Dog- dog play can be difficult for us as owners to know if it’s good play for both parties involved. Some dogs are quiet and gentle while others are robust, boisterous and noisey.
There is a simple way to know if your dog is having appropriate play by following MARS.
M- meta signals
A- activity shifts
R- role reversal
S- self handicapping
Meta signals are indicative actions that suggest play, look for play bows, grinning, winking, goofy play faces and bouncy inefficient movements, these are all signals for play.
Activity shift is when the play switch’s between different activities, from chasing to wrestling and pinning, and with each switch in activity should be signalled with a meta signal.
Role reversal is when dogs switch up the roles in good play, for example, in a game of chase the chaser will then be chased. Role reversal is never perfect as some dogs prefer to chase than be chased and vice versa as long as there are meta signals it’s good play.
Self handicapping is mainly aimed at when larger dogs play with smaller/weaker dogs as they amend their possible injurious acts by reducing force i.e when biting or body slamming, creating appropriate play and leveling the playing field.
The presence of growling, barking, biting, fighting, chasing and pinning is not a problem as long as MARS is present in their play.
If your still unsure on whether it is fair good play you can consent test. This is were you separate the dogs and allow them to chose to go back to the same dog and carry on the play, find something else to do or another dog to play with.
This will tell you if all participants give permission to the style of play.
So remember when watching dog- dog play look out for MARS and if still unsure Consent Test.