Why do dogs play? Function and welfare implications of play in the domestic dog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Standard

Why do dogs play? Function and welfare implications of play in the domestic dog. / Sommerville, Rebecca; O'Connor, Emily A.; Asher, Lucy.

In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 197, 12.2017, p. 1-8.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Harvard

APA

CBE

MLA

Vancouver

Author

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Why do dogs play? Function and welfare implications of play in the domestic dog

AU - Sommerville, Rebecca

AU - O'Connor, Emily A.

AU - Asher, Lucy

PY - 2017/12

Y1 - 2017/12

N2 - Play is an enigmatic behaviour, the function of which is still debated, despite more than a century of research. We discuss the evolutionary function of play behaviour, focusing on the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), a unique species due to its past domestication and current cohabitation with humans. The ultimate function of play in dogs is explored through four main theories: 1) developing motor skills; 2) training for the unexpected; 3) social cohesion; and 4) play as a by-product of biological processes. The proximate functions of play and the association between play and animal welfare, which is widely believed to be positive, are examined. The majority of evidence supports the developing motor skills and social cohesion functions of play in dogs, with some support for training for the unexpected. Most types of play appear to improve social cohesion between humans and dogs, increasing their familiarity and reducing agonistic interactions. Play in dogs is unlikely to have arisen only as a by-product of other biological processes, but has been shaped directly and indirectly by artificial selection. Multiple factors determine when and why adult dogs play and these differ for solitary, intraspecific and interspecific play. We suggest that play is not a reliable, generalisable, positive welfare indicator, but, rather, a heterogeneous behaviour which serves different functions. This multifaceted view of play implies that early experience, prior life-history and the context of the interaction define the association between play and welfare.

AB - Play is an enigmatic behaviour, the function of which is still debated, despite more than a century of research. We discuss the evolutionary function of play behaviour, focusing on the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), a unique species due to its past domestication and current cohabitation with humans. The ultimate function of play in dogs is explored through four main theories: 1) developing motor skills; 2) training for the unexpected; 3) social cohesion; and 4) play as a by-product of biological processes. The proximate functions of play and the association between play and animal welfare, which is widely believed to be positive, are examined. The majority of evidence supports the developing motor skills and social cohesion functions of play in dogs, with some support for training for the unexpected. Most types of play appear to improve social cohesion between humans and dogs, increasing their familiarity and reducing agonistic interactions. Play in dogs is unlikely to have arisen only as a by-product of other biological processes, but has been shaped directly and indirectly by artificial selection. Multiple factors determine when and why adult dogs play and these differ for solitary, intraspecific and interspecific play. We suggest that play is not a reliable, generalisable, positive welfare indicator, but, rather, a heterogeneous behaviour which serves different functions. This multifaceted view of play implies that early experience, prior life-history and the context of the interaction define the association between play and welfare.

KW - Animal welfare

KW - Domestic dog

KW - Function

KW - Play

U2 - 10.1016/j.applanim.2017.09.007

DO - 10.1016/j.applanim.2017.09.007

M3 - Article

VL - 197

SP - 1

EP - 8

JO - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

JF - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

SN - 0168-1591

ER -