Dog play for my Shih Tzu Tashi means he must first work to get me to break away from the computer. He’s convinced life at my desk is boring without his aide (he has a point) and has learned how, after several failed attempts, to finally get my attention. (Not a picture of Tashi, but a good way to get a human’s attention, eh Elbee?)
Tashi’s recipe for getting some dog play action begins with the approach to my chair, sometimes rearing up with a double paw hit, front paws banging the chair or my leg, then a little sit, stare, a dash of low, gurgling growl, a pinch of lingering whine with added voice modulation mimicking a questioning tone, then a fast whip around and a race down the hall to the living room and his squeaky toys.
Butt in the air, arms stretched out on the floor, a tail wagging play bow, and the toys are attacked with what seems like glee — now he knows I’m watching. He bangs his paws to the floor — sounding more like a 50Lb dog than his slight 15Lbs — just to make sure I am paying attention, or so I imagine! He takes moments to decide which toy it will be. Sometimes testing for the squeak he likes the best, he races back to me with his offering, only to pull it back away from my reach. He races back to the living room, wheels around to stare at me, face obscured by a mouthful of toy joy. He wants me to engage. He’s done his best job to lure me into the game — what a good dog! Of course, I join in.
The Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab in New York City, run by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, is looking for videos of just such activity. For those who are not familiar with Dr. Horowitz’s work, she and her research team study behavior and cognition in dogs. You and your dog can be part of some scholarly work being done on the way we play with dogs.
There is a great body of work on dog-dog play, but much less on what you would think would be a natural field of study and observation, dog-human play. I hope you join in:
“Project: Play with Your Dog is open to anyone, in any country. If you live with a dog, we want to see you play. This is a rare opportunity for dog owners across the globe to get involved in scientific research into dog behavior. We hope to collect many videos, so please tell your dog friends. Thank you for playing!“
Here’s the link to fill out the short questionnaire and upload your video.
What does your dog do to get you to play? Have any favorite games you can share? How many ways have you noticed your dog’s play with other dogs is different than his dog play with you?
(Photo: Dog Lovers Digest)