Kung Fu Canines

I recently started sifting through my video footage of Peaches and Buster playing, with the hope of learning to objectively analyze their various play moves and tendencies to learn more about their interaction with one another, however unlikely the “objective” part may be.

Their play style is what I’ve come to recognize as a clever mix of Kung Fu, Breakdancing and coed mud wrestling.  For our purposes here, we went with Kung Fu.  I’m sure I’ll take the analysis part seriously at some point, but figured I’d have a little fun in the meantime.

The clips included here were taken yesterday during a 4-minute play session, and at no point did the dogs require help regulating their play.  The occasional flash of black fur in the video is from Charlie and Hudson, who are both waiting patiently for me to throw their ball.

Peaches (fawn-colored dog with the funky ears) is a spayed 4.5-year old female and Buster Brown (brindle and white beefcake) is a neutered 4 year old male.  Both dogs were adopted as young puppies and have been living together for 3.5 years.

And if you prefer an alternative play style with a more contemporary musical score, here you go:

About emily douglas

Emily Douglas authors The Unexamined Dog blog and writes regularly about "pit bull" advocacy, humane education and the parallels between the education field and the dog world. Emily and her dog, Peaches volunteer as a registered therapy dog team in the Southeast Michigan area, where their visits are affectionately known as Peach Therapy.
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4 Responses to Kung Fu Canines

  1. Renée says:

    Not many pitties here in Holland, Europe. I love them, through FB and Youtube. My husband and son are not interested at all in this dog. I would want one. We have a big doxie now, our third, and he is certainly a handful! Lol. I love your blog, it’s well written, informative and intelligent. Love your dogs too!

    • Thanks for the nice message, Renee! Don’t be too hard on your family, everybody’s got their own quirky dog preferences! 😉 But yes, thank goodness for YouTube and Facebook in that regard. Cheers!

  2. Karen Peer says:

    Em,
    Love your blog and videos as well. I am learning so much from watching them. Do you think that space makes a difference with play as far as levels of excitement? Okay so your dogs have so much room to play. We have a very small yard and it seems like the levels of excitement during play can be very elevated. Their tails don’t seem to be as relaxed as your doggies. I have recently noticed that they are doing more downward dog.

    I realize that Buster and Peach have grown up together and this is a big reason why their play looks so relaxed and natural. I am getting better at knowing when to step in. Also our foster dog 2 year old female is learning to take breaks and slow the play down a bit. In any event I never let them play alone, never leave the house without separating them. In any event thanks again for sharing information and videos.
    Karen P
    `

    • Hey Karen!
      Thanks for the message. And yes, ma’am, I think space and size of the yard are key factors in the energy and type of play. Of course it will vary depending on the dogs, but in general I feel like too small or too large are the danger zones (at least based on my own very limited experience), but that a little too small is sometimes better than too much space. Too big a space and you run the risk of the dogs getting so far away from you that you can’t intervene if necessary, and more space means more room to get overly excited. Too small a space means that one or both dogs might feel trapped and desperate for more personal space or a place to retreat to. Doing things like sniffing the ground and urinating are both key social cues for the dogs and having at least enough space to do that without crowding one another is ideal, especially for unfamiliar dogs.

      For example, we have the luxury of having two different fenced-in spaces at our house. One is the huge one that you see in this video (approx. 3/4 of an acre and lots of hills and obstacles to run around . . . or run into, which can be a problem). The other smaller yard we have is maybe 1500 sq feet (which is still pretty big) with just one tree and flat ground. I use the smaller yard for all of our playdates with unfamiliar dogs or dogs who don’t live here. We also use the smaller one when I want to keep play and activity more mellow for our guys. It’s a big enough space for them to run, and to get away from each other when they need to, but not so big that we can’t intervene quickly or be nearby if somebody gets too worked up. I’ve also noticed that depending on the dogs, having other distractors in the yard can help keep play calmer. For example, if there are toys or a pool or an area to dig in that can help divert some of the energy and attention, the dogs might be less likely to pummel each other. But in other cases, those things might be resource guarding triggers. Just depends.

      In our huge yard, there are times when Peaches and/or Buster will start racing around the yard at lightning speed (Zoomies on crack), and oftentimes the energy and momentum they build up while running is so intense that by the time they catch up with one another they’re super amped and likely to get nasty. (this kind of crazy running also gets Hudson overly excited, which can be another issue to deal with) So that kind of super fast running during play is something I keep a really close eye on and that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing with less familiar dogs.

      When we lived in our old condo and didn’t have a yard–and just had Charlie and Hudson–they ran around in our empty unfinished basement and that seemed to work really well for them. Couple tight corners that occasionally led to them smashing into each other and getting too worked up, but for the most part they had enough room to run and maneuver but not too much room to get out of control. Our old place in LA too had a yard that wasn’t any bigger than 150 to 200 sq feet. And although they could definitely play around together and do a little running, it was a pretty tight space if they really wanted to move. I’ve seen some dogs play where they really do move and cover a lot of ground and territory and do it well, and others that just seem to wrestle around in the same small space.

      I’ll post some other videos that show other play with them, some of which you’ll see one or both dogs get too worked up and in need of a break. One of things we do also have is a “Break” command. That’s something that our trainer taught in all of her classes and encourages everyone to have in place prior to regular playdates. Just like you’d shape any other command, it’s just inserting it early on during calm play and interaction and treating them for stopping what they’re doing and paying attention to you. Ours isn’t exactly rock solid (I’ve muddied the command a bit), but in emergencies, one good shake of a treat bag will grab their attention. 🙂 Having the break command in place makes it a lot easier to relax and let the dogs try to regulate themselves more before you have to intervene. When we do playdates with other dogs, both of us always have our treat bags and look for openings to interrupt play or acknowledge eye contact and reward them for taking breaks. Obviously depending on the dogs, you need to be careful with the food and make sure that both dogs have done treat training around other dogs without aggression problems.

      I’ve still got a lot to learn about everything that is happening during their play and what it means. It’s also interesting to point out that Peaches does not play this way at all with any other dogs other than the ones in our home. Peaches’ playdates are usually quite boring. She might mirror a playful dog and do a bit of running and bouncing around. But for the most part, she just trots along and rolls around on the ground with them. Buster on the other hand uses other dogs as hurdles during his playdates.

      In sum, slowly but surely still learning. Watching the video later is really helpful. Of course you also have to make sure you’re not ignoring the play supervision while you’re filming. Delicate balance. 😉 Ideally, especially with less familiar dogs, it’s nice to have 1 or 2 play supervisors and another person whose job is just to film it.

      I just keep trying to watch as much reliable dog play footage as I can from the videos that BAD RAP, Best Friends and Aimee Sadler have been putting out since I just haven’t seen all that many dogs play.

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