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true or false? or half true?

I fell asleep listening to one of the Bad Dog podcasts I loaded onto my phone. The first one in a two-parter about tugging. And its kind of all mixed now with that twilight of almostdreaming, oh well, but I think I remember correctly two things that struck me...
1) that if you don't develop the tug/prey instinct while still a pup your dog won't have one or not a great one as an adult... we tugged with Stella as a puppy yeah, but we go long periods without much tugging. so--use it or lose it? its just not part of our routine, she loves balls, all kinds of balls, so we do a lot of balls or sillyrubberchickens. in the park, choosing between tugging and chasing she wants to chase. she likes tugging and growling a lot too, and she will tug at the edge of the ring before a run in class, but never at a trial. never. so does that mean I will never be able to get her to tug at a trial? I blew it?
and 2) the more you try to get a dog to tug that doesn't feel like it the more you are putting the dog off tugging... which makes sense to me, but is counter to what some teachers have told me--that you have to make the dog play with your choice of toy, not playing is not the dogs choice. Opinions?


( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2013 04:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, so many opinions here. *sigh*

I think that agility and flyball have romanticized tugging as the end-all and be-all of play, and I think that's a shame. Tugging is great. But dogs are individuals, not machines (and so are their handlers).

1) no. I think that a tug drive can be encouraged and develop over time. I think that sometimes it's more about the human's skill than the dog's drive.

2) yes, especially if "trying to get a dog to tug" involves waving a toy in the dog's face and harassing them. I think your trainers were misguided. I much prefer taking the attitude of "here I am, available for you to play with, and we are partners in this, so we need to find ways of playing that work for both of us."
Nov. 9th, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
1) not clear what you mean by it's... you mean the human's skill at tugging? or the human's skill at agility in general encourages greatness in the dog?

2) no no i know how annoying toy-in-the-face would be, but i was encouraged to bang the toy on the ground or drag it along oh so slowly to get her on it... which in shut down or distracted mode makes me think she's thinking, why are we doing this? i really don't want to do this right now... ok, for you I'll put my mouth on it, but I'm just not into it, nah, can't, I'm having kind of an outofbody experience at the moment, can't you see? I'm worried about whats going to happen next here, everything around me is... omg that border collie is screaming over there in the poles... this is just stupid, can't you see this is the last thing on earth I feel like doing? I thought you were my friend...
(no subject) - meecie - Nov. 9th, 2013 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 9th, 2013 04:56 pm (UTC)
I have a LOT of opinions about anything that's black and white. No grey, no blue, no green makes me see red.
If there WAS a magic bullet to agility (and health care, and cancer cures, and traffic) wouldn't everyone just DO THAT ONE THING and be perfect? ha! I've seen a lot of crazy tugging dogs who aren't getting around a course nicely. And I've seen many dogs who run like the wind and kick ass in agility but rarely tug. I think I can say Fred is one of those! Fred is a BIG fan of agility, but he rarely tugs. I don't know if this is because he doesn't really want to, or because Tammy doesn't want to tug with him. Yeah, I'm thinking it's the second one. Fred goes a bit over the top with toys and such.

So, back to your real question. I don't think all dogs are tuggers. Sure, it's in their nature to "rip apart prey" but not all dogs are in that camp where that's their favorite part. In the seminar I attended with Deb Fenzi (sp?) She specifically went over the stages of prey/play drive and talked about the natural tendencies of certain breeds and of course individual dogs. Not ALL dog are going to enjoy the tugging part the most. Not all dogs want to rip up their toys (but mine sure do, sigh) and not all dogs are intent on the chasing part. It's up to us to find out what turns our dogs on and creatively incorporate that into our training.

And what that says the most is... there's not ONE magic bullet. And good tug drive is NOT going to make your dog a champion. Not at all. It's an easy way for humans to charge up their pooch. That's it. IT's easy, and it's right there and it can be done in close tight spaces and is semi-good for warm ups, etc. So, because we humans find it "handy" we go about telling everyone they need to have this. Pffft.
I think you need to have play. That's my brilliant deduction. If your play is kicking a soccer ball in circles after a run on some flat grassy area, than MORE power to you. I know agility dogs who ONLY want to chomp on a rubber ball after a run. that's it. Razor loves to tug, but he really wants cheese after his run, REALLY wants it. (as in leave the ring to get it, ooops).

I think the luckiest agility handlers are those who discovered their dog's loves early on, and worked WITH those natural drives right away. Thrashing around looking for what a dog really digs is hard, and I think probably leads to some wishy/washy-ness by the dog, as they're not sure what you're trying to find and you're not either. But it doesn't mean hope is lost. No way.

