How dogs know when they are playing |

How dogs know when they are playing

Kathleen Williams-Miller
Looking for a home: Bingo, an adorable chocolate Lab, is 1 1/2 years old. He is friendly and gets along great with everyone. Bingo is sweet, loveable, and would like to be your BFF (best furry friend). Come out and meet him, he will steal your heart.
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I am always amazed by how crazy wild dog play gets. All that growling and wrestling is confusing to me, and I’m constantly wondering is this play or are they seriously rumbling.

In play, dogs use the same actions they use in fighting, but randomly. Randomness of action is one way to tell it’s play.

Dogs have four basic aspects to fair play: Ask first, be honest, follow the rules and admit when you are wrong. Dogs can read when others want to play, not fight. Bowing is the classic move to tell another dog you want to play.

Other actions for playing are face pawing, approaching and rapidly withdrawing, faking left then going right, mouthing, and running right at a potential playmate. Bowing or crouching on forelimbs sometimes with barking and tail wagging are contracts to play. This changes the meaning of the actions that follows, such as biting or mounting.

Dogs know they must play fair for play to work. Bigger, stronger, more dominant dogs hold back by self-handicapping or role-reversal. Dominant animals practice role-reversal during play, so the play continues and it doesn’t lead to fighting.

One major question in animal research is, do nonhuman animals have a theory of mind? In other words, do they know that other individuals have their own thoughts and feelings that may be different than their own?

Play research has led scientists to believe that dogs do have a theory of mind and are able to communicate meaning. I could have told them that because Watson is a regular mind reader, especially when I head to the refrigerator.


Donations for veterinarian bills. We have some animals who need daily medical items and we could use some help meeting the cost of treatment.

Volunteers to help build kennels. Call 775-423-7500 for details.

Warm blankets and towels for our kennels.

Folks to sign up for Amazon Smile program, details to follow.

Volunteers to walk dogs or play with cats. Call 775-423-7500 for details.

Aluminum cans, which we recycle to augment our shelter funds. We are unable to pick up cans because of trailer problems, but please continue to save them.


All the folks who have given our guests homes. Because of your kindness, the following guests are now in happy-forever-homes: Boo, Buddy, Bugsy, Lily, Jimmy, Phoenix, Sadie, Tanner, and Yahtzee. A Four Paws Salute to you!


CAPS will be at Walmart in January with the Kissin’ Booth and a puckered-up pooch. Come by to get your pooch smooch. We have caps, shirts, and mugs, so be sure to check out the merchandise after you have loved on our pup.


January Pet Holidays:

National Train Your Dog Month

To register in the AmazonSmile program, a website operated by Amazon. Customers enjoy many of the same selection of products, low prices and shopping features as on The only difference is, when you shop on AmazonSmile (, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5 percent of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization selected by you.

Flower Tree Nursery will be raffling a 20-gallon tree March 15 and the winner doesn’t have to be present. The raffle tickets are available at Flower Tree, and they are $1 for one ticket and $5 for six tickets.


CAPS’ mailing address is P.O. Box 5128, Fallon, NV 89407. CAPS’ phone number is 775-423-7500. CAPS’ email address is Please visit the CAPS website ( and Facebook page (Churchill Animal Protection Society). Be sure to “Like” CAPS on Facebook because we are really likable.

CAPS is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Do you have questions, comments or a great story? Contact me

Kathleen Williams-Miller, a CAPS volunteer, contributed this week’s column.