The Science Behind Why Your Dog Loves To Play

Here at Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we talk a lot why playing with your dog is so beneficial. In fact, we’ve written articles devoted to it.

So you might already know about how it improves bond, helps with training and allows dogs to release pent-up energy and have fun. But what about the science behind play? Why do dogs love it so much?

In this Training Spotlight we’re taking a deep dive into the reasons behind why dogs play.  

First up, it feels good.

Researchers have noted that, even in the wild, dogs play with each other. They risk injury, which in turn could cost them their lives by making them more vulnerable to predators, but they do it anyway.

The simple reason behind this seems to be that they play because it is too enjoyable to resist – and it offers a chance to do some all-important bonding with the other dogs they play with.

When they do play, researchers have noticed that they display a range of behaviours which offer a fascinating insight into what they want and how they feel.

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What bowing means

It’s commonly known that when your dog bows down, they are telling you they are keen to play. But according to experts, that isn’t all it means. It’s also a way of the dog communicating that if they get a little bit rough during the play session, that they aren’t being genuinely aggressive – it’s all part of the fun and games.

Rolling over during play

For a long time it was assumed that when a dog rolls over, they are ‘admitting defeat’ or being submissive.

However, experts now say that this behaviour actually signals the opposite: that your dog wants to keep playing.

Proving the point, it’s been observed in studies that when dogs in groups play together, it isn’t necessarily the weaker or smaller dogs that roll over – the stronger and bigger dogs do it just as much.

So next time your dog rolls over, don’t stop playing – get even more involved!

Better together

Scientific research by canine behaviour expert Rebecca Sommerville at the University of Edinburgh has shown that dogs prefer to play with others, rather than alone. That means they’d much prefer a game of tug or fetch with an interactive training toy like one of ours to playing with a ball or chew toy on their own.

And dogs are fussy about who they play with. They’d rather play with a human that they know and love, seeming to prove the theory that play improves relationships. 

‘Regular, real play between a dog and owner does not revolve around commands, and is important to strengthen their bond,’ Rebecca says.

If you fancy some new interactive tug toys to help with your play, check out our full range here.

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Harruet - June 24, 2018

I have always found that play is the best way for a new unknown person to gain my dog’s confudence and trust. Reaching out to pet him or offering a treat is an invasion of his space he is not comfortable with. Play such as a ball game immediately creates positive feelings associated with that person. Mind you he is so ball-obsessed he is named after a tennis champ😁

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