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Does My Dog Play More When I'm Watching? | Pupford

November 30th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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We know dogs care about people paying attention to them and generally enjoy human attention. Dog parents often find watching their dog playing and having fun both heartwarming and entertaining.

Those who have two or more dogs may also enjoy watching how their dogs interact and may even have fun getting involved in the dogs’ playtime.

However, most dog parents will not realize that their dogs may play and interact with each other in different ways when their parent is present to how they behave when they are not in the presence of humans.


why dogs play more when you watch

A recent study shows that is the case, as a human audience impacts a dog’s behavior.

Lindsay Mehrkam, an animal behaviorist says that our canine companions are keenly attuning to the level of interest humans show them. Mehrkam oversaw an experiment involving ten pairs of pet dogs that had lived together for at least six months.

According to their parents, the duos ordinarily engaged in play at least once daily. The researchers videotaped the dog pairs under three conditions: where the parent was absent, where the parent was present but ignoring them, and where the parent was present and showering them with attention in the form of verbal praise and petting.

They found that dogs who have the chance to play with each other whenever they want to, are still much more likely to get up off their butts and start playing when a person is just paying attention to them. 🤯


why dogs play more when you watch

In the study, they mentioned several ideas as to why dogs may behave in this manner.

  1. Dogs may see their parents coming to play with them as a reward
  2. They may learn that if they behave playfully when their parents are present, they will enjoy the prize of their parents joining in the fun
  3. Another possible explanation is that the dogs see their parents as offering them some safety during play
  4. One reason that dogs play is to strengthen their bond. However, playtime can also lead to aggression in dogs, making the situation tense. There is less likelihood of aggression and tension if a human is around to intervene and prevent a fight from taking place
  5. Finally, dogs may behave differently in their parents’ presence because they see humans as enriching their environment. The dogs may associate their parents with happiness, encouraging them to get involved in playtime. Similarly, dogs experience a rush of the oxytocin hormone with their parents. This hormone makes them happy, which could encourage them to play more due to their positive emotional state.


dog friendly activities with your dog

The one-on-one time you spend with your dog may be extra special to them, but it also improves your quality of life.

Many activities with your dog require moving, exercising, and fresh air, all pluses for dog parents and feeling good for making your dog’s day. However, when you spend time with your dog, you must focus on them. Quality time is the most important thing for your dog, especially if you do not have enough time available.


There is a clear distinction between quality and quantity of time for our dogs. Dog parents who take their dogs to the dog park, sit on a bench at a distance, stay on their cell phones, or read a book don’t get any credit for quality time.

At the most, they get a few points for giving the dog a chance to socialize with other dogs or exercise.

Quality time means direct interaction — looking at your dog, talking to him, and participating in play and exercise. One-on-one time with your dog can also involve activities such as walking, hiking, playing fetch, grooming, bathing, and training.

To aid you in making memories and treasured Instagram moments that will last forever and beyond, here are a few activities to bond with your doggo based on their energy level.

HIGH ENERGY: For the puppy or adult dog, up for anything and everything.

1. Go on a walking tour of your city. Soak up your city just like a tourist but with a much better sense of direction. If you plan your route, you can make pit stops at all of your city’s pet-friendly haunts for treats and attention. All the tourists will be so jealous.

Related Reading: Do Dogs Get Jealous?

2. Spend a day swimming and exploring a beach or lake. Some dogs are like mermaids, so let them be part of that world! But before you do, make sure the beach or lake is dog-friendly and that you bring a doggy life vest. (Not all dogs are strong swimmers!)

taking your dog to the beach

3. Go on a bike ride together. It’s more complicated than you might think to ride a bike while your dog is on a leash, so practice before hitting the bike trail. Some dogs are more bike-basket than ride-beside, so it’s wise to consider your dog’s physical fitness and start slow. Once you both get the knack for it, you’ll be on a roll.

MEDIUM ENERGY: Dogs who enjoy good fun, followed by a nap.

1. Stock up on toys together at your favorite pet-friendly store. Attention shoppers: It’s time to let your dog steer the shopping cart! Surprises can be overrated, so take your pal to the store so they can do the choosing. Warning: Dogs can’t read price tags. 🤭

2. Take your dog on a boat ride. Get ready to make a splash - just ensure you have the all-important life vest with you, as swimming doesn’t come naturally to all dogs. Some dogs were bred because they make great first mates. So, why not see if your pup has the chops for sea life? Easing your dog into activities like these - and having a cool friend with a lovely boat - is recommended.

take your dog on a boat ride

3. Teach your dog a new trick. Old, young, no matter the age, dogs like to learn new things, so give them a challenge by teaching them fantastic new ways to impress you (and your friends). Grab some treats and start practicing some tricks. Your pup’s stunts will be the talk of your next house party.

Related Reading: Dog Birthday Party Ideas

LOW ENERGY: Dogs who just want to be with you

1. Netflix and nap. Reserve the comfiest spot on the couch for at least three hours. Watch a canine-friendly flick together — like “Hachiko,” “Marley & Me,” or “101 Dalmatians” — and snuggle up for a nap. We can’t think of anything more dreamy.

2. Take your dog to work. National Take Your Dog to Work Day may be June 24, but if you work in a pet-friendly environment, why not make it a regular occurrence? Medium-to-low-energy dogs can be good at helping to ease office stress, and there’s nothing more soothing than taking a coffee break with your cutie.

bringing your dog to work

3. Provide a mentally enriching game. No matter how much energy your dog has (or doesn’t have) they need mental enrichment. Pulay hide and seek, or hide treats in a towel, scatter their food in the grass or snuffle mat. Really anything that is mentally enriching!

While more studies could explore how dog parents’ attention facilitates dog play, you can take pleasure in watching your dogs while they play and praising them as they do so, knowing that you are part of the reason it’s happening. 😎

Tell us if your doggo plays more when you are watching?


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