By Jane Sigsworth
Action Petz Newport Dog Trainer and Behaviourist
Dog-dog play can look and sound a bit too much. As dog owners, sometimes we wonder if our dogs are enjoying their playing interactions with other dogs or if they need a break. Keep reading to find out how!
Remember to assess for MARS!
In Part 1, we looked at the essential elements for good dog-dog play. If you missed it, you can catch up with it HERE.
When observing dog-dog play, we know that we need to look for MARS! MARS is the acronym that identifies the four essential elements of good dog-dog play. But, what do we mean by good play? Well, in good play between dogs you will see them communicating to each other that all their growls, chasing and pinning really is play. You will also see them changing the type of activity thus bigger, fitter and stronger dogs will adjust their play to take smaller, and frailer playmates into consideration.
In good, healthy play, both dogs must agree to the activities and style of play. We refer to this as Consenting. Many dogs enjoy a very robust play; they love nothing more than exchanging blows with their opponent, chasing, pinning and being chased and pinned. This vigorous play can be fast-moving, growly and barky. As onlookers, it can be tough for us to know whether both dogs are consenting to this style of play.
Fortunately, we don’t need to guess. We can ask dogs and let them tell us if whether they are comfortable with the style of play or not. Asking this question is called Consent Testing.
A Consent Test involves calmly separating the dogs and seeing what a particular dog chooses to do when given the opportunity. For example, if a dog is being pinned and you aren’t sure if they are comfortable with it, conduct a Consent Test. Here is how you do it:
- Call or lure the dogs from the play, gently restrain the dog that was doing the chasing or pinning and see what the other dog chooses to do.
- Very often, they will run back to the play. If they do, you know that they are consenting to the style of play.
- If they take the opportunity to find a new playmate or go off and do something else, you know that they don’t wish to continue with that style of play at that time.
Watch this video to see how Consent Testing works in practise.
Some dogs seem to get into frequent squabbles when they play, and this causes owners to avoid them having contact with other dogs. This often isn’t necessary. We can help dogs to improve their play skills improving their quality of life and yours!
If you think that your dog needs help with their play skills or you need help interpreting your dog’s play, get in touch.