Why Do Dogs Play?

Kevin Behan started a discussion on January 15th

A recent article has garnered a lot of attention http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/2015/01/09/why-do-dogs-roll-over-during-play/ The study cited by author Julie Hecht demonstrates that dogs don't roll over on their backs during play in order to appease or show respect to another. (btw I articulated that rolling over is never an act of appeasement or submission whenever it occurs in "Natural Dog Training" published in 1992. Slowly science seems to be catching up.) However the article fails to articulate the real reason dogs roll over during play, which will also hold true for why dogs love to roll on their backs in general. For our purposes here I prefer not to write out a flat out criticism/dissertation on the play rollover behavior. I'm inviting the reader to participate in a discussion so that one can learn step-by-step how to break down the behavior of play by way of an inarguable logic that delivers us to the simple and incontrovertible root of the behavior. The beginning premise is that moving as fast as possible toward something one wants, or as fast as possible away from something one fears, is the absolute best an individual can do in any given context. This means that the locomotive rhythm as dictated by an individual's anatomical structure is an individual's metric of emotional well being. When motive is matched by locomotive, then one is at their optimal emotional state. Such a statement is either true or false and I'd invite critiques as to its merits. Also, it will not prove illuminating to say that dogs play for the fun of it as this just returns us to the question, Why is play fun? And since play is common to all animals, we then have to ask, Why is play universal? Whereas if we pursue the above logic stream, we can come to a concrete resolution of the question. So if the locomotive rhythm is the basis of emotional well-being, imagine a playful dog Spot, who spots his play buddy Fluffy across the way, and given that in five seconds they will both be lost deep in play, what then is the motive? When Spot is stimulated by the sight of Fluffy, Spot wants to ____?


Ben Draper over 2 years ago
So is asking the question Why do dogs want to run? Ultimately not the same as - Why is play fun?
Kevin Behan over 2 years ago
Yes, why dogs want to run and why they want to play is the same. When stimulated, for any reason, an animal is compelled to move. Movement reduces the mental pressure invoked by stimulation. But to go deeper into the nature of play, we then have to consider the mental process of objectification in terms of how an animal constructs a view of reality, develops a sense of self and establishes a metric of well being.
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