Dogs Love to Play, but They Don’t Do so for Pleasure

Could it simply be pleasure for its own sake?

A dog performs tricks during a dog dance session at the pet fair in Berlin on November 2, 2012. Photo: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

A Jack Russell terrier tears in and out of its doggie door, skidding and sliding on a hardwood floor, only to repeat the performance over and over again. A Border collie in the park leaps to catch a ball, runs and drops it back at the owner’s feet with a look of anxious anticipation. There’s no food treat in store for these animals, no pats on the head – they seem to do it out of sheer playful exuberance. But what are they really up to? What does it mean for a dog to ‘play’?

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