Dissecting the Dynamics of Dog-Dog Play DVD


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What’s It About?

In the fluid dance we call play, dogs leap, spin, chase, pounce, and wrestle together. Their interactions range from joyful romps based in camaraderie and fun, to cautious “discussions” born of over-arousal and tension, and sometimes even to skirmishes that can result in bodily harm. If we are to make accurate behavioral assessments and keep dogs safe psychologically and physically, we must understand play’s subtle dynamics.

Through entertaining lecture and extensive video footage, we will explore the nuances of dog-dog play. Viewing slow motion playback will reveal split-second body language, signals, and maneuvers that would otherwise be missed, and will improve your skills when watching dogs interact in real time. Even if you are an experienced trainer or owner, you’ll be amazed at how much is revealed. One thing is certain: you’ll never look at dog-dog play in the same way again.
Topics include:
  • What constitutes safe play
  • Whether actions like mounting are problematic or not
  • What the latest studies reveal about gender play preferences, role reversals, and self-handicapping
  • What canine physical features may confuse other dogs and hamper communication
  • Which danger signals should not be ignored
  • When a play bow means something other than, “Let’s play!”
  • How and why redirected aggression occurs
  • How play can sometimes be a displacement behavior
  • Which situations warrant intervention and how to do so safely
  • …and lots more!

Nicole Wilde, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) is the author of nine books, writes columns and articles for various magazines and newspapers including Modern Dog Magazine, and has hosted the Dog Talk radio show. She co-stars in the DVD Train Your Dog: The Positive Gentle Method and guest stars on The Dog Whisperer (with Paul Owens) DVD.

Nicole is on the Advisory Board of the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, an accredited distance learning college that provides certificate courses and diploma programs of study in professional dog training, behavior consulting, fitness and nutritional sciences.

She is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and a popular speaker at their national conferences. Nicole also teaches seminars and workshops around the country and internationally.

Nicole has worked with all types of canines, both domestic and exotic (specializing in wolves and wolfdogs) as a trainer (and rescuer) for over twenty years. She has also worked with the Los Angeles city shelters, and was Executive Director for a rescue center for wolves/wolfdogs and Pit Bulls. Nicole trains dogs and their owners through her company, Gentle Guidance Dog Training, in Southern California.

Released- 2012 Tawzer Dog

Running time- 2 hours, 15 minutes


Watching dogs wrestle, chase, leap and pounce as they engage in play is a wonderful experience and one that most owners assume their dog finds enjoyable too.

However, play is full of subtle dynamics and doesn’t always mean that your dog is having fun. In this DVD, Nicole Wilde, an internationally recognised, award-winning author, lecturer and certified dog trainer, takes us through the intricate signals, displays and body language used during play, allowing us to determine the difference between a joyful romp, a cautious discussion, and over arousal and tension which can lead to a skirmish resulting in bodily harm.

Wilde uses slow motion video footage to show split second signs and behaviours that would otherwise be missed. She covers topics such as, what constitutes safe play, how to recognise danger signals, what are the multiple meanings of the play bow as well as relaying the latest research about play preferences, role reversals and self-handicapping.

This is a fantastic DVD for the average dog owner or more experienced trainer, allowing us to make accurate behavioural assessments and therefore keep our dogs happy and safe.

Wilde begins by explaining why dog-dog play is an important topic, and in her belief on a par with issues such as aggression. She provides us with a definition of play, which she describes as an activity that doesn’t have a purpose other than to be fun. Wilde then discusses the different aspects of play which include socialisation, stress diffusion and enhancing cognitive development. She also looks at play in puppies, showing us a video clip of 3-week -old puppies playing, pointing out what shape early play takes. We then see a video of 5-week-old puppies playing and Wilde discusses how play develops.

Wilde then moves on to play partner preferences. She explains how research shows that as puppies get older they often do show a preference for one particular play partner, also commenting on the different relationships between male and female play partners.

The next topic Wilde looks at is displacement behaviour, which she describes as normal behaviour occurring out of context, often displayed in dogs to diffuse emotional tension. She describes how play can be used as a displacement behaviour, showing a video clip to demonstrate this. Wilde moves on to discuss signs of stress to look out for during play, which in certain contexts can mean the dog is overwhelmed by the level of play. This includes calming signals such as lip licking, yawning, turning away and sniffing.

Wilde continues by moving on to how dogs solicit play from one another. She shows us a video to demonstrate play solicitation signals such as barking, pawing, play bows, nose pokes and mouthing. Wilde also discusses how some dogs ‘stalk their play’, a behaviour which is often misunderstood. She looks at the play bow in more depth, explaining how it can be used to instigate a pause in the game and as a calming action. We are then shown clips of play bows being used in this manner, before Wilde answers a number of questions from the audience on the subjects discussed so far.

Wilde next looks at healthy play, showing how we distinguish this from other play, and what it looks like. She explains how dogs should show friendly body language and that play should be reciprocal, i.e. it is not just one dog repeatedly chasing or biting the other. Wilde mentions recent research on the subject of reciprocal play, explaining that higher ranking dogs tend to dominate the game but it is the lower ranking dogs that often solicit play. She discusses self-handicapping, where bigger stronger dogs inhibit themselves to make the other dog feel more comfortable, showing a video to demonstrate. Wilde also explains splitting behaviour when a dog sees a situation he thinks is potentially problematic and intervenes.

We then move on to play styles, which Wilde explains differs from breed to breed, showing video clips to demonstrate different play methods such as vertical play, leg biting and rough play. She then takes us through what signs to look out for that indicate play may be getting out of hand, such as hard stares, freezes, chin over and paw overs, once again showing videos to demonstrate.

Wilde next discusses mounting and whether this is a problematic behaviour. She explains that although it can be a form of dominant behaviour, it is often not meant that way in play. We are then shown footage of mounting in a play context and in a more dominant context.

In Part two, Wilde moves on to socially awkward dogs and shows us a video to demonstrate the kind of behaviour these dogs display during play. She then considers dominance relationships in play and discusses how to recognise signs which act as precursors to potential problems. Wilde next looks at dangerous scenarios that can arise in groups of unfamiliar dogs, and shows footage to illustrate and explain the following:

  • Dog guarding owners.
  • Dogs becoming territorial of area
  • Mobility of one dog limited
  • Groups of three
  • Bullying and targeting.

Finally, there is a discussion on the problems that can occur at dog parks.

This entertaining lecture provides extensive video footage and insightful information allowing us to understand the true meaning of a very important subject.


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