Have you heard your dog making noises when he's playing? Dogs do love to make all sorts of funny sounds when they play. When your pup is playing with one of his toys, does he growl, snarl, or whimper? Some dogs will even bark like mad when they're having a good time. Yes, they really can get that carried away with their own entertainment. Does your dog sound aggressive when he's playing? It can be worrying, can't it? It can also be very difficult to judge whether he's just really involved in his game and is making lots of noise because he likes too or if he is getting out of hand. So why do dogs make noises when they play?
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The Root of the Behavior
Play for your pup, whether it's with you, another dog, or on his own, is an exciting time. If he's chasing a ball across the park, chewing on his Kong to get at a treat, or having a rough and tumble with one of his four-legged friends, it's stimulating his brain and his senses to work overtime. He's got to release some of that accumulated adrenaline somewhere and vocalizing is one way of doing it. We all like to make some noise when we're happy and having fun, your dog is no different.
Although dogs don't speak by forming specific words, they do have their own kind of voice and they use it for communicating, not just with their pet owners but with other dogs too. If you listen carefully to the sounds your dog makes, you'll realize they're quite distinctive and often go hand in hand with the particular mood your pup is in at the precise moment he's doing it. They can be, and often are, very expressive. When he's playing, he's going to let the whole world know he's having a good time by making as much noise as he can.
When his emotions are aroused by the toy he's throwing around or in some cases, attempting to tear to shreds, he'll probably be emitting some throaty, but not aggressive growls. He may even hunker down on his front legs and let out a few high pitched yaps directed at his toy. What he's basically doing is showing that toy who is boss by re-enacting what he would do, in a very diluted form, if he had caught some prey and was in the act of finishing it off. A lot of the time when your dog is playing, he may well think he's actually hunting and he won't be averse to letting the rest of the pack, which in this case is you, know he's doing the job he was made for.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs can get carried away by the games they play; especially when they involve other canines. When your dog is out in the park and meets up with one of his dog buddies he hasn't seen in a while, it's natural for him to be excited. Yes, they're going to chase each other over the grass, talk to each other with a few barks, but one dog will inevitably try to dominate the other because that's the nature of their games. If your pup likes to growl when he's playing, this could easily be misinterpreted by the other dog as a sign of aggression and rather than just being a friendly frolic, it could end up in a fight.
Sometimes, quite innocently, we encourage our pets to do things we really shouldn't. If you can honestly say you've never engaged in a game of tug of war with your dog and one of his toys, then you're probably quite unique. You'll be even more of a unique individual if you've never imitated the growling noises he made while you were playing with him. It might all seem like fun and games at the time, but what we're really doing during that moment of fun is showing our dog how we expect him to behave when he's playing. Teaching your dog to growl at you is really not a good thing.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you think your dog is losing control when he's playing with other dogs and doesn't know when to stop, you might want to consider consulting with a qualified dog handler. They'll be able to show you how to teach your dog to keep his social behavior on the correct level and enjoy the company of his friends without it escalating to fight mode. If your pup is getting just a touch too aggressive with his games when you play with him and you're beginning to feel just a little uncomfortable with the way he's growling, consider signing him up for a few training sessions. A professional dog handler will be able to show you some great techniques for staying in charge of all your dog's playful antics.
Dogs do make funny noises when they are playing, that much is true. Is it something to be concerned about? Probably not, just so long as you are in complete control of the situation. If your dog is growling too much when he plays with you, why not teach him some inoffensive yodelling instead?