THE HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF DOG PLAY

Tuesday morning I decided to treat myself. I sat down and I “read the newspaper!” But not from an electronic device. This time I actually held AND read the dirty ink absorbed printed publication filled with pages of note worthy information complete with a plethora of germs!

Despite all of that, it was great – a nostalgic moment indeed!

Unfolding, creasing and paging through I stopped at the Health & Science section of the Washington Post, where I glanced over at an interesting heading “Dogs may have a moral code.” Hmmm….

This was an article (written by David Grimm) about the hidden language of dog play…

7

Grimm started with a description of two dogs meeting at a city park. Once they got close enough, one dog adopted a yoga-like pose which Grimm later described as a “play bow,” right before the two dogs began barking excitedly, doing somersaults  and tugging on each other’s ears…

Harley's always trying to grab Leo's ear.

Harley’s always trying to grab Leo’s ear.

That first paragraph made me wonder if this writer had been watching Harley and Leo…

The chase!

The chase!

Harley “bows” a lot, so naturally I was intrigued. I nestled down further into my seat, paper in one hand, coffee in the other – and I continued to read.

Grimm said the “play bow” was an “instigation and a clarification, a warning and an apology. Dogs often adopt this stance as an invitation to play right before they lunge at another dog; they also bow before they nip (“I’m going to bite you, but I’m just fooling around”) or after some particularly aggressive roughhousing (“Sorry I knocked you over; I didn’t mean it.”).” 

Oh – this man HAD to have met Harley!…

3

I read more: Scientists have forever been fascinated by the canine mind. Charles Darwin for instance suggested canines were capable of abstract thought, morality, and even language. Darwin even wrote: “Dogs, understand human words and respond with barks of eagerness, joy and despair.”

This conjured up memories of a blog post I’d written last year about a Border Collie named Chaser who understood more than 1,000 words. I’ve learned valuable techniques from John Pilley and his book when it comes to training and communication tools with both of the Boys…

Leo enjoyed the book too!

Leo enjoyed the book too!

Grimm also wrote of another scientist Marc Bekoff who spotted what he called “a number of blink-and-you’ll miss them behaviors, such as a sudden shift in the eyes – a squint that can mean “you’re playing too rough” – and a particular wag of the tail that says, “I’m open to be approached.” As if they are giving signals.

This thought process made perfect sense to me. Grimm wrote and I agree, “such signals are important during play, without them, a giddy tussle could turn into a vicious fight.” 

This is how they play!

This is how they play!

This next sentence was an eye opener for me… “humping a playmate during a romp, is often an invitation to nearby dogs to come join the fun.” OMD – are you kidding? This is truly Harley’s M.O. In the middle of a dead sprint, Harley will tackle Leo by grabbing his leg, and then leap on top as if to say “I won, I won”

1

I often sit and watch Harley & Leo interact. I yearn at times for a better understanding of what they do and why. Perhaps this is the reason I found the article so interesting. I saw so many similarities.The article is here in its entirety if you’d like to read it.

David Grimm is a deputy news editor at Science and the author of the new book “Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship With Cats and Dogs.” I do believe I shall put this on my Summer reading list. I look forward to turning the pages of this book…

Thanks so much for reading

 

12 Comments
  • Emma
    May 21, 2014

    Mom loves to watch us play. We play the same all the time, but she could sit and watch us forever she says. Interesting stuff about all the signals and behaviors.

    • Cathy Bennett
      May 21, 2014

      Emma, I too find all this behavior study research interesting as well. I certainly understand how/why your mom likes to watch you play- you’re fascinating too!

  • DashLilly
    May 21, 2014

    Yes! Dash is just like Harley! I love the play bow. Dash and Lilly love to play. And, yes, I love to watch them play! They always look so happy!

    • Cathy Bennett
      May 21, 2014

      Dash, when I watch the Boys do anything – I smile. Love having them in my life…

  • Stacey
    May 21, 2014

    My Mom used to say she loved to visit our house because we had built in entertainment. Watching the dogs play is better than alot of TV!
    Wow, I can’t remember the last time I read something paper besides instructions. Since I bought the kindle, everything went electronic for me. Hmm, I bet it would be nice to curl up with a book or newspaper again!
    As always, enjoyed the post!

    • Cathy Bennett
      May 21, 2014

      Stacey – it felt so odd. I was visiting my mother and someone handed me the paper. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings (he’s a resident) so I took it. Truly a “blast from the past” kind of experience, but look at how things work out – because I really enjoyed reading the article. Thanks so much for reading all about the Boys. I wish we were closer, I’d love to meet you!

  • Karen
    May 21, 2014

    All of that describes Mila – as you well know! I heard that they got to the play the other night when Dean took her on a walk.

    • Cathy Bennett
      May 22, 2014

      Yes they sure did have a little afternoon romp. It was nice to see them both!

  • Tiffany
    May 22, 2014

    Never knew any of that. Passed it along to my dog loving friends. Great blog!

    • Cathy Bennett
      May 24, 2014

      Thanks for sharing Tiffany –

  • slimdoggy
    May 24, 2014

    Watching dogs play is one of my favorite ways to relax. Jack & Maggie don’t play too much, so I miss it.

    • Cathy Bennett
      May 24, 2014

      Slim, I love to watch them romp and wrestle. I never get bored. Have a great holiday weekend. Do something special…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *