Dogs Are More Inclined to Play with Other Pets When Their Owner Is Watching, a New Study Finds
Some of your dog's favorite pastimes likely include trips to the park or running around the backyard with another four-legged friend. But when it comes to the latter, you likely influence how the pets in your household interact with other animals, Phys.org reports. According to a new study published in Animal Cognition, dogs actually play with one another more when their owner keeps a watchful and attentive eye on them. Researchers believe that this could mean they are playing for your entertainment, not theirs.
"We weren't aware of any research that has really shown the effect of a human audience impacting species typical behavior, in this case dog-dog play," Lindsay Mehrkam, an animal behaviorist and the study's lead author, told AFP. Mehrkam directed the study, which included 10 dog pairs who lived with each other for a minimum of six months and played with each other at least once every day.
Researchers watched as the dogs played without the owner around, with the owner ignoring the canines as they played, and with the owner playing with the pair of pets while petting and singing their praises. After completing each of these conditions three separate times over many days, Mehrkam noted that the owners' attention enhanced the dogs' behaviors, such as chasing, bowing, gentle biting, and more. "It's really quite striking that dogs who have the chance to play with each other whenever they want to, nonetheless are much more likely to get up off their butts and start playing when a person is just paying attention to them," Clive Wynne, a study co-author from Arizona State University, said.
Researchers believe that this increase in play is due to a few different reasons, but the main one is the reward factor. For some dogs, having an owner join them after they see the pups playing is a prize in and of itself. In other respects, having an owner around makes dogs feel secure. Since playtime can get intense between canines, an owner can serve as protection. Last but not least, a human can simply add to oxytocin, which is a love hormone that makes playtime even more fun, the team explained.