Posts Tagged ‘dogs playing’

Dogs: When does play stop being play?

September 13, 2015 13 comments

Jasper as a puppy, harassing DaisyOver a week ago, I wrote about the Sue Sternberg seminar I attended and the Red Alert Behaviors she often sees at dog parks. What I did not share then was how much of a revelation it was for me when she shared the videos showing what these behaviors looked like. Until then, I had not realized that one of my own dogs, Jasper, displayed and practiced some of these behaviors in his early years. Until then, I had not made the connection that Daisy had been the unfortunate recipient of these behaviors not only from him, but also other dogs at the dog park.

Sometimes we can see things going on around us and not really “see” what is right in front of us, you know?

The Red Alert Behaviors Sue identified were:

  1. Risky chasing behaviors almost always include out of control and high arousal chasing that may include one of more of the following: group chase, hard physical contact, pinning, high tail carriage, neck or throat fixation and the chasee hiding, or trying to get away.
  2. Mobbing is a group of individual dogs approaching, harassing, controlling or attacking a single dog. This can be with or without bloodshed.
  3. Targeting is one dog following or pursuing another dog relentlessly, exclusively, obsessively. It’s relentless engagement that may or may not include many of the behaviors displayed in Risky Chasing.
  4. Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior through the use of physical overpowering, hard contact, body slamming, hip-checking, shoulder-checking, relentless engagement, chase or ganging up to affect an individual dog.
  5. Hunting is when a dog moves around the dog park going from dog to dog, looking for something to jab, chase, poke, pounce on, roll. This is not looking for a playmate, but forcing himself on other dogs.

After that first day of Sue’s seminar, I came home and started looking through old video footage of Daisy and Jasper. (You can see one of them below.) It was pretty clear from what I found that the behaviors I saw were not always”play.” I wasn’t paying attention to dog body language, but seeing only what I wanted to see as a proud dog owner hanging out at the dog park. You can even hear me laughing on some of them. Maybe some of what I recorded was “play”, Daisy does have her tail up and she appears to be having fun in some of the video clips, but I would argue that sometimes what was fun for Jasper was not always fun for Daisy.

It’s a strange feeling realizing that the people you are railing against (for not intervening when a dog was being bullied or mobbed) in Sue’s videos was YOU just a few years ago. I should have been Daisy’s advocate and protector more than I was. I am not beating myself up here, just acknowledging that had I known what I know now, I would have done more to intervene, not only with Jasper, but with other dogs too. I think all of us can relate to moments like this – when one realizes that what they thought they knew about their dogs and how to work with them was not how they would handle it now.

I tried to keep that in mind while watching the videos I had taken back then (six-seven years ago). I can see now that Jasper did a lot of Targeting behaviors and when he got too excited, and when took it to a a higher energy level, it would sometimes lead to Mobbing or Bullying by other dogs. I am thankful someone finally pointed out to me what I could not see at the time so I could stop it before it really got out of control. Sue Sternberg says the dog park is often a place where dogs practice aggressive behaviors. I think there is some truth to this.

This doesn’t mean Jasper or other dogs are inherently bad, they are just exhibiting bad behaviors that should be interrupted and stopped. Jasper still herds Daisy from time to time, but he does not do it for longer than a few seconds and he does not escalate it to a higher energy level like he did when he was younger. I think that is because I finally learned to intervene and stop it before it any further and was consistent about it.

So what are appropriate play behaviors? Here is what Sue shared with us in her seminar:

  • Play is usually limited to two dogs. When there are more it stops being play.
  • Play often is limited to games of chase (between two dogs), with the chasee initiating the game of chase and both dogs taking multiple breaks in between the game of chase.
  • Play also may include air biting, but no actual contact with skin and no actual biting. (Dogs who “play” by biting or grabbing a dog around the neck are practicing aggressive behaviors.)

You might be thinking to yourself, “Only two dogs?”, but I would suggest that if you sit at any dog park, you will see that when a third dog enters play between two dogs, they are often going in to harass the dogs or one dog (like a nip to the ear or leg). They are opportunists and taking advantage of the situation.

And when a group of dogs gets involved in a chase it is usually not play, but the chasing of a weaker dog. This is a dangerous situation that can escalate very quickly and cause harm to that dog or another dog involved in the chase.

You can see one of Sue’s videos showing some of these dangerous behaviors here:

We dog owners need to be more vigilant when our dogs are playing with other dogs, and we shouldn’t hesitate to intervene, when necessary.

Have you intervened when your or another dog’s behavior escalated to a dangerous degree?

Worried you won’t remember any of these behaviors? Or, worried your own dog is practicing these “bad” behaviors in your dog park? I highly recommend you get Sue’s Dog Park Assistant app for your phone. It only costs 99 cents, but it will pay for itself in the long run.


Wordless Wednesday #254 – Playing with Gracie

August 25, 2015 6 comments

Made me laugh. Gracie shaking as he older sister, Bella, watches.

Mico and Gracie

Nicole and Gracie #dogpark #labradorretriever #dogs

Mico and Gracie playing #dogpark #labradorretriever #puppy

Despite how this looks, this lab was so gentle with puppy Gracie. #dogpark

Favorite Video Friday – GoPro Beagle Party

July 10, 2015 1 comment

I love GoPro videos. They just offer so much when it comes to dogs and shooting at a dog’s level vs. our own. I’m not a big fan of the ones featuring a GoPro mounted on a dog, they’re just way to jiggly, but I love the ones mounted on a stick that can be used to follow a dog around.

