For most dogs, play comes naturally, while for others, play is something they need to be taught. Play helps dogs learn to interact properly with other dogsâand people. It helps sharpen their social skills and provides excellent physical and mental stimulation. In addition to being just plain FUN, play is a great way to help build a solid relationship between you and your dog and can be a great training tool.
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In 1982, a study to observe the differences between dogs and wolves raised in similar conditions took place. The dog puppies preferred larger amounts of sleep at the beginning of their lives, while the wolf puppies were much more active. The dog puppies also preferred the company of humans, rather than their canine foster mother, though the wolf puppies were the exact opposite, spending more time with their foster mother. The dogs also showed a greater interest in the food given to them and paid little attention to their surroundings, while the wolf puppies found their surroundings to be much more intriguing than their food or food bowl. The wolf puppies were observed taking part in antagonistic play at a younger age, while the dog puppies did not display dominant/submissive roles until they were much older. The wolf puppies were rarely seen as being aggressive to each other or towards the other canines. On the other hand, the dog puppies were much more aggressive to each other and other canines, often seen full-on attacking their foster mother or one another.
Canine Play | Canine Principles
Dog puppies require as little as 90 minutes of contact with humans during their critical period of socialization to form a social attachment. This will not create a highly social pet but a dog that will solicit human attention. Wolves require 24 hours contact a day starting before 3 weeks of age. To create a socialized wolf the pups are removed from the den at 10 days of age, kept in constant human contact until they are 4 weeks old when they begin to bite their sleeping human companions, then spend only their waking hours in the presence of humans. This socialization process continues until age 4 months, when the pups can join other captive wolves but will require daily human contact to remain socialized. Despite this intensive socialization process, a well-socialized wolf will behave differently to a well-socialized dog and will display species-typical hunting and reproductive behaviors, only closer to humans than a wild wolf. These wolves do not generalize their socialization to all humans in the same manner as a socialized dog and they remain more fearful of novelty compared to socialized dogs.
The World of Canine Play - Are Your Dogs Playing Appropriately?