The Games Puppies Play to Learn

A shih tzu puppy playing

Puppy play is greatly influenced by the breed. Age and socialization both have an impact on the games that pups play. It makes sense that although "gripping" breeds enjoy tug-of-war and terriers enjoy playing chase, grab, and shake games, sighthound breeds react more strongly to toys that move.

Exaggerated and highly ritualized dog communication gestures are utilized in canine play. That enables canines to "play fight," for example, while preventing misunderstandings that may lead to actual battles.

How Puppies Play

Puppies start playing as soon as they can stand up on their own—around three weeks of age. Puppies of both sexes can begin acting sexually as young as four weeks old by mounting one another while playing.

Additionally, prey killing behaviors like pouncing and item shaking are observed. Puppies practice being the top dog and the bottom dog at these young ages so they may learn how to communicate with one another. Young pups' playful expressions of extreme temperaments—a or a shrinking violet pooch—are not always a reliable indicator of later success. Older pups are better candidates for temperament testing.

Social Play

Social play involves participation. To put it another way, social play entails engaging in play with the owner, another puppy, or even a cat. The following are a few instances of social play: wrestling, biting, play-fighting, and pursuit games.

As early as three weeks old, puppies start engaging in social play by play-biting, pawing, and barking. As the dog gets older, the complexity and intensity increase. The raised paw is the first play-invoking gesture seen in pups. Older puppies and adults commonly employ the (butt end up, front down) as well as barking, springing forward to poke their noses and then backing away, face pawing, or licking as invitations to play. Up until they are 10 to 12 weeks old, this kind of play is very crucial for the social and behavioral development of dogs.

Self-Directed Play

When a play partner is not available, it is believed that self-directed play, such as tail chasing or pouncing on made-up items, might take the role of social play. Puppies that chase their tails excessively or who often focus on "invisible" objects—snapping at imaginary bugs—should have their health examined by a veterinarian. These might be symptoms of seizure or obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Locomotory Play

Locomotory play only denotes the puppy's movement. That may entail playing alone or interacting with others. Adult dogs often engage in locomotive play with a partner or group of canines. However, when left alone, pups may engage in "ghost-tag" activities while also running, leaping, and rolling about.

Object Play

Object play is interaction with stuff. Chasing or pawing/grabbing a ball, rag, or stick are examples. Some puppies target water and love chasing the hose or sprinkler.

"Just Kidding" During Play

In order to promote play and convey that it's a game, dogs may "appear" to be hostile by engaging in exaggerated actions, or meta signals. For instance, the play-bow involves the pup's forelegs dancing back and forth while its front end is down, inviting play. Your dog will play-bow initially to let you know that any growls or subsequent wrestling is just for entertainment purposes. To boost a puppy's confidence and entice it to play, adult dogs may frequently "appear" to be submissive to it by giving play-bows or rolling on its back.

Lower-ranking puppies can practice being in charge with play bites, mounting behavior, and wrestling activities in this "just kidding" fun. Role-reversal like this, when the dogs alternate being on top, is common when dogs are playing.

Dogs also commonly drop toys at your feet—or in front of other pets—to invite play. Inhibited bites using open mouths aimed at legs and paws of other dogs also are common play behaviors.

Bad Play

When puppies grow very excited or one of the playmates develops into a bully, inappropriate play may result. In typical puppy play, participants alternately chase and pin one another. Bully dogs, however, are usually victorious in wrestling matches, and their play bites during the match are directed at the head or neck rather than the legs. Growls during play are usually OK, but if they become too low-pitched or yelp like a dog on the bottom, stop playing with them until they quiet down.

Play that always appears to end up on the back legs might be an indication that the puppies need to calm down. While some mounting, clasping, or thrusting is acceptable, when these actions become routine, play may have crossed the line into bullying behavior.

Play is not only a lot of fun for you and the dog, but it also teaches the dog valuable things. Puppies learn about what is and isn't appropriate behavior, how their bodies function, and how to interact with other animals and their environment via play.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.