10 Ways You’re Accidentally Confusing Your Dog About When It’s Time To Play

Written by: Tiffany White

August 28, 2015

Playtime with your dog is an important part of keeping them happy, calm, and well-behaved. When dogs have behavioral problems, it’s most likely tied to lack of mental and physical stimulation, which makes playtime even more important. But sometimes us humans don’t get it right. We might pick up the wrong cues or do things that are simply baffling to our dog. This might not sound like a big deal, but understanding how dogs really play is important to getting to know them. And shouldn’t you be doing it successfully?

Below are the 10 most common play interactions, according to a recent study. They’re listed in the order of most successful (meaning most likely to provoke a dog to play) to least successful (meaning the dog stared at his human like he had two heads).

1. Lunging or chasing

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This is a no brainer. Dogs love chasing things and being chased. Participants in the study who played with their dog by running after their dog were the most successful in getting their dog to play.

2. Signaling up


This is tapping the chest or some other signal to get the dog to look up. The dog will take a second to understand, but will eventually understand that it is time to play.


3. Grabbing the paws


Grabbing your dog’s paws is more of an affectionate action than a playful ones. Dogs might lick your face or look up at you expectantly, but play won’t be on their minds.

4. Play bowing


This is when the human gets on all fours and bows like a dog. For some dog owners, they assume this stance is the most dog-like since this is how dog’s play with each other. But a human on all fours is not the same as when a dog does it.

5. Grabbing the dog


This is when you grab the dog and pull it towards you. The quickness of the movement is supposed to excite the dog, but most dogs don’t understand what is happening.

6. Blowing air in the dog’s face


We don’t know why humans think blowing into a dog’s face is a good idea. It usually makes them angry, not playful.

7. Kneeing or toeing the dog

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Lightly kneeing the dog in the chest or tapping them with your foot might seem like a flirty approach to play initiation, but most dogs find this behavior baffling.

8. Shoving the dog


Playfully pulling the dog towards you and then pushing it away is another teasing play move that dogs simply don’t understand.

9. Whispering to the dog


Unless you are trying to romance your dog, we’re not sure why you’d want to whisper sweet nothings into their ear. Apparently the dog doesn’t either.

10. Talking to the dog in a high-pitched voice


“Who wants to play? You do! You do!” Dogs understand inflection in our voices, but they don’t speak our language. They might wag their tail cause they see that you’re happy, but they don’t understand that your excitement is an invitation to play.

Featured image by ayeshamus

H/t to Psychology Today

Written by: Tiffany White

August 28, 2015

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