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Puppy play- is that really what's going on?

Puppy PlayWhen dogs start to play, let's face it- things can look pretty rough at times. Healthy play can provide exercise and social development while traumatic interactions can cause emotional and physical problems.

Normal play can include chasing, biting, growling, and catching, but these behaviors are generally less intense and don't result in injury (at least not intentionally). Play has no winners or losers, either- some dogs will take turns 'winning' with the chaser becoming the chased. Other dogs will self handicap and put themselves in a position of disadvantage, like when an adult dog lays down to allow a puppy to climb. The play bow is generally a part of normal play- the dog's front paws are on the ground to the elbow and its rear is in the air. Another sign of normal play is that each dog is engaging in the behavior, if one dog stops, the other should stop too.

You should be concerned if you don't see dogs taking turns or self handicapping, if you see intense and aggressive play (ie grabbing and shaking), if one dog has it's hackles up, or if one dog is stopping and the other isn't. If you do see these signs, interrupt the dogs and let them have separate breaks. Let us know if you are concerned about your dog's play behavior so we can discuss different options with you.

Source- Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB