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Dear Doggers,

 

Unlike many (most?) I don't care whether my dogs play or not. In my stable 4-6 member dog pack, puppies and young dogs play with each other, the older dogs don't. Some bitches occasionally play with a favored adult pup most don't. I discourage dogs from playing in the house, but outdoors is okay. Most of their "play" seems to be racing full tilt to arrive at the exact same order by pack status not who is fastest. Sometimes the younger ones roll around briefly with each other but usually there's more interesting doggy things to do (sniff a track, dig for a mole etc.)

 

I am aware that many doggers view play as a moral good; a sign of dog well being. They buy dog toys and encourage play.

 

If I thought hard about it, I'd probably argue this custom/belief set is just one of the ways we infantilize dogs and, like witty names, routine castrating and spaying, disrespect their dogness but I don't think hard about it and don't much care. If people want their adult dogs to play like puppies so be it. Likely their dogs will play along.

 

So this morning, first thing, I got a surprise. Mr & Mrs Dog have miles under their paws. They are cosmopolitan. Luke is near 10 and retired (bad mitral valve) and June is in her last year of trialing. They are a stodgy dignified couple but here June was, ears pricked, pawing at Luke, offering to play and he stood up, tail curled, ears back, not sure whether she wanted him to play or mount (Luke's a blockhead) and June did a play bow before both dogs lost interest.

 

I suppose if Tolstoy 82 years old, can give it all up to become a wandering monk, the Mr and Mrs, at their advanced age, can play like puppies.

 

Donald McCaig

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So did that change your mind just a bit?

I don't' encourage play (meaning I don't usually join in the games) but I have bought toys for my dogs, mainly when we were staying at my daughters with 2 young children and there was a room full of children toys and I couldn't keep my dogs out of them. They would just sit and stare at them (the toys) longingly becasue they knew they weren't allowed to play with those toys. They were bored being trapped in the city so I went out and bought some toys.

So yes we have a few toys laying around. But without bought toys they seem to make thier own. Right now black walnuts serve as great balls to toss around. Which they do. Sticks, or pine cones whatever they can find. If not working sheep or being tired after working sheep, they are goofing around with something.

 

Do I think it's good for them? well, it certainly gives them something to do when not working sheep and that's a good thing because it burns some extra energy.

 

Mick is not much of a player (cept with the ladies or so he thinks) but on speical ocassions I find him and his girl Dew playing a quiet game of bitey face in front of the fire. They look happy.

 

Happy content dogs are a good thing.

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My two dogs play with each other. I always figure if they are playing then they are feeling good. When it was hot this summer they stopped playing. Now its cool and they are playing a lot.

 

Tommy also likes to play with a squished soccer ball. She grabs it and runs around the yard with it. She also has one of those balls that are just the shape of a ball that she likes to run around with.

 

Neither dog plays with other sorts of dog toys.

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I have noticed my 2 older dogs will play, but, like your older dogs Donald, lost interest almost immediatly. Poor Kate, before getting Fletcher, was still technicaly "puppy" and would try to entice them to play..only to be terriably dissapointed.

 

Kate's play consists of chasing, whereas Fletcher enjoys rough housing, quite loudly. they will play tug o war and chase a tennis ball too.

 

I dont feel Ive made them this way, and its not a continious thing..but rather a spontaneous type of activity, espc if the weather is alittle cooler...then they will break off to watch one of the cats, follow a smell or see what Im doing.

 

I see it as social intereaction and being they are both still technicaly young.

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Mine don't really play with each other much. Sometimes, they'll get into some hardcore wrestling, but it's generally short-lived.

 

They like playing with toys, if it's something easily destroyed. If not, they're not too interested. Balls/frisbees are banned from the house. Sinead likes to tug and hang from things.

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Whisper has never really offered to play. I suspect she thinks fetching toys is stupid--the only time she fetched was a muskrat skull. I tossed it after she brought it to me, and she went and brought it back. I no longer let her play with other dogs (I used to; she would not chase a toy, but would chase the dog who had the toy. Even this was done less in play than as a serious task to be accomplished)--she's one moody dog and in an instant she can turn from play to fight and I can't see what triggers it. I recognize it immediately, and take steps to separate it, but I sure can't see what makes it happen. If I were a more experienced trainer, I might tackle this issue. Since I am not, I don't risk injury to dogs or people and don't expose her to other dogs at all. Instead of play, she is much more interested with her mission in life to Rid The World of Pesky Varmits. This is a very serious concern, and if you need help ridding pesky varmits from your corner of the world, Whisper volunteers to come help out.