I also love the slow motion features of the GoPro videos. You can see so much in a dog’s behavior and body language when you watch them. We miss so much when things are going at normal speed. It’s also good for us to see what they see, from their level.

This is a great GoPro video featuring Beagles, lost of them. It’s a Beagle Party! Who doesn’t love those cute little faces and floppy ears?

Happy Friday everyone!

Watching dog play behaviors

August 17, 2014 4 comments

Dozer (top) and Boone (bottom) playing

This past weekend, I had the chance to watch my brother’s two dogs, Boone and Dozer, play and chase and wrestle with one another. These two boys okay hard and they have fun. They take turns so that no one dog is always on top or in charge. There is a lot of give and take.

Watching them play off and on over several hours made me realize how little I see that kind of play at my house. Daisy never really learned how to play until Jasper joined our household (hard to believe, but puppy mills don’t exactly create an environment that allows dogs to play). Jasper and Daisy have occasionally played tug of war with a pull toy, but not often. Cupcake and Jasper are probably the most likely to play, but it only happens infrequently and usually for only short periods of time. When it does happen, it usually involves a lot of chasing and barking and air snapping. It is hilarious to watch them together.

Most of my observations of dogs playing together has happened at the dog park or when I boarded a dog and its sibling, or two young unrelated dogs, in my home (back in my pet sitting days).  There is nothing more fun than watching two dogs interact with each other in play. So many dogs play in so many different ways. Some wrestle, some chase, some tease with a stick or play tug of war. The one thing that is required is an even give and take. It keeps things light and fun for both dogs. Any time one dog starts to dominate or two or more dogs gang up on one dog, it is no longer fun and can be a form of bullying.

Here is a great video demonstrating some play behaviors. What are some play behaviors you see in your own dogs?

Wordless Wednesday #172 – Wanna play?

January 29, 2014 12 comments



Dog Body Language – Do you recognize some of these behaviors in your own dog?

March 24, 2013 25 comments

IMG_8800On Saturday, I happened to see an announcement for a Dog Body Language Seminar being offered by Twin Cities Obedience Training Club (TCOTC) in April. As an admitted dog geek, I am sure you can imagine how excited I was to hear about it. I love learning how dogs think and communicate. Understanding dog body language can be very helpful, not only as a dog owner, but for anyone who interacts with dogs on a regular basis.

I was even more excited when I realized that an old friend, Kate Anders, would be teaching the class. Kate used to be a trainer at the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) and now runs her own dog training business, Pretty Good Dog. She was also Jasper’s trainer when he was a puppy.

It’s because of trainers like Kate that I have learned so much about dogs and dog behavior. She, Colleen and Inga (all MVHS dog trainers) made it their mission to help us volunteers better understand the dogs we were working with. They offered special training sessions for the more difficult dogs and recruited a few of us more experienced volunteers to work with them. They also offered training seminars where we could learn more about dog behavior.

One of my favorite seminars to attend was the dog body language seminar. I probably attended it three to four times during my time at MVHS. It didn’t matter how many times I had seen it before, I always learned or saw something new I could take away with me. I can’t wait to attend this seminar again.

I wish you all could come with me but since I know most of you can’t, I thought I would share two videos with you that (hopefully) will give you a small sample of what I expect to see during the seminar in April. These are much shorter than a two-hour seminar, but I think you will find them really interesting. Plus, you can watch them at your own convenience and as many times as you want!

I would love to hear your thoughts on them. Did you learn something new? Have you seen your dog(s) display similar behaviors? What behavior do you see your dog display most often in his/her interactions with other dogs?

My thanks to the Zoom Room for creating videos like these for everyone to watch.

Dog Body Language

Dog Play Gestures

Wordless Wednesday #92

May 22, 2012 11 comments


Dog Silliness at Casa del Mel

May 1, 2012 11 comments

It starts with a little flick of the tail.
A flirty move to be sure.
A play bow soon follows, accompanied by a low, playful growl.
She bats her eyes his way and he is game.

The low growl is responded to with a “Chuff!” from across the room.
Soon he is moving closer. Closer still.
The conversation begins with a lot of groaning and grrring.
The chase has begun.

This was last night at Casa del Mel as Jasper and Lady got their silly on and started to play. This doesn’t happen every day, but when it does it makes me laugh.

I am sure people will think I am crazy, but more often than not I join in and give chase too. Last night, we chased each other around the coffee table and into Daisy’s room (who paced and followed us in excitement) and then back around the coffee table. I had both Lady and Jasper pouncing on me and running back and forth as I chased them saying “I’m going to get you!”

Lady usually has to run and grab Daisy’s Woobie so she can squeak it in excitement. She loves nothing better than coming out to the kitchen with it in her mouth, tail wagging (waiting for me to chase her) and then having me chase her to her dog bed where she gets a belly rub. She will do this over and over again.

Jasper loves to rear up like a horse and come back down with his front legs fully extended as he pounces on me. He so loves this game. I pretend to pounce back before chasing him around the coffee table again.

Silliness such as this is par for the course here at Casa del Mel.
Fun is the name of the game. 🙂

It’s a little dark, but here is just a snippet of Jasper and Lady playing.

Wordless Wednesday #86

April 10, 2012 13 comments

Jasper’s Weekend in Pictures

March 19, 2012 16 comments

This is what Jasper did this weekend. What did your dog do?

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