Labradors are renowned for their playfulness as they are the social butterflies of the canine world. They can sometimes get out of control from sheer excitement during playtime with other dogs.
But is it something you should be worried about in case your Lab’s play styles don’t match with other dogs when playing?
Here’s How Labs Play With Other Dogs:
Provided that each dogs have compatible playstyles and matching personality, Labs would engage in:
- Role Reversal Chasing
- Wrestling & Body Slamming
- Play Bowing
- Tug of War
In this article, we’re going to cover 6 different ways in-depth on how a Labrador may play with other dogs, regardless of the breed. And what to look for in differentiating between a playful and an aggressive play style.
It’s important to understand the various Labrador play styles with other dogs to avoid any apprehension in other dogs or dog owners during play initiation.
This way, you can train your pooch to engage in meaningful play with other dogs without any escalation to aggression or fight.
Note: Our articles are comprehensive and in-depth. Feel free to expand the table of contents below and skip ahead to sections that interest you.
6 Ways Labradors Play With Other Dogs
1) They Chase Each Other Erratically
Labradors are known to be extremely energetic and social, thus active running and chasing around are right up their alley.
It’s a game that involves one dog playfully lunging at another dog before sprinting away in the opposite direction. The other dog then usually gives chase, trying to catch up with the first dog.
Apart from being highly social dogs, Labradors have a natural inclination for chasing and retrieving due to their hunting instincts and athleticism.
They were initially bred for hunting purposes, and these skills have been passed down through generations, making them exceptionally talented at such activities.
During the chase, Labs would often dart around each other, making quick turns and changes of direction to keep the game exciting.
Sometimes they even take short breaks to playfully paw at each other or stop and wag their tails before resuming the chase.
The other playstyle most Labs would engage in is roughhousing which usually involves chasing, play biting and wrestling.
The reason why Labs love this playstyle in particular is because they are extremely social, playful and high energy dogs that thrive in high energy level activities that are also mentally stimulating.
They also revel in roughhousing as it’s instinctively compelling to them due to their active personalities.
When roughhousing other dogs of the same size, Labs may use their mouths to lightly bite or nip without causing any harm. They typically start playing by play-bowing which conveys their desire to join in the fun.
Labradors also utilize their paws to playfully paw at other dogs or to gain leverage during wrestling matches which adds excitement to the game.
In my experience with Labs, apart from chasing –they also tend to jump on, push or tackle their playmates in a playful manner.
In a roughhousing play, they may also indulge in mock-fighting or wrestling matches which involve rolling around on the ground or leaping on each other.
3) Wrestling & Body Slamming
Being highly energetic dogs, some Labradors also have wrestling playstyles which typically includes body slamming, and nipping.
Some high energy Labs are keen on indulging in this type of play as they have a natural inclination to chase, grab and shake objects/prey due to their instinctive prey drive.
During wrestle play, Labs would use their bodies to push and shove each other as well as grabbing each other’s necks or shoulders with their mouths with the aim of playfully pinning the other down – all while wagging their tails.
Once they begin to play, Labradors would also engage in body slamming which typically involves one dog running into the other dog’s side or shoulder with their body.
This behavior can be a way for the high energy Labs to show off their strength or playfully assert their dominance — especially amongst the same gender.
Recommended article: Can A Labrador Beat/Kill a Pitbull? (6 Factors Analyzed)
4) Play Bowing
Labradors may also instigate a play with other dogs by first conveying a play bow.
A play bow is a friendly gesture that encourages or invites a dog for play, and Labs would typically do this by lowering their forelegs towards the ground while keeping their hindquarters elevated.
In my experience of dealing with playing dogs, they would oftentimes accompany this goofy gesture with body wiggles, direct eye contact, tail wagging or sometimes playful barks to signal their intentions.
They may also alternate the playbows in between the play as a signal to continue or prolong the playtime.
Playbows are a very effective way of communication between dogs as it signals playful submission and vulnerability through the lowering of head and forelegs.