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I guess my dogs are wierd, then. They play with dogs, they play with toys, and they play with me. Shrug.

 

Mine are the same.

 

And I play with them. And I often include toys in my play with them.

 

Shoot, I even used to toss my stress ball around sometimes when I was bored at work.

 

I like to think of it as being young at heart. :D:D:D

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I guess my dogs are wierd, then. They play with dogs, they play with toys, and they play with me. Shrug.

 

All of mine, too.

 

Jack and Will would play with each other 24/7 if we let them. Seriously. Those two LOVE to play with each other. I actually never get tired of seeing grown dogs wrestle around like puppies. I just have to protect my furniture. :lol:

 

I think it's heartwarming that Luke and June got the idea, even briefly, for a little play time. Everyone deserves that.

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I suspect that dogs, like humans, have less need for play when they can fill their time with work that they love. Personally, I encourage my dog to play because I find it preferable to her self-appointed "job" of barking at all-comers.

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Missy never played until she was close to 7. Then we got this kitten who decided to play with her. The first couple times she was confused by it, then she awkwardly started trying to play. The cat and dog are still buddies and still play. She's not big on playing with other dogs.

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Mine never play with each other though they do enjoy doing Charge of the Light Brigade when given the chance. They each will play with me but only play with toys if I'm attached to the toy. Rex will play with some dogs of other breeds. He loves pugs and poodles, though most pugs and poodles find him scary.

 

I wish they would wrestle with each other. It looks like way better exercise than just staring at each other.

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Play is training in most mammalian species for for "grown-up" activities. Since dogs as a whole are a species in arrested development, neoteny ordains that they will play. Some types of dogs play more than others. Dogs that bear the weight of responsibility do not typically play (or suffer fools of any species) gladly. Certainly there are exceptions, but dogs with a real job - not just charging around an Agility course, or leaping for Frisbees, tend to be more serious, and less given to displays of frivolity. (At least in my experience.)

Many dogs that are treated like puppies, or who have had fewer demands (and consequences for failure to meet those demands) placed on them, act in a juvenile and foolish manner. Spaniels and Labradors come to mind, as do many of the Toy breeds.

 

Of course there are differences between individual dogs. Dogs that have had impoverished/ abusive puppyhoods sometimes never learn to play. But there are certainly exceptions. My dog who had nothing in her life but barely sufficient food and a stray cat for company for her first six months will readily play with my cat. But she had to be taught to play with toys. She seemed to suspect that tug-o-war, wrestling, and throwing fetch objects were all activities which might have dire consequences. With patience and persistence, and my being willing to behave like a complete clown, she learned to play, and does so with gusto now, although she is still prone to viewing attempts by strange dogs to play with her with deep suspicion. However, she does have an assortment of doggie friends/playmates and will completely unbend with them.

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Here it is of different but I don't know if it unusual.

Nisa will only play with Bernie inside or out and the only game they will play is tug. It is most often one of them shoving the object de jour into the others face, not wanting what the other has.

Outside, Bernie will play with Chloe, but only chase. Chloe is not into toys. Tasha will play chase with Chloe, but not Bernie.

Nisa outside will take any object Tasha has away from her and Tasha lets her. Tasha will run behind Nisa, but more to aggravate Nisa than anything else. (At least it has been over a year since those 2 tried to kill each other. Since Nisa always gets the worst of it and typically started the fight in the first place, maybe she has learned.)

 

I am sure there is some kind of pack dynamic / doggy psychology that could explain their interactions or lack thereof.

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I'd like to expand on the following observation:

I am aware that many doggers view play as a moral good; a sign of dog well being. They buy dog toys and encourage play.

 

In my experience with my own dogs and with our foster dogs, playing seems to be directly related to relaxation, trust and letting things go. My Ceana, as many of you know, just isn't quite right. She has only played with two other dogs, my other two border collies Poke and Sita. She will only play with them IMHO because she trusts them 100%. They know how to read her and she considers them family so she feels okay to play. She will only play with Sita on the bed because that is the safe/relaxation zone.

