Most dog owners are familiar with the play bow dogs use to invite another dog or people to play with them. But that’s not the only signal a playful dog uses to communicate what they want. As important as it is to understand a dog’s body language to prevent problems before they start, it’s just as important to understand when your dog is playing and just wants to have some fun. A stare isn’t always meant to intimidate.
For those who may not know what a play bow is, it’s the body language dogs use to communicate to other dogs and us they aren’t a threat. Their intentions are friendly, and they are inviting us to play. The dog making the invitation puts his front legs out in front of him as if he’s getting ready to lie down, but his butt stays up in the air. His tail is held above him in a relaxed wave, and you can almost see a smile spreading across his face. Everything about his demeanor is puppy-like, happy and friendly.
Watching dogs play is an interesting expression of socialization. Playful canines love to engage in bumps, body checks, rushing at each other, growling, barking, staring and wrestling. It can appear at times like an all out battle is close at hand. This can happen if one dog has had enough play or feels a bit too intimidated by a more aggressive playing dog. Paying attention to each dog’s body language can help you determine if it’s all just play or if you need to step in and stop the game before it gets out of hand.