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Discussion Starter #1
In another thread, Hanksimon mentioned that fighting dogs will never offer a playbow. This is great information (thanks Hanksimon!) that can help me understand my dog's "issues" with other dogs. But, I have a question: Are there other behaviors or postures that look like a playbow but have a more menacing meaning? What if there is no wagging tail to accompany the bow?
 

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I am not sure if there is a menacing posture that can imitate a playbow because I've never had to deal with it. I can say, however, that actual playbows do not have to be accompanied by tail wagging. My dogs will face each other, bow and sometimes they won't wag their tails (they will either have them straight up or do a few quick flicks back and forth). One even growls during the bow, but it is a playful growl and not his aggressive growl. I wouldn't think a dog would imitate a playbow if they were going to attack another dog. Dogs I've seen that wanted to get aggressive usually make their posture rigid and "puff" themselves up to be as big/tall as possible. Playbow stance is the opposite of that I would think. Again, not 100% sure.
 

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I've never seen a posture like that. I can tell you that when I first got Hobbes his playbow scared the crap out of me, though. I had no idea what it was (my tiny little dogs growing up never did that...not sure why). He would grab a toy, do a playbow, and then start shaking his head back and forth like he was trying to kill it. I had just gotten him (he was full-grown already) and it scared me - I thought he was going insane and might bite me.

Looking back, I just have to laugh at myself. It just looked menacing b/c he's a big black dog - it's an extremely playful posture, and always followed by extreme goofiness.
 

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Very happily, I am not an expert on truly aggressive dogs. For most everyday dogs, I cannot think of an attack position that has the looseness and flexibility of a playbow (even from a fear biter).

Most people can recognize a playbow once they've seen it, but lots of people may not see the various flavors:
1. Standard playbow looks like a stretch - butt up, front paws down.
2. Front paws can be straight or spread - Spread seems to be play always. Straight may be pre-play non-aggression (Calming Signal)
3. I haven't heard anyone describe the moving playbow - it is a sub-second, enthusiastic turn, I spotted in in videos.
4. A stretch, which I consider to be just a calm, satisfied mood.

I don't expect much tail wagging, if any.... but direct eye contact, high pitched barking, growling, open mouth smiling.

A stalk is level and stiff, with slow linear motion ... I don't think you can confuse it for a playbow.
 

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Hard to tell without seeing your dog and the neighbours in action but you wouldn't be the first to mistake playing with aggression. When my puppy tries to initiate play with a bow and his little hopping back and forth move I've seen others pull their dog away in fear as if they thought my pup was going to attack their dog. It can look rough once they get going too, tumbling, pouncing, chasing, mouthing etc. but as long as both parties are coming back for more fun I think it's all play.

You want to watch out for hard stares, rigid postures, high pitched yelping (like when you accidently step on their paw), one dog always "winning" and the other always trying to get away, play should be equal and a well socialized dog will handicap themselves to let their play partner win sometimes
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks so much for the further clarification. The situation I had in mind happened a few weeks ago. The neighbor's dog ran into our yard while Katie (our dog) and I were out. We were inside the fence; the neighbor and his dog were outside the fence. The dogs barked, raced back and forth along the fence, and paused occasionally in what looked to me like a playbow. There may have been a few growls, but no yelping or rigid / stalking type postures. Because the fence was between them, there was no actual contact.

Katie was in a 6-week basic puppy class and a few times, she barked at and tried to chase the other dogs. The trainer said she didn't see anything threatening in her behavior, but that Katie is a typical puppy who needs to learn some self-control. She still barks and tries to pull towards other dogs when we're walking unless I have her full attention, but she's getting better.

I've looked at drawings of dog body language, but it's hard to interpret what's going on when everything is happening quickly. Plus, Katie is a black standard poodle in a short pet trim - so it's hard for me to see exactly what's going on with her ears and hackles.

Thanks! :)
 

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The play you described between the two dogs on opposite sides of the fence can be fine with some dog and escalate to 'fence fighting' and possible aggression for some dogs. When I still went to the dog park what we called "the running of the sheepdogs" began. There is a row of townhouses that back up to the dog park on one side and a family with two sheepdogs lived there. They didn't bring them into the dog park because the older female was over protective of the younger male and they were afraid of her getting in fights. Somehow it got started with a ridgeback to run up and down the fence with the young male and eventually a lot of other dogs joined in the game. Jubel used to LOVE this and the would run until they dropped usually.

But Jubel is a case where it was hard for him to separate 'the game' of chasing along the fence where he's bark like crazy as he ran and behaving nice and calmly if we ran into the sheepdogs outside the dog park. I completely wasn't expecting it but the first time we ran into the sheepdogs walking outside the dog park Jubel snapped at one of them, no contact but still not good. A few times when only a few people/dogs were at the park the brought the sheepdogs in to play, Jubel was a little standoffish at first but quickly calmed down and played nicely with the young male. Due to some of our earlier interactions outside the park I was a bit worried about how Jubel would behave and was watching him VERY closely just in case.

