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Appropriate Puppy Play

APPROPRIATE PLAY by Bethany Anderson

What does appropriate puppy play look like?

Growling: It’s normal! Puppies have different levels of vocalization just like people. Some are quieter and some are louder. As long as growling is accompanied by bouncy play and appropriate body language, it’s a very normal part of healthy play.

Red Flags: Growling accompanied by flattened ears, snarling, stiff body posture, or freezing.

Mouth Wrestling: Mouth wrestling is when puppies play with wide open mouths often growling, while laying down or side by side

Taking Turns: Puppies often take turns while playing. For instance, while wrestling, puppies should take turns being on the top and bottom. While playing chase, puppies should take turns being the chaser and the one being chased.

Changing partners: Puppies will change play partners often. Puppies will play for a little while with one partner and then a little while with another.

Body language and posture: Dogs communicate with their body language. Ears, eyes, tails, and body posture can tell you if puppies are enjoying their play time or are ready to play with somebody else or maybe even take a break by themselves.


Bouncy, goofy body Stiff, frozen body posture

Rounded/curved shoulders and hips Squared shoulders and hips

Neutral, floppy tail Laid back ears and tucked tail

Open, relaxed mouth, with tongue out Stress panting/snarling

Self-handicapping Full body hackles

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