 

Poke used to play more, but ever since hitting age 3 he doesn't play as much. He refuses to play with puppies because he feels he needs to correct their behavior and teach them the rules. He cannot relax with puppies because he feels he has a job with them. (He does not over correct, he is just Mr. Tough Love doggy drill sergeant.) Poke is a very serious dog and every once and a while he will let down his guard to play, but it is for a very brief instance. Poke is against relaxation in general and I believe he thinks he was put on this earth to be my personal assistant. He opens doors for me when my hands are full, helps me put laundry in the washer and is thrilled to be at my side constantly while I talk to him about what we are doing. Sometimes I feel like he is a human behaviorist and I am his subject of study. He does not play with people because it is his job to figure out what they are communicating and one is alert and engaged, not relaxed when working. Frisbee is somewhat blurred between work and play. (Tail down very focused) Other toys are to be destroyed and maimed.

 

Sita plays with every dog she meets, and it is rare that a dog will not play with her. She is completely non threatening and is fluent in dog speak. She not only understands the other dogs, but knows how to communicate back to them that she is not a threat. She will be a year and a half next month, still a puppy, but I would be surprised if she out grew this behavior. Playful, calm, and trust worthy is her personality. She isn't afraid or nervous around other dogs, people, or different places. If it weren't for the fact that she's a soft dog when it comes to corrections she would be the most bomb proof dog imaginable. Sita is also my dog that is the least interested in toys, unless someone else wants them. She does like to have things so that she can tease.

 

Now, to my point in writing all of this. I don't really care if a dog enjoys playing or not. I am fine with Poke being Mr. Serious, Ceana being selective, and Sita being a romp and tumble machine. I don't encourage play in dogs that are stable and comfortable around me and my dogs. If a dog wishes to play that is fine and I am more then happy to join in. If a stable dog doesn't want to play I let them do their thing. The dogs that I encourage play with are the ones that are fearful and shy. Playing with these dogs allows me to build their confidence and show them that they can let their guard down around me and trust that nothing bad will happen. Instead of having their brain at a fearful state of alert it allows their mind to relax and it builds trust. In my experience a dog cannot be two things at once. A dog cannot be focused on fear while enjoying themselves. Take Ceana, my crazy girl. When she would growl and try and look scarey to make the thing she feared go away as a pup we would start to poke her and make a noise that sounds like "ztts." This was her favorite wrestling game. She could not be fear agressive and have fun at the same time. As soon as she recognized our actions as play her brain would instantly switch from fear aggressive to fun. My current foster is another example. She was terrified, clingy, and unsure when she came to us. Through play, and many other things (ie... strict schedule and clear communication of expectations etc), you would never know she was a clingy scaredy dog when she first came to us. IMHO some dogs, like some people, need help to be able to let go of fears and anxieties. Play can be a way to encourage and foster trust between and give relaxation to both person and dog.

 

I agree, as others have stated, that it depends on the dogs personality. Maybe some dogs don't feel the need to play even when they relax or trust the other dogs and people around them. Some people just take a deep breath and can relax while wide awake. I have to work at relaxing and use yoga in order to tune out everything around me while awake. Playing is enjoyable and people don't just encourage it because their dog is fearful or unable to relax. Many people encourage it because they and their dog enjoy it. I guess I was mostly trying to expand on the "moral good " portion of the quote above.

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Play is training in most mammalian species for for "grown-up" activities. Since dogs as a whole are a species in arrested development, neoteny ordains that they will play. Some types of dogs play more than others. Dogs that bear the weight of responsibility do not typically play (or suffer fools of any species) gladly. Certainly there are exceptions, but dogs with a real job - not just charging around an Agility course, or leaping for Frisbees, tend to be more serious, and less given to displays of frivolity. (At least in my experience.)

Many dogs that are treated like puppies, or who have had fewer demands (and consequences for failure to meet those demands) placed on them, act in a juvenile and foolish manner. Spaniels and Labradors come to mind, as do many of the Toy breeds.

 

Of course there are differences between individual dogs. Dogs that have had impoverished/ abusive puppyhoods sometimes never learn to play. But there are certainly exceptions. My dog who had nothing in her life but barely sufficient food and a stray cat for company for her first six months will readily play with my cat. But she had to be taught to play with toys. She seemed to suspect that tug-o-war, wrestling, and throwing fetch objects were all activities which might have dire consequences. With patience and persistence, and my being willing to behave like a complete clown, she learned to play, and does so with gusto now, although she is still prone to viewing attempts by strange dogs to play with her with deep suspicion. However, she does have an assortment of doggie friends/playmates and will completely unbend with them.

