Skip to Content

Do You Play Bow With Your Dog?

Hiking across the field at the front of our farm, I heard the signature jingle of Baxter’s tags behind me. A few minutes before, he’d dove into the brush between the front field and the east field, sure he’d seen a squirrel or a chipmunk.

A year ago, watching my off-leash dog sprint away from me pursuing some creature would have caused me a lot of anxiety. Walking away from him while he was still absorbed in his quest was a bit of a test.

Would he remember I existed?

Hearing the jingle of his tags, I was thrilled that he had given up the chase and was catching up with me. I wanted to acknowledge him and celebrate what a good boy he was. I turned around and said—in a voice that showed I understood how excited he’d been—“Did you see a squirrel?”

He didn’t register my question. In fact, rather than celebrating the squirrel sighting with me, he stopped and investigated an interesting sniff in the weeds.

For a moment, I considered being offended. Then I gave myself a mental forehead slap and said, “Duh! You’re not speaking dog!”

As Baxter resumed walking towards me, I bent down towards him in my best imitation of a play bow.

He got the message!

He happily scampered towards me and then we sprinted across the field together, reveling in the excitement of fresh air, fall afternoons, freedom, and—of course—squirrels.

The lesson to speak to my dog using body language more than vocal language is one that hit home when I read The Other End of the Leash. Since then, I’ve been practicing my body language—and especially my play bow.

I hope that by “playing” with Baxter, he starts to think of me as more fun than squirrels.

Do you play bow with your dog?

Julia Thomson is a regular writer for That Mutt. Visit her blog Home on 129 Acres here.

Do you play bow with your dog?

Sarah Walker

Tuesday 8th of November 2016

I have not really studied body language towards dogs but that makes so much sense! In fact, I am just shocked that it has never occurred to me that body language would be so effective in training Blitz. I will definitely put that book on my reading list, or maybe my Christmas wish list!

Jana Rade

Tuesday 1st of November 2016

Not recently because I'm trying to keep Cookie's excitement curbed for the time being. But otherwise, yes. I even try but wags ;-)

Jen Gabbard

Wednesday 26th of October 2016

I play bow all the time, I just can't help it after I saw how happy my dog was knowing that 'hey she wants to play - yipee!'

Learning more about play & body language also changed the way I play tug. I remember an older study found that dogs get more joy out of tug if they're allowed to win once in a while. It keeps them more motivated and eager to play again.

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Friday 28th of October 2016

I heard that about tug too. Relationships with our dogs are so much about give and take.

Sandy Weinstein

Tuesday 25th of October 2016

we dont play bow, the 2 younger girls play bow with themselves. i play touch the paw. i touch one paw and then the other. the middle child goes back and forth then runs around like crazy and comes back for more. the oldest loves to still play, she gets excited and starts running, the youngest does not like this so much but she runs after her sister and they end up running around in circles.

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Touching paws is something that we do too--mostly when we're playing inside. Play bows work best where there's more space to run around!

Marina | Pit Of Pets

Tuesday 25th of October 2016

Yes! My dog gets extremely excited this way!

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Wednesday 26th of October 2016

I love how happy they seem when we play!