Ideally, it would be common knowledge that one of the most important clues for evaluating play between dogs is the presence of regular pauses. The pauses allow dogs to regroup, maintain emotional control and then start playing again with play signals that remind other individuals of the playful intentions behind the play behavior.
Play can quickly change from fun, fun, fun to an out-of-control scary and potentially injurious whirlwind of paws, teeth, and yelps. Play with lots of pauses is far less likely to turn into such a troublesome situation than play without such pauses.
Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.