-friendly shrubs like zinnia, tiger lily, and snapdragons instead of poisonous plants like peony, dahlia, and iris is also essential, especially if your dog likes to chew on anything and everything.
Make sure you create enough shaded area for your dog to relax and escape from the sun, whether through a dog house or an arbor. You can also install a water feature like a pool, fountain, or waterfall to keep your dogs hydrated and happy.
If you consider a pool installation, make sure it is completed by a specialist for the fiberglass pool installation to ensure complete safety for both you and your dog. Pool safety is so important, so you’ll need an expert to set you and your pet up for success and safety.
The dog park
At the dog park, you want to focus on a couple of key things to keep your dog safe. First, check the fencing and gates to make sure the perimeter of the park is secured.
While your dog is playing, pay attention. Avoid getting distracted by your phone or other interactions, and keep an eye on your dog’s body language. If you are in a situation where your dog gets in a fight, never get in the middle of it.
Instead, make loud noises to distract the dog and remove them from the scene. Lastly, be considerate of others and pick up after your dog.
Play it safe
Safety is so important when dogs are at play, and since they don’t exactly know the difference between fun and danger, you have to step in for them.
Knowing what is best for your dog and yourself will make playtime that much more fun.
With these tips and tricks, you and your dog will have a great and safe time playing!