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Aggression: Any warning or threat behaviors (excluding fleeing/flight) meant to increase distance between the dog and something else.


Aversive: Any thing or event that a dog seeks to escape or avoid (likely because it is painful, uncomfortable, distressing or otherwise scary.) Examples in playgroup include air-horns, yelling, shake cans, thrown objects and uncomfortable collars.

Barrier frustration: Barking, lunging, growling and/or snarling due to the frustration of being on a leash or behind a barrier like a gate, fence or window. The barrier prevents the dog from accessing other dogs for normal social rituals, resulting in emotions of frustration that wouldn’t be present if the barrier was not present. Barrier-frustrated dogs often play well with other dogs off-leash. This behavior occurs frequently in many shelters where dogs have limited access to other dogs.


Bias: Inclination or prejudice for or against someone or something. There are many different types of biases that all humans have, often without realizing it.  For example:  Confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) and cherry-picking is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, leading to statistical errors. Refers to a type of selective thinking where one tends to notice and look for what confirms one's existing beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's existing beliefs.

Break stick: A wooden or hard plastic stick with one end tapered to a thin wedge, made specifically for releasing bite and holds (also known as latch-ons). 

Catch pen: An enclosed space at entrance/exit area gated off separately from the playspace area.  Used interchangeably with “air lock”.

Citronella Spray: Canister containing citronella, thought to be aversive to dogs. Usually available in small cans (brand names include Spray Shield and Spray Control).

Consent Test: Calling away or restraining the pushier player when a handler is unsure if both dogs are enjoying play. Performing a consent test allows the handler to observe the other dog’s response and choice, to see if all dogs are consenting to the play. A dog that consents “yes” to play will move back toward the restrained dog playfully while a dog that does not consent will take the opportunity to flee or hide. 

Handstand: Grasp dog at hips in front of hind legs, then quickly and firmly lift up and back. 


Handstand pull apart: Each handler grasps a dog firmly by the hips in front of the hind legs, and simultaneously pulls back and up to move the dogs apart.   

Helper dog: A “neutral” dog who greets calmly (e.g. sniffing politely, standing to allow the other dog’s investigation) but does not engage in play or a social dog who solicits play with bouncy movements and play bows, but doesn’t vocalize or jump on another dog to initiate play. 

Kennel stress: Stress related to insufficient physical exercise, social and mental stimulation in a kenneled environment.

Latch on:  An extended bite-hold. When a dog’s mouth continues to hold onto the other dog for more than an instant bite-and-release. A latch on does not necessarily mean a less inhibited (harder) bite and some dogs are able to latch on without causing punctures or injury.

Leash reactive: When a dog reacts to another dog, a person, or an object with behaviors including, but not limited to, barking, lunging, and growling.  This can be due to barrier frustration, fear, overt aggression or a combination. A “leash reactive” dog behaves this way particularly on leash either due to the frustration of being unable to access the dog/person/object, or because their flight response to fear (ability to escape) has been restricted by the leash.

Line-wrangling:  Working proactively to move dogs and/or leashes to avoid leashes or long lines from getting tangled with the dog, objects in the playspace or the leashes themselves.

Mental stimulation: Anything that stimulates, activates or enriches the mind or encourages problem-solving.

Meta signals:  Signals given between dogs before, during and after play fighting, biting, wrestling, etc., to tell the other dog that it’s all just in fun, and not real fighting.  Meta signals include: play bows, bouncy/inefficient movements, and a relaxed facial expression with open mouth and often crossed or unfocused eyes known as ‘play face’. 

Mutual consent: During play, if one is unsure that both dogs are enjoying play, performing a consent test will allow you to assess both dogs’ body language, including choice to re-engage in play, making the play consenting by both parties. If both dogs re-engage in play with relaxed body language,including self-handicapping and meta-signals, both are consenting. 

Positive Interrupter: A sound or other signal that a dog has a positive association with, used to entice or call this dog away from another dog, person or object.

Redirected Bite: When a dog, seemingly unintentionally, directs a bite away from the obvious target (like a dog they are fighting with) to a different nearby target (a person). Redirected bites most commonly hit an intervening person’s hand when they attempt to end a fight. Redirection can occur when a dog is in the midst of responding or is about to respond towards a target and an unintended target moves into their space or touches their body. Redirected bites also sometimes happen outside the context of an actual fight, when the dog is barrier-frustrated.

Resource guarding: Behaviors that are intended to encourage another dog or person to back away from something the dog perceives as a high-valued resource, or to otherwise keep possession. May include overt aggression like snarling, or more subtle behaviors like widened eyes, hovering, increasing points of contact on the object, moving the object away, etc. Resources may be toys, food, water bowls, people, other dogs or resting locations.

Reversing roles or Role reversal: During healthy play, dogs often switch “roles”. For example, the dog who was chasing becomes the dog who is chased. In wrestling, the dog who was on top becomes the dog on the bottom. More frequent role reversal tends to keep play going for longer periods of time.

Self-handicapping: Play in which one dog who is bigger, stronger or more coordinated does not take advantage of size or strength. Examples include laying down so a smaller dog can wrestle on top, “pulling punches,” using the mouth very softly, slowing down while being chased, etc.  

Standard operating procedures (SOPs): A set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with regulations.

Tether: An option to secure a dog safely to a stable object via leash.  For playgroup spaces, eye hooks may be installed on walls, carabiners may be clipped to fences, etc. Tethered dogs may become barrier-frustrated and should be actively supervised.

X-Pen: Short for “exercise pen.” Portable panels that can unfold/expand and connect to a stable vertical surface to separate spaces.

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