Down but not out : supine postures as facilitators of play in domestic dogs

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Norman, Kerri M.
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Psychology
Research has shown that unlike wolves, dogs do not form stable packs and so do not function within a social hierarchy (Bradshaw, 2011). Therefore it is not clear that rolling onto the back can be readily interpreted as submission in dogs. In order to discern the function of rolling over during play in dogs, rollovers that occurred during playful dyadic interactions were analyzed using Eshkol-Wachman movement notation, a globographic system for recording, frame-by-frame, the coordinated movements of the interacting partners, to identify the locations of the body bitten and the context within which rollovers occur. It was discovered that there exists three distinct ways that dogs can end up on their backs during play. Rolling over can be used for the solicitation of play, to avoid being bitten (defense), and to deliver a bite (offense). These findings demonstrate that rolling over in dogs is a flexible and context dependent strategy for the facilitation and continuation of play, rather than a behaviour that is governed by the existence of a rigid hierarchy, and so signifying submission.
dog , play , reciprocity