In most species of mammals, playfulness fades as individuals become adults. During evolution, we become “juvenile monkeys” ourselves, retaining our curiosity and desire to play throughout adult life.
This quality is what gave us remarkable inventiveness and is at the very heart of our amazing success story. Therefore, it is not surprising that the animal chosen for our most intimate company shared with us this long desire to play.
As adults, domestic dogs of all breeds remain unusually playful, even after they have reached old age. One of the problems they have to deal with is how to signal to other dogs, or people, that they feel like playing.
This is done by holding a special display of an invitation to the game.
The most popular of these “let’s play” signals is the play inclination, in which the dog, in a very expressive way, lowers the front of his body while the back remains raised.
Its front legs are placed in a “seated sphinx” position, so that its chest touches, or almost touches, the ground, in contrast to its back legs that are stretched vertically. In this pose, the playful dog stares at his companion and makes small forward jerking movements, as if to say “go Go”. If the partner responds, they are followed by a game of chase, or a pretend fight.
Because of the way this chase or run is started with the special cue to play, the chasing never leads to a real attack and the flight never ends with the dog retreating with a tremendous bite.
In reality, the person who is chasing and the one who flees change their situation, again and again, interchanging the role of persecutor and that of being pursued in turn, and the promptness with which they do so reveals that they are not going through states of mind of aggressiveness or fear.
rather, they fake them. Running in wide circles is typical for this kind of game. It has been said that the inclination to play was originally a modified stretching gesture. It is certainly very similar to the kind of leg stretch seen when a dog wakes up and prepares to return to activity.
The idea is that by making an exhibition of “Stretching”, the animal indicates that it is relaxed and that the attack and the chase that are about to begin, are not serious.
But a more likely explanation is simply that the lean is a stopped movement and then reared up, like the crouching posture an athlete adopts while waiting for the pistol to go off to start the race. There are other typical canine signs of invitation to play.
One of them is the so-called playful face, an expression that is the canine equivalent of the human smile and that has similar components. The lips retract downwards horizontally and not vertically.
The line of the mouth, therefore, increases in size, with the corners of the lips retracting towards the ears. The jaws are slightly open but there is no intention of showing the teeth.
In a way, this is the opposite of the growl of an angry dog whose corners of the mouth are stretched forward and the nose is twisted up to reveal the front teeth.
A dog that has a playful face is not aggressive at all. Other promptings to join the game include snoring, slapping, and offering. The snouts are derived from the infantile pushing movements made by the cubs when feeding on the mother’s teats.
Slapping, or towards, a partner to invite him to play also comes from the child’s behavior when feeding. A dog The playful man may simply sit up, look at his partner, and then make movements in the air with one front leg, throwing it forward as if to salute. The “offer” signal is a way of coaxing someone into gambling.
The dog brings an object, such as a ball or a stick, and sits in front of his companion with his gift placed on the ground between his paws. As soon as we try to catch it, the dog catches it with its teeth and runs away. If pursued, the dog has achieved what he wanted: one is already engaged in a pattern of play.
If we stop, the offer will be made again. Sometimes a very lively dog, usually when, after being locked up for a while, is allowed to go out into an open space, performs a show of pranks and turns, as a signal that the game should begin.
The movements, races, turns, jumps, jumps, and zigzags are very exaggerated, and usually interspersed inclinations to the game, quickly carried out and abandoned, because the playful dog continues in its conspicuous and crazy races and pranks. This type of behavior is sometimes used by wolves to fool their prey.
By dancing strangely, he fascinates his victims, whom he can more easily approach. In North America, during the past century, this deception strategy was exploited by duck hunters.
They encouraged their dogs, usually poodles, to jump playfully in a clear space. After seeing them, the wild ducks could not resist getting closer to investigate what was happening, and that was their undoing.