A new study has found that young male dogs playing with female pups will often let the females win, even if the males have a physical advantage.
Researchers suspect that, for dogs, the opportunity to play may be more important to them than winning.
The gentlemanly dog behavior is even accompanied with a bow, authors of the study told Discovery News.
“A play bow is a signal that dogs use when they want to communicate playful intentions to a potential play partner,” said Camille Ward, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan and author of the soon-to-be-released book, Relationship-Based Dog Training.
Ward and her colleagues studied puppy litters from four breeds – a shepherd mix, Labrador retriever, Doberman pincher and malamute, collecting data from the time the pups were between three and 40 weeks old.
The scientists examined how the puppies played with members of their own sex as well as with the opposite sex.
Females were more likely than males to initiate play with their own sex; males, meanwhile, 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.
“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.”
In other words, it seems, they are acting vulnerable in hopes of scoring. Those dogs!