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I have a 8 months old Mame Shiba.

He shows very positive behaviour (greeting in the mornings or when getting home, showing his belly for rubs, fetching, etc) but there is one game he seems to love that I want to get confirmation on.

Occasionally (about once a day), he will come up to me or my partner and either tap or mouth (without teeth) our leg or arm. He will continue to do so until we bow down to him at which point he will dart away at full speed, run one round through the apartment an come back to the same person waiting with the front legs down, the back legs standing and the tail wiggling slightly. From a human perspective, it seems like he wants to play some sort of catch and after 5 minutes or so, he always comes back for a belly rub.

Is this indeed him playing "catch" of sorts, or are we somehow triggering a stress response in him leading to this behaviour?

  • "Bowing" is an invitation to play but the tap/mouthing I'm not sure about. – rlb.usa Sep 10 '15 at 15:39
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Typical playing behavior for socialized dogs:

  • Tapping and running away: "Catch me!"
  • Bowing down with back in the air and front legs flat on the ground: "Play with me!", possibly with one or two quick, non-aggressive barkers.
  • Side-tapping with the mouth could also mean "Hey, hello!" or could be part of play (try responding by doing the same on your dog's cheeks with your hand forming your "mouth"). The dog might also just ask for scratching around the neck or behind the ears (typical for one of our two Huskies).

Note:

Chewing on your hand might be a possible response from your dog. This isn't meant in an aggressive way. Respond by chewing back (crawling/scratching) or push it away, if wrong situation or biting too powerful (see other questions/answers).

If you're outside or got enough space inside:

If you want your dog to follow you while playing, tap it as well (like a slow/light slap on its hip; similar force to what it applies to you), then run away. I'm sure it will understand, this is also how you can respond/play fetch, if the environment is right.

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