Dog Body Language: Play Bow

Playing Shiba mixed breed dog, at Japanese inn, Yagen, Aomori.
moaan/Moment/Getty Images

A play bow is a form of dog body language. It’s a way in which dogs communicate with people and other animals.

What It Is

A play bow is when a dog brings his front legs out in front of him and his chest low to the ground as if he’s about to lie down, but his rear end remains up.

What It Means

A play bow, as the name suggests, is a dog’s way of inviting you to play. It’s their way of letting you know that what they’re doing is all fun and games.

The play bow is also an important part of the social interaction between dogs. When a dog meets another dog for the first time, he may use a play bow to let the other dog know his intentions are friendly. After this, dog-friendly dogs are likely to engage in play.

Sometimes dog play can get a little rough, with lots of noise and body checks. If you’re unsure whether dogs are playful or about to start a fight, look for play bows. If you see both dogs with their chests to the ground and rear ends in the air, chances are they’re playing.