Play bow posture – Pet tip 105
Aside from barking and marking behaviours, one of the key ways in which dogs communicate with other dogs and with humans is through body language. Both the fine and not so fine details of a dog’s body language are of course easily understood by other dogs since all dogs speak “Dog”. For humans however it’s not really that easy to understand the finer points of a dog’s body language unless you have been around many dogs and/or are a keen observer of doggy behaviour. Sometimes though, with just a bit of guidance and information it’s pretty easy to tell when dogs are having fun. Aside from a sweeping wagging tail (which most people know), there are other body language postures that indicate that a dog is ready to play and have fun and here’s where we get to introduce the play bow.
The play bow is the body posture of a dog when it lowers the front part of its body to the ground with its paws somewhat extended. It may look like the dog is stretching, but when you also include that the dog’s tail is seriously wagging from side to side, you can see this is more than simple stretching. Along with the tail wag, the dog’s ears will usually be up, the dog’s mouth will usually be open and normally you’ll also be able to see the dog’s tongue. This is a playtime pose that is frequently exhibited in puppies and active dogs. If you ever bring your dog to a fenced in (the safest kind) dog park you’ll often see this body position which is meant to invite other dogs into play mode so that everyone can run around and have a fun chase time.
Don’t think though that just because you the dog owner are human that the play bow is not meant for you. Dogs frequently get into the play bow position for the express purpose of inviting a human to play with them. If the human accepts the invitation then play can begin by running around and chasing each other. For safety reasons your dog of course needs to have had obedience training, know not to bite and know the strength of its bite, and be friendly. If your dog has the tendency to be ‘mouthy’ respond to the play bow invitation by playing safer games like fetch or Frisbee. For dog lovers that don’t mind getting down on the ground with their dog, humans can mimic the play bow as well. This normally excites a dog that likes to play, and normally they accept the invitation and the running around fun can begin.