Home > Dog Behavior, Dog Park, Pet Videos > Are these dogs having fun or not? You decide.

Are these dogs having fun or not? You decide.


I think for many of us, recognizing when dogs are playing and when they are not can be difficult. Most of the time it isn’t until it has gone to the next level that we realize it is not play at all.

I remember the first time I brought my dog, Aspen, to a dog park. I wasn’t sure what behaviors I should consider safe or what should be considered concerning. I didn’t always recognize when she wasn’t having fun anymore and I should intervene. Thankfully, Aspen was very sophisticated in dog speak and would walk away when she didn’t like a dog’s behavior, and if they didn’t listen, she would give them a warning to let them know she had had enough.

Since having Aspen, I’ve gotten much better at reading dog body language in my dogs as well as in other dogs. I am more likely to intervene where I think trouble is about to start, but has not yet escalated, because I can see one dog is not having fun or there is a bullying situation going on.

Do you know when your dog is having fun and when he/she is not? Are you able to recognize when play has turned into something else?

I thought I would share a video of two (sometimes three) Great Danes interacting with one another at the park and let you weigh in. These dogs may be playing or not playing. They may or may not be having fun. Can you tell the difference?

What do you see in the first two to three minutes of this video?

Are the dogs having fun or not?

What body movements does each dog make that leads you to your conclusion?

Feel free to share what body movements or other things in the video stood out and helped you make your decision. If you get a chance scoot ahead and watch the last 2 minutes of the video. What do you see? Does it change your mind?

I’ll weigh in tomorrow and share my observations and what I think was happening. I look forward to your comments! (You can now see my assessment below.)

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  1. June 23, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    I’m not sure “charcoal” tries to be the boss of “ginger”… :o)

  2. June 23, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Yikes, I’m about a minute into the video and if my dog was any of the main players in this video, I would move on and find other dogs to socialize with/leave the park. Way too much freezing, stiff body language, and mounting (not in a playful puppy way) for me to be comfortable with what I’m watching. Lots of closed mouths and side-eye glances.
    Maybe I’m overly cautious, and if this had only gone on for a few seconds and then they dispersed or moved on, fine, but given that it seems to be 8 mins of the same sort of stuff, I’d be taking my dogs out of there and wouldn’t be at all surprised if something escalated.
    Doesn’t look like happy-go-lucky play, even if one of the dogs is trying. (Maybe dense puppy behaviour?)
    Does seem to get a bit more relaxed as the video goes on, but I think that’s because the owners start walking around, rather than milling about. Drives me nuts when owners just plant themselves in a group at the dog park and don’t walk around! That causes the dogs to pool in an area and creates way more opportunities for altercations.
    (I watched without sound.)

  3. fredrieka
    June 23, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    Watching this and knowing my dog, I would have intervened and said settle. Fred plays with Riley and as children do they get carried away and need to settle. Setting the boundaries of play. I am not a fan of dog parks.

  4. June 23, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    There’s undoubtedly tension in the introductory parts of the video. Without knowing the dogs or the context, the issue is always whether that tension will resolve itself by dissipating or erupting. When more than two dogs are involved I feel it exacerbates the situation. Some tension is normal of course, it’s just a matter of your awareness of your pup and a given context to decide the best course of action. Sometimes no action is best,sometimes immediate removal.

  5. June 23, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    It’s interesting to see how different breeds look. Now I’m used to the swishy golden retriever tail and the thinner, hairless tail of the Danes was harder for me to read.

  6. June 23, 2014 at 3:00 PM

    As owner of a pushy pup, like the gray Dane, I would have intervened at the start. The fawn Dane was not appreciating the dominate moves of the gray and looked like he wasn’t having fun. Lots of freezing and tension. Later on, they must of been distracted by other dogs, and action, which seemed to loosen up their other contacts. The gray Dane started picking up on the fawn Danes objections to some things. Then, it seems, it became a more equal give and take. A real slow warm up to each other where, perhaps, someone should have intervened at first with a distraction or time-out. In those tense moments you don’t have the luxury of knowing that “they’ll work it out,” as I hear too many people say at the park.

  7. June 23, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    I definitely felt the two dogs were not enjoying their interaction. The gray Dane kept trying to get that “over the shoulder superiority position” (that’s a very technical term! LOL!) and the fawn Dane definitely did not like it! I kept waiting for the tension to escalate. And it didn’t help that the woman in the blue jacket kept throwing the poor fawn Dane back into the mix when he clearly wanted to step away. By the end, it did seem like it had defused a bit, but they weren’t BFFs, that’s for sure!

  8. June 23, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Unable to get through the whole video due to constant buffering, but from what I saw the larger grey Dane is pushy, mounting to establish dominance. The tan Dane didn’t appreciate that but still seemed to want to engage and play while giving “cut that out!” signals which the grey Dane ignored. The mounting should have been curtailed by the owner. I had a little Chihuahua mix foster like that recently. A firm “AH, AH!!” curtailed his mounting behavior after just one day. That, and the fact that my Husky put her snout under his chest and promptly flipped him over! A light spray from a water bottle helps too. I didn’t see any negative behavior from the other dogs in the video, but could have missed it. Interested to hear your thoughts.
    Cathy Armato
    http://www.dogsluvusandweluvthem.blogspot.com

  9. June 23, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    I didn’t watch all of it, but the first few minutes were not comfortable – the fawn dane certainly was not appreciative of the attention from the grey dane. The grey one seemed playful, but the mounting and the persistence was too much. I did jump ahead and in the end they seemed to have resolved their differences and the fawn dane seemed much more playful. Could be new to the park and unused to the activity and then settled in, but with dogs of that size you have to be proactive. I would get that little kid out of the way though – saw him about to get knocked in my head!

    • Mel
      June 24, 2014 at 6:15 AM

      I completely agree. They do seem to get along well at the end. I suspect the fawn-colored Dane is less experienced in playing with dogs and that made him a little more nervous, but the gray one was way too assertive in his play too.

  10. June 23, 2014 at 7:06 PM

    for me they were just playing around whos tha boss.

    • Mel
      June 25, 2014 at 6:10 AM

      That is why really watching a dog’s body language is so important. That is not what was happening at all.

  11. June 25, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Read your update/assessment today, super observant & detailed as always! I love your interactive blog posts, it’s such fun! Thanks for another great video & exchange.
    Cathy Armato
    http://www.dogsluvusandweluvthem.blogspot.com

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