But it’s also crucial to keep in mind that not all other dogs are able to decipher this play signal, and may instead take it as a threat, especially amongst breeds like German Shepherds where there’s a disparity in their level of intelligence.
Anxious dogs that were not properly socialized may not typically respond well to this cue out of fear. So it’s important to supervise your Lab’s play with other dogs to avoid unnecessary provocations.
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Labradors also have a mouthing playstyle where they would playfully nip or bite at each other without any exerted force.
Labs love indulging in this playstyle because it’s a natural instinctive behavior of communicating, interacting and exploring their surroundings – especially for retrieving breed that loves mouthing in general.
Labs also have soft mouths that don’t typically inflict harm or damage onto other dogs and they would oftentimes alternate between nipping and chasing with each other.
At times, Labradors may also gently mouth or nip at the other dog to establish boundaries whenever the play gets too rough or uncomfortable.
And they would communicate it by nipping at their companion’s legs or neck to signal the need to slow down or stop.
Therefore, it’s important to monitor your Lab’s playtime to ensure excessive mouthing force isn’t used during play.
6) Tug of War
Labradors are a huge fan of the tug of war game. When provided with a long rope, or rubber toys that are durable enough to withstand the mouthing force, it will trigger their instinctive drive to pull or chew on the rope.
This is because pulling and tugging are natural behaviors that Labradors exhibit when retrieving game during hunting.
It’s also a leftover instinct from when they were still wild animals hunting for food in packs, this is how they’d get chunks off of what they killed.
During this play, Labs would grab onto a long rope or a chew toy with their mouths and pull hard against another dog on the other end of the toy – all while playfully growling and shaking their heads.
Labs and other dogs love playing this game as it provides a healthy outlet for their innate predatory instincts.
You can get the recommended tug of war toy set here on Amazon.
Keep in mind that this type of play style isn’t best suited for dogs with contrasting sizes. It’s best to only pair up a Lab with another dog of its size for a balanced play.
However, it’s important to train your Lab to release the toy on command and to redirect them away from the play if it gets too intense.
How Do You Tell If Your Lab Or The Other Dog Is Being Playful Or Aggressive (4 signs)
Each Labradors have their own unique personalities and playstyle preferences that may differ from one dog to another.
Some Labs prefer being quiet while playing and on the other hand, other Labs may be noisy and boisterous.
It can be tough to differentiate between being aggressive and playful if your pooch is the boisterous type with a rough play style preference.
Therefore, here are 4 things to look out for when distinguishing between play and fight.
1) Play Signals
Look out for 6 signals that indicate play such as
- Play bows
- Bouncy movements
- Uncoordinated inefficient movements
- Goofy play faces
- Tail wagging
- Irregular barks
If these signals are present eventhough your dogs are engaging in rough play, chances are you’re in good hands. As social breeds, Labs would oftentimes display signals as ways of communicating their playful intent.
And they would also establish boundaries during play through bodily signals.
It’s also important to keep in mind that raised hackles during play are just a sign of stimulation from adrenaline, not necessarily anxiety and aggression.
If you’re seeing these 6 play signals present within the play, there’s nothing to worry about.
2) Activity Shifts
It’s also important to look for signs of alternative play styles that comes with the play signals.
If your pooch alternates from chasing to roughhousing or rolling together on the ground with their tails wagging, it’s a good sign that they’re just having a good time from the play. It’s also a sign that they’re comfortable in each other’s presence.
If there’s no variation in their playstyles despite it not being a fight, it could actually mean that either one of the dogs are unwilling participants in the play or that their play styles and energy levels aren’t in sync with one another.
And if that’s the case, it’s best to redirect them to a different play such as a tug of war or with fetching to balance out the play.
However, if disinterest persists; then intervene and stop the play to prevent any untoward happening.
