Being able to tell the difference between play behavior and aggressive behaviour is very important for dog professionals if they are mixing multiple dogs. It can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes but key communications between dogs can help differentiate.

Common play behaviours include:-

  • The Play Bow – where the dog’s front end goes down and put’s their bottom in the air.
  • Sometimes dogs will bounce their front legs up and down too. The tail and bottom are often wiggling as well!
  • A big smile – A big, loose, open mouthed smile!
  • If the dogs are bouncing around and enjoying themselves.
  • Play growling – loud and continuous, sometimes sounds a bit ‘sealion’ like!
  • Self-handicapping – where a dog makes themselves vulnerable exposing their tummies and rolling around. Dogs take it in turns to be the vulnerable one when play fighting.
  • They keep going – one doesn’t try and run away all the time, they keep going back for more. They take it in turns to chase each other.

Common aggressive behaviours include:-

  • Bodies are tense causing various parts of their body such as ears and tail to be tight too.
  • The hackles along the dog’s back become raised.
  • The mouth is tenser, making the lips curl and teeth are visible.
  • The growling is low and warning like.
  • Movements are purposeful rather than bouncing around like in play behaviour.
  • If one dog is constantly dominating or chasing another rather than taking it in turns then it is unlikely to be fun for the dog being chased or dominated.

Top Tips for meeting and mixing dogs:-

  • Give your young, nervous, elderly or disabled dog extra support in social situations. They are more vulnerable and do not want to be injured or traumatized by being ganged up on. Walk them alone if you can’t guarantee an enjoyable experience for them with other dogs.
  • Don’t add their belongings ie. Food and toys, into the mix to keep possessive behaviours to a minimum but also use them as a distraction if things get out of hand and you need to move your dog away from the social situation.
  • Separate dogs if play gets too rough or you are seeing aggressive behaviours rather than play behaviours.
  • To separate dogs safely you must keep yourself safe as dogs can accidently bite you too. For some advice on breaking up a dog fight please have a look at the article by Greyhound Rescue Wales