 

I think it also depends on the individual dog. Mick is ALL about frisbees (and sheep, but he hasn't done that in forever). He's not really into playing with other dogs much. He'll play with Sinead sometimes, but they mostly coexist. He's really quite a serious dog much of the time.

 

Sinead loves playing with other dogs. She'll go crazy playing with my mother's dogs. She's not much for small dogs (okay, she wants to eat them), but she will put up with an amazing amount from puppies/kittens...although, she was definitely a breeding dog before I got her.

 

Mick is also pretty tolerant with puppies, but he's zero tolerance for crap from adult dogs. He's perfectly well-behaved with ones that don't get in his face, but he doesn't like them getting in his way or messing with his stuff.

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Some of my dogs play with each other, and some don't. If I leave Pip (4) and Ranger (15 months) out in the yard by themselves, they invariably will start a chase and wrestle game. Lark and Ranger play tug with sticks when we're out on walks. My dogs don't have toys in the house for the most part (largely because they destroy them, not because I don't wish them to play with toys), but they will make things into toys, like others have noted: empty soda bottles, pine cones, gum tree balls, big fallen leaves, etc.

 

Some of my dogs, like Twist, rarely play. But occasionally she'll meet a dog she takes a shine to, and then back go the ears, out comes the play bow, and the game is one, if generally only briefly. Kat is pretty much the same way. Willow is the fun police, and so she tends to stop play, steal toys, and so on.

 

I don't take some big philosophical approach to play in dogs. I just figure if they want to do it and it makes them happy, then there's no harm in it. And honestly, it can be fun to watch.

 

J.

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I just figure if they want to do it and it makes them happy, then there's no harm in it. And honestly, it can be fun to watch.

J.

Amen to that! I can count on getting my first smile of the day watching Sugarfoot and Mugen having their first romp of the day.

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My BC is very very selective about playing with other dogs. She had one BC mix in agility she loved and she would play bow and grovel at his feet every time she saw him. He passed away 4-5 years ago and since then she has not willingly played with a dog until this morning she play bowed and got "zoomy" with a dog we met on the sidewalk. It only lasted a minute but I was impressed that she initiated play. She will very reluctantly give in and play a bit with our aussie, but overall she tries to ignore his attempts.

My oldest dog would only "play" (ie flirt) with intact males. Other than them, dogs she met usually got snarled at. All the dogs have enjoyed playing with us, my BC the most of all. If there is a toy on the ground, she will incessantly bring it to me to either throw or tug.

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Jackson refuses to play with another dog unless they learn to throw the ball/frizbee for him. He has two interests in life. Stock and balls/frizbees. If given the choice he will choose stock. When other dogs try to play with him, he is pretty sure they want to kick his butt. He gives a warning growl then leaves. Skip is scared of anything larger than a mouse, so he doesn't work stock, not even the chickens. He is scared of them too. But he plays with Holly and Hank. But only outside or where I can't see. If he catches me watching he stops immediately. And no, he has never been corrected for it. Jackson has absolutely no use for any other dog. When Tucker was here, if Jackson was lying down in the yard waiting for me to throw the ball, Tucker would go over to him and sometimes even stand over him, or paw at him. Jackson acted as if he weren't there. He only had eyes and attention on the ball I was fixin to throw. If we are alone, I can ingage Jackson in some tug of war. But only for a short time, then he releases it and waits for me to throw what ever it was.

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I find my BCs are less playful in general then my other dogs..they play fetch..and that in Happys opinion is working lol there is a very distict change in her body language when she is just being playful but its very rare that you see it..her tail will start going, her ears prick up and pin together at the top of her head(she has airplane ears, so its pretty distinct) and she stands up real tall dancing around whoever she wants to initiate play with..it doesnt tend to last very long though, I get so exited when she gets like that, simpley because she has only done it a handful of times in her 10 years, so its really cute when she gets in that mood lol. Misty is a tad more playful, she was insanly playful as a pup but it has tapered off, she's still playful and enthusistic but not like my others at all. all my non BCs are VERY playful though, even Ladybug who's like 14 and can barly walk gets in playful moods, and behaves like a puppy, its really cute lol, Rusty and Electra(7 and 4.5 years) play all day long, driving me crazy lol

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