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

By K. Norman, S. Pellis, L. Barrett, S. P. Henzi

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We used two sets of videotaped data of playing domestic dog dyads to determine whether rolling over during play served as a signal of submission or whether it was a combat maneuver adopted as part of an ongoing play sequence. Our results provide strong support for the latter. In the absence of any overt indication of agonism, the frequency with which rollovers occurred was determined primarily by play bout length. The discrepancy in partner size had no effect on the probability that rollovers would occur and there was no evidence that smaller dogs were more likely to rollover or to sustain a supine posture for longer, if they did. The supine phase of rollovers was significantly skewed to short durations. Most rollovers were either defensive (evading a nape bite) or offensive (launching an attack). None could be categorized as submissive. We conclude that asymmetries in the performance of rollovers cannot be assumed to point to asymmetries in the relationships between play partners.

Publication Title Behavioural Processes
Volume 110
Pages 88-95
ISBN/ISSN 0376-6357
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.001
Language English
Author Address Department of Psychology, The University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggressive behavior
  2. Agonistic behavior
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Animals
  5. Canidae
  6. Canine
  7. Carnivores
  8. Defense Mechanisms
  9. Dogs
  10. Mammals
  11. Mechanics
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Pets and companion animals
  14. play
  15. Posture
  16. Psychiatry and psychology
  17. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed