***This BarkPost article in no way constitutes medical advice. We are not, nor do we claim to be, veterinarians. If this article raises questions about your dog’s behavior, consult with your veterinarian or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.***
When dogs play, they go all out. There is no ball thrown too far, no rope tugged too hard, and no wrestling match they can’t win. In short, playing with dogs is awesome. But dogs can also play pretty rough, making all sorts of grunts and growls which sound like signs of aggression when they really aren’t.
Since dogs communicate largely through barks and growls, it’s a challenge to interpret the meaning of the signals our dogs send to us. These signals sound inherently aggressive to the human ear, which is accustomed to communication through speech. But to dogs, a bark or a growl could just be their way of trying to get your attention or initiate play.
So how do you know when they’re just playing and when they’re becoming angry?
For the best way to determine if your dog is playing, watch for a play bow—the lowering of the front of the body. Studies have shown that the play bow comes before during, and after play to communicate that all nibbles and ear pulls to follow are meant in the spirit of fun.
Being aware of the signals your dog sends you will only contribute to a healthier rapport between you and your dog, so it’s in both your best interests to learn as much about how your dog communicates as possible. After all, communication is the key to a good relationship.