A study led by Camille Ward, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan and director of About Dogs LLC, has found that young male dogs often let females win when playing.
Females were more likely than males to initiate play with their own sex, but that may be to stave off more vicious behavior later.
“Because adult female-female aggression, when it occurs, can generally be more intense than female-male aggression, we suggest that females may use play with other females as one way to practice threat and appeasement signals that may serve to ritualize aggression and limit overt aggression later on,” said Ward, whose findings are published in this month’s Animal Behavior.
While males were less likely to initiate play with other males, they seemed eager to play with females, and would go to all sorts of lengths to keep the play going.
The male puppies, for example, would sometimes lick the muzzles of their opponents, giving the female a chance to bite them in a vulnerable position. They would also even completely drop to the ground from a moving, standing or sitting position, looking like a boxer down for the count.
They might lose the game in the short run, but they could win at love in the future.
“We know that in feral dog populations, female mate choice plays a role in male mating success,” said Ward. “Perhaps males use self-handicapping with females in order to learn more about them and to form close relationships with them — relationships that might later help males to secure future mating opportunities.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this on an episode of MTV’s High School Stories.