Monday, September 7, 2015

Dog Play: Bitey-Face

Bourbon and Lola playing bitey-face back in the day :)
Teeth showing. Snarling. Growling. Biting. Neck grabbing. All this and more generally goes on during the rough game of Bitey-Face. And yes that is the technical term :). Most people that have a multiple dog home are very familiar with this game, but it can be quite intimidating for people that are not used to it or have never seen it before. No matter how vicious this play sounds or how much the dogs are showing Ugly Face (another technical term describing narrowed eyes and snarling lips), most of the time this interaction between dogs is quite harmless.

Dogs who know each other well are far more likely to engage in rougher play than two canine strangers. Though puppies are not known for having great social skills and may be rude <grin>, well-socialized adult dogs normally do not rush up to just any other adult dog and pounce upon his head without a bit of an introduction (even if that introduction is very subtle and brief it is still there!). Well unless you are Bourbon! Bourbon missed some of those key social etiquette lessons early on and has never been able to relearn them no matter how hard I or the other dogs he plays with try.

Bourbon and Jeter :).
Other dobermans seem to love Bourbon...not so much for other breeds LOL.

Sometimes You Feel Like Bitey-Face, Sometimes You Don't

Many dogs enjoy this game and really get into it, grabbing onto each others faces and necks and biting. Some with growl and show their teeth. My dogs do all of the above :). But sometimes it can be hard for people to tell if both dogs are actually having fun. Here are a few things to look for to make sure the interaction is pleasant for both parties:
  • Are the mouths open with floppy tongues?
  • Are the ears relaxed?
  • Are the dog's body movement relaxed?
  • Are they going down into playbows and turning their heads and bodies sideways as they play?
  • Are they taking brief breaks (even a couple of seconds) in between 'attacks' on each other?
Remember to see what is really going on between the dogs, you have to tune out the sounds and focus on the body language. Far too often we get caught up in the growls and focus on how ferocious it sounds without paying enough attention to what the dog's bodies are actually telling us.

If either of the dogs looks tense, is moving stiffly or hard staring, it is a good idea to cheerfully interrupt and distract them into another activity. Also with rough play, sometimes if it goes on too long your dogs can get over-stimulated or irritated with each other. So it's always a good idea to monitor this game closely, and if the two dogs aren't giving themselves breaks regularly, take it upon yourself to impose brief rest periods for them :).

Do your dogs like to play bitey-face? Do they really getting into the game with growls, snarls, and everything else? :)

This is the second post in a series of posts on Play. Please check back next week for Dog Play: TUG!!

The First: Dog Play: The Chase Is On

Snoopy's Dog Blog


  1. BITEY FACE! Earl and Ethel's favourite!

  2. Mr. N loves play wrestle bitey face. We have an adapted version that he plays with the humans as well.

    1. That's awesome! How does the human version work?

  3. Cole used to love this game, now at 13 not so much. LeeAnna

    1. Aww that's too bad :(. I keep hoping Bourbon will slow down (he's 10 now) but so far it's not happening!

  4. Shasta is still learning how to play and I'm not sure he'd know how to respond to the bitey face game but boy do they look like they are having fun!!

    1. Yea, it might be overwhelming for him. It can be hard to distinguish the play cues if you were never exposed to them!

  5. This is good advice about what to look for when dogs are playing bitey face. Some people get uncomfortable when hearing the growls and seeing all those teeth. Great information, thanks!