Who doesn't like to have a good time? Dogs do for sure. Some more then others, but all dogs have some sense of spirit and a game or two they enjoy. When you get into a good game, your voice may get a bit higher in volume and at the best parts, the most climactic moments, you can catch yourself yelling and hollering in rage or excitement. It can be all too easy to get all caught up in the game and lose a bit of our inhibitions.
Does your dog do this? Many do, and for a variety of reasons. Is it a burden? What can be done about it? Is it healthy, and does it suggest other aggressive behaviors?
The Root of the Behavior
A dog’s bark is commonly seen as a sign of aggression but this is not likely the case if he barks while playing. Your dog wants to have fun while he is playing and your dog probably loves to talk. Nobody wants to sit down to a game of Monopoly in silence. Nor does it indicate aggressive behaviors and, in the context of play alone, should not be a burden. It is quite simple, a dog's bark is to communicate. What exactly he is trying to say may be a bit hard to discern, but if he brings you his favorite rope to play tug-of-war and after a brief moment, barks if you have not picked it up, he is trying to tell you that he wants to play. Many dogs bark actively during play and it is pretty safe to consider this the "bring it" bark. Typically, this means they are having fun and have so much pent up excitement that they too can't help but exclaim it. If the games you and your dog play are more physical in nature then your dog may be trying to warn you. If you are trying to wrestle around and your dog barks low with a deep tone more resembling a growl, then he may not be okay with wrestling. Low pitch barks typically are aggressive in nature. If your dog has begun barking during play out of the blue or in response to something new, then he may not be okay with it. In the previous example, if your dog usually loves to wrestle but this time is barking aggressively at you, maybe your dog is hurt and wrestling with you physically is hurting him. Perhaps he is just not in his usual state of mind and high levels of stress, anxiety, and fear have pushed him a bit far and an aggressive game may not be the best route.
Encouraging the Behavior
Try and make sure he is not barking out of fear. This shouldn't have any safety concerns, but a dog barking out of fear and anger could lash out. Aggressive play encourages aggressive behavior. A low growl or bark should be a warning from your dog. Typically, a dog will exhibit aggressive behavior outside of just play if it is likely to cross into their play as well. If this is the case, try and stay away from aggressive games such as wrestling because this encourages that behavior. Most of the time, this is perfectly healthy and there is not a lot you should really do about it. Your dog is having fun and sometimes they bark in their excitement. Sometimes you need to do something, though. Sometimes, it can be a behavior that can be very irritating. For instance, if every time they want to play, they bark at you until you pick up the stick and throw it. They bring it back and bark again until you repeat. This is a learned behavior and every time you react by picking up the stick you are inadvertently reinforcing that behavior. The key is to show them that you do not react to their summons and that they cannot dictate when you play. This is a very common attention seeking behavior.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Barking and tail wagging is common in play and is not indicative of any behavioral issues. Enjoy it and just know that they are having fun. If they have a correlation with barking at you to get you to play, then you can approach that as you see fit. A lot of dogs always want to play, so if they have learned to bark at you to play, then they may always be barking at you. A trainer is going to be able to give you more insight and help you take the necessary steps to correct any disruptive behavior, if necessary.
Dogs bark when they are playing because they are trying to communicate to you that they are having fun! If they have aggressive behaviors, then the tone of their bark is going to be an easy indicator and a low bark or growl is meant to communicate a warning. Just be sure to listen to what they are trying to tell you!