Canine Play Behavior consists of seven parts and eleven chapters and covers such topics as what is play, what does play feel like, solitary and social play, play soliciting signals, the role of stress, age, gender, and breed in play, the benefits of play (why it has evolved), and how humans can play with their dogs. Although I've been studying play behavior for many decades this book made me think more about how far we've come in learning about the details of dog play - what we know and don't know - and I rethought some ideas I've been pondering for decades and learned of studies of which I was unaware.
While we know quite a lot about play in dogs and these areas are nicely covered, there are areas that surprisingly still lack rigorous study. This book offers detailed descriptions and explanations of different aspects of dog play that are goldmines for further and more quantitative studies. For example, we don't really know much about how dogs who know one another ask one another to play and what they do when they play and if and how this differs compared to dogs who don't know one another. The author writes about how familiarity might influence play and offers that there are differences such that dogs who know one another engage in self-handicapping (e.g. they don't bite or slam into one another as hard as they could) and role-reversing (e.g. more dominant dogs don't assert dominance and put themselves in compromising positions by rolling over on their back or running away to initiate chase) more than dogs who don't know one another. Future research will tell whether she is right or wrong and inform us of possible subtleties that could generate even additional studies. There really is so much to learn.