Thursday, February 11, 2010


Just a few too many people have looked askance at me while I am playing tug-of-war with Jason. I understand a couple of the strange looks. When I was a little puppy things got a little carried away and I lost a tooth (okay, three teeth). That was an accident and doesn't count.

While I'm not exactly sure how this has happened, tug has gotten a bad rap with some dog trainers. Some feel that tug is interpreted by the dog as a play for dominance. One would never want to be engaged in such a game with a dog, the logic goes.

In  my puppy opinion, this notion is based on outdated and disproved models of dog behavior. Check out my blog posts here, here, or here if you want to read more.

Back to not playing tug. This is all just plain ridiculous.

I love tug.

  • Tug is a fun, safe way for me to engage in some of my natural predatory instincts. 

To deny me this would force me to redirect all this energy into other outlets. These outlets might not be safe. You might not like these outlets. When I play tug, I get to hunt, dissect, shake, and all sorts of other great things. Jason prefers when I do this with tug toys rather than pillows, rolls of paper towels, or Kleenex boxes. I've not gotten the hang of it yet (I just ate a roll of paper towels this morning). I'm working on it, okay?

  • Tug teaches impulse control

Check out the video of me playing. Around :20 something interesting happens. Jason says "leave it" and I let go. This is such a useful skill. I share my home with two cats and an African Gray parrot. If Jason says "leave it" I will walk away from the other animals, even if I'm in the middle of pulling the kitty around the house by his ear. When I walk down the street Jason will say "leave it" if I find a discarded bagel. I will begrudgingly leave it. If there is a small child with an ice cream cone Jason will say leave it, I will even more begrudgingly leave it.

Despite my complaining, I'm learning that "leave it" is actually part of the game. While I might not get the bagel or ice cream, sometimes I get to play tug, sometimes I get a small food reward, and every time I get lots of love from Jason.

  • Tug is a reinforcer

Sometimes after I let go, Jason says take it. I get to play again. This is rewarding to me. It makes me listen to Jason more closely because I know that when I do what he asks, good things happen. Tug then become reinforcer a for all sorts of commands: leave it, take it, sit, down, stay, focus, roll over, play dead, etc.

  • Tug is a shared activity

Jason tugs, pulls, and wiggles my tug toys, they come alive. My bond with Jason becomes just that much deeper. At his hands, and in the hands of all who play with me, humans become the agents who help me satisfy my urges and emotions.

Why on Earth wouldn't you want to play tug with me? When you watch the video, see if you can see how many different natural behaviors I demonstrate while playing with my toy.

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