Just be aware that 'fence fighting' can lead to frustration for some dogs and become bad in the long run to varying degrees.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The play you described between the two dogs on opposite sides of the fence can be fine with some dog and escalate to 'fence fighting' and possible aggression for some dogs. When I still went to the dog park what we called "the running of the sheepdogs" began. There is a row of townhouses that back up to the dog park on one side and a family with two sheepdogs lived there. They didn't bring them into the dog park because the older female was over protective of the younger male and they were afraid of her getting in fights. Somehow it got started with a ridgeback to run up and down the fence with the young male and eventually a lot of other dogs joined in the game. Jubel used to LOVE this and the would run until they dropped usually.

But Jubel is a case where it was hard for him to separate 'the game' of chasing along the fence where he's bark like crazy as he ran and behaving nice and calmly if we ran into the sheepdogs outside the dog park. I completely wasn't expecting it but the first time we ran into the sheepdogs walking outside the dog park Jubel snapped at one of them, no contact but still not good. A few times when only a few people/dogs were at the park the brought the sheepdogs in to play, Jubel was a little standoffish at first but quickly calmed down and played nicely with the young male. Due to some of our earlier interactions outside the park I was a bit worried about how Jubel would behave and was watching him VERY closely just in case.

Just be aware that 'fence fighting' can lead to frustration for some dogs and become bad in the long run to varying degrees.
Thanks for the caution. Ideally, the neighbor's dog wouldn't be in our yard, but things happen. I'm sure we'll encounter the neighbor and dog outside the fence at some point, so I'll be careful.
 

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Just to make things even more confusing, dogs who know each other very well and/or play with each other often may skip the full play bow and have a sort of "shorthand" between them. The most common thing I've seen is that they just sort of slap the ground with their front paws held a bit more wide apart than usual, with or without bowing just ever so slightly.

But I agree with everyone else, the play bow itself doesn't need to include tail wagging. Squash will sometimes freeze completely in his play bow right before he takes off wanting to be chased.
 

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Just to make things even more confusing, dogs who know each other very well and/or play with each other often may skip the full play bow and have a sort of "shorthand" between them. The most common thing I've seen is that they just sort of slap the ground with their front paws held a bit more wide apart than usual, with or without bowing just ever so slightly.

But I agree with everyone else, the play bow itself doesn't need to include tail wagging. Squash will sometimes freeze completely in his play bow right before he takes off wanting to be chased.
Hobbes does this sometimes; I think of it as a "lazy playbow." Sometimes instead of bowing he'll just lay down on the ground, facing the dog, as the other dog approaches. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it always results in playing, so I assume it's some kind of "I want to play with you" posture.
 

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I think that a dog that is laying down is 'baiting' the other to come attack. Then, the down dog will 'surprise' the attacker with a counter attack... sometimes with a moving playbow in between the bouncing around.... I think that laying down is a 'universal' calming signal, saying "I am not a threat." The facial expression may indicate "Please don't hurt me" vs. "Let's play!"
 

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I think that a dog that is laying down is 'baiting' the other to come attack. Then, the down dog will 'surprise' the attacker with a counter attack... sometimes with a moving playbow in between the bouncing around.... I think that laying down is a 'universal' calming signal, saying "I am not a threat." The facial expression may indicate "Please don't hurt me" vs. "Let's play!"
That sounds like exactly what's going on! I love watching dogs play :).
 

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I can say, however, that actual playbows do not have to be accompanied by tail wagging. My dogs will face each other, bow and sometimes they won't wag their tails (they will either have them straight up or do a few quick flicks back and forth). One even growls during the bow, but it is a playful growl and not his aggressive growl.
 

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I think that a dog that is laying down is 'baiting' the other to come attack. Then, the down dog will 'surprise' the attacker with a counter attack... sometimes with a moving playbow in between the bouncing around.... I think that laying down is a 'universal' calming signal, saying "I am not a threat." The facial expression may indicate "Please don't hurt me" vs. "Let's play!"
It's better than cable!
 

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I think that a dog that is laying down is 'baiting' the other to come attack. Then, the down dog will 'surprise' the attacker with a counter attack... sometimes with a moving playbow in between the bouncing around.... I think that laying down is a 'universal' calming signal, saying "I am not a threat." The facial expression may indicate "Please don't hurt me" vs. "Let's play!"
What would the different facial expressions look like? My puppy lays down when we're playing chase, gives me a look, waits until I sit down, then she runs around me until we start to play chase again.
 

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What would the different facial expressions look like? My puppy lays down when we're playing chase, gives me a look, waits until I sit down, then she runs around me until we start to play chase again.
My puppies do this with me, ad with each other. Sacha runs faaaaar away, does a barrel roll, and lays down very low in the grass, waiting for Bob to 'find' her. They seem to really love this interaction! The differences are so subtle, I don't even know what to look for.

They also both do the wide-stance/slap.
 

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Sorry, I don't remember which post I was answering as far as the facial expression... so I'll have to pontificate :)
When a dog is lying down as a calming signal (not as an ambush signal), the dog may lick his lips and look away or even turn away.

When a dog is playing chase or tussling, the dog will stare at you or the other dog, usually with a relaxed open mouth. You may even hear sounds - Hah,hah panting etc. - that can be interpreted as laughing. I think that some of the play-growls are laughs or giggles.

Also, I think that a confident (although energetic dog) will wag his tail slowly, if at all. So, I agree that playbows don't have to include tail wagging... except perhaps as a transition from resting back to tussling.
 
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