Play Bows as Meta-Communication

snow early winter 2012

We all know the signs of imminent danger between two dogs right? Immobile stiff bodies, direct eye contact, round eyes. Except when dogs are playing and then the exact same postures and expressions are nothing but pauses between frolics. That is a perfect example of what's called meta-communication, or communication about communication. Here's a video of Willie and his new friend, Leo--the new pup of Katie Martz here at the office--illustrating meta-communication as well as any two dogs could. I look forward to your comments about it. First, some background: Yesterday they met for the first time, and it went beautifully. Katie stood 40 feet from the door with Leo as I let Willie out and asked him "Where's the Dog?" We played tug when he looked at Leo and then back at me. After 2 Read More

More on Play

I thought you might be interested in two of the books I am using as references for my talks on play behavior. One is Animal Play: Evolutionary, Comparative and Ecological Perspectives, by Marc Bekoff and John Byers. It's not new, (1998) but it is considered a classic in the field. Bekoff has done a lot of work on play in canids (and also on animal welfare). Byers has studied play as well, but is most well known for his lifetime of work on Pronghorn antelope (who he describes physically as "a sausage with toothpicks stuck in it for legs.") (I might not have the quote exactly right, but it's close!) Another valuable book is Play and Exploration in Children and Animals by Thomas G. Power (2000). It's comparative perspective is fascinating. Neither of these books are beach reading: they are Read More