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Different Dog Play Styles

When dogs play with other dogs, they may enjoy chasing, biting, and wrestling. When dogs play with humans, they should be taught how to play in ways that we enjoy as well. I want to discuss some different play styles and how we can alter them for when we are playing with our dogs.

Some dogs enjoy full body contact wrestling with each other, and most humans don't appreciate being jumped on by their dogs. For dogs who like this rough, exuberant type of play I recommend finding a tug toy and bringing it out to invite your dog to play using the toy rather than your body.

Another play style that some dogs do with each other is chase. Your dog may like to be chased by other dogs but if you want to play this way, I would encourage you to have your dog chase you instead so they don't learn that running away from you is a fun game.

A big part of play for many dogs is the running (and sometimes barking) alongside other dogs. For these types of dogs playing a game such as fetch is a great way to give them an outlet.

Lastly, there are some dogs who don't like rough and tumble, high energy play time. These dogs would prefer calmer games like sniffing and exploring new things. Join in with your dog and  share this experience with them. You can set up scent games in the house or yard, or take them somewhere new for a sniff-walk to take in all the scents.

Play is one of the best ways to build our relationship with our dogs.  But as you can see, not all dogs play the same way. We need to learn who our dog is and what they like to do.  The breed of our dog may give us some indications as to how they like to play, but I enjoy offering different games and play styles to see what my dog likes best.  It is important to remember that we are 2 different species and playing well together may take a little work on both sides.


So how do we tell our dog we want to play? It depends on what your dog likes. Dogs initiate play with each other by offering a play bow which we can try to replicate by getting down on all fours; We can get our dog's attention and then run the other direction quickly; We can grab a toy, wiggle it around, and offer it to the dog or use a fun upbeat voice when talking to them. I typically avoid shoving or using my hands to initiate play as it can encourage jumping and biting that many people don't enjoy. Using a toy in our play together will encourage the dog to mouth the toy instead of our hands.


I use my dogs willingness to play as an indication as to how they are feeling.  Dogs will usually only offer play when they are comfortable in their surroundings or feel safe with their people.  Play can allow us to gain and keep our dogs attention while we discover new environments together.


If  you would like to be more creative and teach your dog some new games here are a few of my favorites: hide and seek of people, food or toys; agility; parkour; scent games; retrieve games; trick training; and interactive games.

an article with a photo of two dogs on their backs

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