We know from surveying our dog adopters that it’s very important to many of you to adopt a dog who is friendly to other dogs. The absolute best tool we have to determine that is called Playgroup. We have been trained by and use the protocol of a national group called Dogs Playing for Life. Our staff attends regular trainings to learn dog body language, play styles, playgroup management, de-escalation tools and techniques, and how to break up a fight when de-escalation doesn’t work.
You may notice on dogs’ profiles that we describe them as having certain play styles in playgroup. The purpose of this page is to explain those play styles to you.

  • Very mutual play
  • Relatively quiet
  • Frequently starts and stops play
  • Easily becomes nervous
  • Mostly mutual play
  • Typically very noisy and vocal
  • Very physical, wrestling play style
  • Grabbing and holding other dogs
  • Chasing and tumbling with other dogs
  • Can ramp up and escalate in play (if socially appropriate, will also calm down and deescalate play to avoid conflict)
  • This style of play can trigger conflict with other dogs or “tip over” from play to arguments and/or conflicts
  • Less mutual play
  • Chasing, driving, and nipping the other dogs
  • Not interested in directly engaging, prefers to move other dogs around
  • Can get noisy, may use demand barking during play
  • Can escalate – often ends in conflict because it can be annoying or antagonistic to other dogs
  • May need handler to intervene in order to keep things polite
  • Usually not mutual play — always monitor the other dogs to determine if they are mutually re-engaging in play
  • Rooted in prey drive, but it is still play
  • Often noisy – growling and squealing
  • Can escalate into potentially unsafe interactions
  • Tends to need handler intervention more than other styles of play
    Provocative to the other dogs in the yard and may influence them to behave aggressively towards the more vulnerable dog

This 3-minute video from Dogs Playing for Life is a very helpful way to see the play styles in action.