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  • Liz MacHaffie

Healthy Dog Play




It can be hard to tell when dogs are playing appropriately! Here are some top tips for helping your dog and his buddies.


  • Healthy dog play includes a balance of back-and-forth, and dogs responding to each others’ stress signals.

  • Watch your dog and any playmate’s body language carefully. This will help you assess how each of them is feeling.

  • When one dog signals they need a break, the other should pause, reduce their intensity, or move away.

  • If the other dog doesn’t listen, it’s a good time to use your training tools (like recall) or separate them.

  • You can use leashes to separate, or treats! Only use treats with dogs who are not showing signs of resource guarding.

  • Put a treat to the nose of each dog and draw them apart from each other. Ask for sits if they know "sit" and feed multiple times for holding position.

  • Release them to play again with "okay, go play!".

  • If you find you're interrupting them more than a few times or you're worried about the intensity, it's a good idea to stop playtime.

  • Other times to separate include:

  • When one dog stays "over" another dog for more than a few seconds.

  • When chase is incessant, intense, or involves more than 2 dogs. (Beware group chase, especially at dog parks!!!)

  • When one dog is trying to hide or escape.

  • Dogs don't always make good decisions for themselves. (Just like people!) Even though a play partner may be being completely inappropriate or even scary/aggressive, some dogs will still choose to go back and play with them! Don't use a dog's willingness to interact again as a measure of whether play is appropriate. It's often not!

Need more help figuring things out? Let your trainer know and we'll do just that!

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