Go for the grey! or blue or green. Whatever
Nov. 9th, 2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
what about brown?

interesting perspective on "handy" and "easy" --Stella really wants her little container of special jackpot after a run, which changes according to whether I've made something for her or bought... last thing would be playing... but I've always thought that was my fault. I made her that way. I did what was handy and easy for me... playing as reward is my new project for 2014... but maybe it will never be as rewarding as muffin or bagel or meatloaf
(no subject) - meecie - Nov. 9th, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Nov. 9th, 2013 07:52 pm (UTC)
Isn't the idea of toys to, well, play? And isn't playing about having fun together, and being spontaneous, and being a little bit silly? When it becomes a duty - when the human describes exactly what the dog should do - it isn't 'playing' anymore, it's just another task that the dog is asked to perform.

I can see trying to direct a dog to play with something you sanction - an allowed toy instead of slippers etc - but beyond that, it's up to the dog whether they want to play or not. And if a dog just wants to lie down in peace, then the dog should be allowed to do that, too.
Nov. 9th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
1) disagree. Ricky was a year old when I got him and did not know how to tug, in fact no one played with him at all ever. He lived alone in a yard with little interaction. He is BY FAR the best tugging, most easy dog to get playing or tugging than any dog I have ever met. I do think imprinting, how you first approach interactions and things make a big difference and changing those ideas become more challenging the longer they are reinforced. I think many people who get into agility with their first dog that was a pet, that dog is likely to have pretty well imprinted ideas about what play is and that is likely to be a combination of the dogs natural inclinations and the persons ideas about what is fun. The average pet puppy is taught very early on that it's people do not like when they tug, because the puppy grabs a sock and when they put a hole in it by tugging as you try to take it away you get peeved. Most pet people spend those first couple months with their puppy suppressing its desire to pick up things you don't want them to have. You can change their behavior when you change yours but its not anywhere near as easy as it is if there is no previous associations.

2) yes and no. If play is turned into a task, is it still play? Answer: depends on the dog. Depends on the handler. If the dog is Ricky, you bet your ass you can put any rules or black and white expectations on him. NOTHING will suppress this dogs play drive, even you are a total b!itch to him in how you play he will find it fun. If he doesn't want to tug you can slap him in the face with the toy and bammo he wants to play. He likes to play when he's pissed off. (I think people who like to make rules about play have had many Ricky's when it comes to play) I am like Ricky too, you can often get me playful faster by pissing me off a little. If the dog is one of my Goldens, sure keep trying even though they are not Ricky, but only because *I* know I can make it happen, I can change their mind about it, because I am a natural player. Tammy is also one of these people, who just know how to get pretty much any dog playing. So if either party is exceptionally playful you can get away with most anything. Take one of my Goldens, Hand them to someone who is not a super playful person, their play drive would poof away with rules, pressure, anxiety, distraction, etc. </p>

I think it's like this: play is an exchange, for it to be play at least one of the party's involved needs to be having FUN. If dog is not having fun and you approach play as a task, a requirement to continued success, and you FEEL pressure to make it happen, you are not highly likely to succeed at convincing the dog to play, because you are likely not having any fun at all no matter how hard you try to convince your dog with squeaky voices and jumping around as if this could be fun. If you are a person who finds the challenge of getting a not playful dog to play (folks like myself) you are more likely to get that dog playing because you are having fun trying to solve the puzzle, because that play puzzle is more fun for you then the whatever it is that comes after you get them playing. A dog can feel joy from you as well as pressure. So for most people who are struggling to get a dog playing it's a good idea to throw the rules out, just to take away your ideas of what that play needs to look like so you can get to finding what one or both of you find fun. If one of you is having fun then you can more easily get to both of you having fun. When you are both having rules whether there or not usually don't matter.

In my most recent puppy class I had this little Bichon that would NOT take toys or treats or play in class and the owner was getting so frustrated. I told her "how about you just spend a moment celebrating her, clap your hands, smile and act like she just gave you a million dollars" after a couple times of doing that, what happened was the owner was having so much fun laughing and being silly that she actually starting having fun and what do you know they started playing. So I didn't have her stop trying to play, I had her stop trying to play a specific way, then once fun happens ease back to specifics...

Nov. 9th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
#2 analogy for you: say you meet someone and it's clear they are way more into you then you are them. Some people try so fucking hard to get you to like them that you want to get as far away from them as possible. Because to you, it is clear that they really want this for them, they are not acknowledging your ease up social cues at all and it just gets weird. And the more they try the weirder it gets. But some people do read your cues, they ease up and try a different approach, they ask you what you like, they listen to your cues and respond accordingly. And little by little you get to know and like them more and soon you find yourself as into the friendship as they are.

