Two dogs at play can look, at first, as though they’re fighting. They may be mouthing each other and even growling. However, you won’t see any fangs bared or hear any vicious barks if the dogs are just having fun.
It’s Part of Socializing Them
Just as kids like to get together and do something physical, dogs like to get together and do a bit of tumbling around. They may mouth each other, or roll on their back to try to encourage another dog to roughhouse with them. The ability to play well together and get a little rough and tumble with another dog is a great way to socialize your dogs and look forward to the chance of meeting a new dog.
Knowing When Enough is Enough
When a dog play bows, they will keep the back legs straight and drop down their shoulders. Their tail will be up and probably wagging, and they may waggle their bottom as if they’re going to pounce. A dog who’s had enough will keep its shoulders and hips at the same height and may lower their head. They may be even growl a bit. Small dogs who’ve had all the rough play they can tolerate may hide under furniture to get away. Nipping and biting are common behaviors in dog play. However, if the body language of the dog appears threatening, if you see fangs bared or hear an ominous growling, get the dogs apart immediately.
What to Listen For
A dog that’s injured will yip and may bark at a very high volume and pitch. Some bigger dogs may growl so deep in their chest that you don’t realize things are getting dangerous until the fight breaks out. When introducing your dog to a new dog or a new play area, stay as close as you can to your dog to keep an ear out for any ominous sounds. The change from play-posing to fighting can actually be quite quick, so if you hear a warning growl you can immediately pull your dog away before the fight breaks out.
When socializing your dog, try to start early and make it fun from start to finish. For example, get your puppy to the park for a play date with another pup before they turn six months old and make playing nice at the park a normal part of your routine. If you’re working with an older dog, make every step of the way as pleasant as possible. Have a treat once inside the car and stop on the way home for a vanilla ice cream cone!