How Dogs Play: Avoiding the “Third Wheel”

Rules of Play: No More Than Two Dogs

One of Doglando’s 7 Rules Of Play is “No more than two dogs to a game“. Why?

When two dogs play together, they can give each other their full attention. When you add a third dog to the game, now everyone is trying to keep track of two other dogs, and that opens the door for trouble.

Two dogs can play together evenly (with no-one “winning”, just chasing back and forth, with frequent stops to rest or regroup, both sides acting friendly). With three (or more) dogs, it is possible for two dogs to “gang up on”, outmaneuver, corner, frighten, or injure a single dog.

Keeping play balanced

In this photo, the two dogs in front (the dog with blue eyes, and the Chihuahua) have been playing together evenly. The hound with brown eyes in the back has approached the game, and appears to be deciding with whom she wants to engage. Look at the blue-eyed dog’s tense face (wide eyes, sclera (“white” of the eye) visible (sometimes called “whale eye”), corners of the lips drawn back, mouth closed, ears back) as she tries to keep track of everybody! The addition of the third dog has unbalanced the play session.

When this happens during Doglando’s outdoor play sessions, we humans simply call the additional dog away to come interact with us, so that the original dogs can return to their engagement. There are plenty of dogs (and humans) available for play without becoming the “third wheel” in someone else’s game!

Do you have a multi-dog household? Do your pets play well together?