3) Role Reversals & Reengagement
Check if either dog is being overly dominant or submissive in the play. Imperfect role reversals are fine if one of the dog likes to constantly be underpinned or be chased, but make sure the play signals mentioned above are present.
If both dogs appear keen on resuming their play or reengaging for more with a reversed role, it’s a positive sign.
However, if one dog seems like it’s trying to get away, or avoid the play without the play signals present –that’s not a good match.
Some examples of reengagement and role reversals would be taking turns to tackle or chase each other and exchanging soft bites with all the play signals present.
Role reversal game play typically requires intelligence from both dogs. With that said, do check out if Labradors Are Smarter Than Golden Retrievers. (A Comprehensive Analysis).
4) Self-imposed Limitations
Self-handicapping refers to instances where intense play styles such as biting and body slamming are engaged with a much reduced force.
Look out for signs if the bigger dog would compensate for the mismatch of size and strength with a much more mellow play style to accommodate for a balanced play.
If your pooch happens to be the bigger dog, and practices self restraint on not exerting too much force on the other smaller dog, chances are it’s a safe play no matter how intense the play may actually be – provided that all the play signals mentioned above are present.
If you’re still unsure whether or not you should be concerned about their play styles, you could lure your Lab out for a short breather.
After awhile, if it reengages in the play with the other dog with all the play signals present, then let your pooch have its fun.
Unless your pooch is NOT involved in mindless frenzy with bloodcurdling snarling and tearing at each other while foaming at the mouth – the play is safe.
You might also be interested in Do Labs & Goldendoodles Get Along Well? (A Complete Guide)
Where Should You Take Your Lab To Play With Other Dogs?
1) A Large Fenced-In Park/Yard (Public Dog Park Not Recommended)
I wouldn’t personally recommend taking your Lab out to your average local public dog park during peak hours.
In my experience with local dog parks, dog fights and unnecessary dog confrontations tend to occur regularly due to an abundance of unproperly trained and socialized dogs as well as a lack of supervision on the unscrupulous owner’s part.
Dog parks aren’t bad per se, but the unresponsible owners are.
You never know what type of dogs or dog owners your Lab may run into at the local dog parks – so it’s a hit or miss if you’re expecting a fun day out with your Lab.
Alternatively, you may try SniffSpot if it’s available in your local area.
You may take your Lab along with its familiar dog friends to a large fully fenced private dog park or any large non-crowded park for a playtime without having to worry about unruly dogs, unresponsible dog owners or worse, hygiene problems at the public dog park.
You may also want to use this recommended long leash from Amazon in case you want to keep your pooch on a leash at these parks.
You can also arrange playdates for your Lab with other compatible dogs of similar energy levels and playstyles through prearranged meet-up at SniffSpot.
2) Reputable Dog Daycare Center
If you’re running short on time, you may try enrolling your Lab in a reputable dog daycare center.
Dog daycare centers do an excellent job in matching dog compatibilities and playstyles with tons of supervision involved.
Dog fights and scuffles are rarely heard of in these daycare centers, and you can be rest assured that your Lab will get all of its social and exercises need met.
3) Dog-Friendly Lakes Or Beaches
Labs love water. It’s in their genes to love water since they’ve been bred to be exceptional dog assistants and hunters in waters and lakes.
It’ll be double the fun for your pooch if it indulges in water play with other friendly compatible dogs in the water.
It’s also relatively easier to supervise their waterplay in lakes or beaches as Labs don’t generally swim away too far – especially if you’re in the water with them too.
It’s also a really cool way to tire out your Lab with waterplay as the resistance provided by the water means that your Lab can burn more calories than they would during land-based activities such as walking or running – especially when engaging in high intensity water play with other dogs.
Other Articles You’ll Enjoy:
- Do Labradors And Dachshunds Get Along Well? (Complete Guide)
- Are Labradors Better In Pairs? (Or With A Different Breed?)
- Why Are Labradors So Clumsy? (What To Do About It?)
- Why Do Labradors Steal Things? (and Food!) What To Do About It?