Be that second person when trying to get a dog to tug who doesn't want it as much as you do...
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Nov. 10th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
I think some dogs can and do learn to be tugging maniacs even if they didn't as puppies but I think it's something we get out of the habit of doing with our dogs as we start doing more complex sequences and more involved with our own handling. Tugging is supposed to be play but it's also a great way to reward a dog and keep them engaged and aroused about "working". I use food about equally with tugging with all my dogs but if I had a dog who really didn't like to tug for some reason (some dogs are too "polite" to tug, especially with a short tug toy), I would use whatever they liked best (usually food) but try to use it in a playful way with a lot of praise and possibly training a hand touch as a secondary reward. And some dogs just need to learn that they will be rewarded even when you aren't holding a reward (the Zen bowl idea).
Nov. 10th, 2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
What is the zen bowl idea?
And I can't comment on your post because I can't prove I'm human from my phone for some reason so I'll ask here: Will you post video of the nose work trial ? Is that possible?
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Nov. 10th, 2013 05:36 am (UTC)

That sounds more like bullying, not playing. Play should be fun, natural, not forced or trained. Yes you can train a dog to tug, but then it is just another trained behavior with rules. Eh, tug. my dogs will do it, but it is not my first choice for play. I'm not very involved with that type of play. I like play that make just as tired my dog.  I like to put in what they give back. In training anyway:)

Nov. 10th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
I do think you can teach a dog to enjoy tugging without "training" it, iow, without rewarding the dog with food and without rules other than teaching a start and stop cue which should be taught to the dog anyway for safety's sake. You have to be patient and you have to be able to imitate the way prey acts. Spriggs wouldn't tug at all when I first got her, she would chase things but not tug even with another dog--it just wasn't in her repertoire. But by using just the right kind of toy and being willing to pay close attention to how I moved it and when I moved it I was able to turn her into a tugging fool. Granted, she was only 5 -6 months old so it was easier than it would be with a 5-6 year old dog. And I do put a lot into my tugging. It makes me breathless and it is truly fun for both the dog and I. I also think it's an excellent way to allow the dog (and trainer) take a training break and release stress. Zodi especially benefits by a tug break when we're doing Obedience. However, I have seen many a BC handler just stand there while their dog tugs on his leash which doesn't fit my definition of play but seems more like displaced arousal behavior.
(no subject) - dinahprincedaly - Nov. 10th, 2013 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 10th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC)
Here is my take on play, for what it is worth. I do not use play to find what motivates my dog, although it helps greatly. I use play to build a relationship, trust, understanding, confidence, and a mutual friendship. If I start putting rules in, "making" my dog play in ways that make him uncomfortable, making him do things he finds forceful, or intimidating, I am going to lose everything I am working to build.

Blaze was not a "player", but she trusted me because I did not force her to do the things she did not want to do, like tug, she hated it. She was a very driven and fun girl though, she enjoyed the game because she got to play it with me.

And YES, silly, squeaky, rubber chickens for the win, ALL of my dogs love those. Stella has good taste.

Nov. 10th, 2013 05:54 pm (UTC)
one of Stella's FAVORITE games is THEIF STOP THEIF... she kind of invented it... stealing sox from the laundry and running with them to her bed... its evolved into us tucking them in our pockets with a tiny bit hanging out and her chasing us around until she can get the sox, pickpocket us and runaway to her bed without us catching her... I should make some sox toys to use in agility... we have so many mateless sox I keep thinking the mates will one day show...
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Nov. 10th, 2013 06:26 pm (UTC)
I have one dog who likes to tug and one who does not. Joey likes almost any kind of play: tugging, chasing, retrieving, wrestling, playing with an edible chew as if it were a toy. At home Matilda loves to retrieve her ball and will tug with you with it when she brings it back. At the end of a run she will often tug on a toy (tug toy or her ball on a rope when I throw it for her or offer it from my hand) But she doesn't want to tug before a run in class or at a trial. Sometimes I can get her tugging in a class situation before a run, but it's not her choice. At a trial as soon as we get any where near the ring she won't even look at a tug toy.
Nov. 10th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
Bronagh really worked on Joey's tug mouth last summer... he was chasing and grabbing but not holding and tugging until she got him going... she's a real skilled tugger and player... I think adults can lose the skill, you need to be really in the moment the way children are naturally and willing to be silly
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