Tug of war is a very common game that many dog parents and trainers use to either just play or train their dog.
Tug of war game is basically a game where you get a rope or a toy, you give it to your dog to grab and then you start pulling. A lot of dogs love this game.
So is it a good idea to play this game?
Yes, BUT you need to be careful with 3 things:
- Your dog needs to knows how to release on cue when you ask.
- Never let your dog get aggressive while playing.
- You need to know how to finish the game, not your dog.
Tug of war should be a game. Every game has rules. There’s no such a thing where a game doesn’t have rules. That doesn’t exist. If there’s no rules, there’s no game and if there’s no game there’s no fun.
Try to go to a soccer field, throw a ball and explain no rules. Then add unruly kids with no boundaries. See what happens. GOOD LUCK! Obviously that’s no going to end up well.
So if you want to play tug of war make sure you master those 3 things.
What problems can tug of war cause?
Tug of war can become problematic If you can’t master those 3 things. If you can’y control the game I would not advice to play tug of war. Why? Because tug of war is a game that nurtures and encourages prey drive behavior. This is not a bad thing on itself, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it can lead to all kinds of direct and indirect problems.
A Direct problem is your dog getting aggressive while playing and developing resource guarding aggression.
An indirect problem is that your dog learns to get his or her way. This not only can damage your relationship, but can show up in other behaviors or situations. Your dog starts learning that when he/she gets aggressive you listen to him/her. Aggression slowly gets reinforced because it works. And precisely because It works, your dog will try it in different situations.
NEVER reinforce aggression or leave it unchecked. “This is when I hear stories like: “Out of the blue my dog did this or that . _- I was shocked!” It wasn’t out of the blue. It’s was slowly brewing because you did not pay attention to important details.
Having said that, is not that hard to put some structure and rules while playing tug of war. If you do so this game not only can be a lot of fun, but it can be a great activity to your dog out.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved January 2023
“Heeling” is different than Leash communication skills
It’s a very common mistake to think that if you teach your dog to “heel” your dog won’t have leash-reactivity or leash-aggression. This is not true.
For over 10 years I’ve trained hundreds of dogs with leash reactivity or leash aggression. Many of them had perfect “heeling” skills. How’s that possible? True “heeling” skills are off-leash skills and even if you use a leash for safety the whole purpose of “heeling” is to teach your dog to be next to you at all times without using the leash. So where’s the problem then? The problem is exactly that, that you never learn how to communicate effectively with the leash in a gentle manner.
On top of this, If you live in a big city asking your dog to “heel” all the time not only is unrealistic, but is not healthy. Dogs should be able to walk calmly on leash with no tension experiencing their environment and without having to be on heeling position.
Leash reactivity/aggression is always created by humans:
It takes one or two mistake on your part when you use the leash the wrong way for your dog to start developing leash reactivity.
Here’s an example of what usually happens: You are training your dog heeling position in a calm environment with very little distractions and all of a sudden something out of the ordinary shows up. It could be a truck, a wild animal, a loud noise. Your dog starts loosing it and now you start puling on the leash to keep your dog safe. If you don’t have good leash communication skills chances are you’re going to make one of this 3 mistakes mistakes.
At this point things can turn south pretty fast, even if your dog keeps improving on “heeling”.
3 mistakes that will create leash reactivity or leash aggression:
- Maintaining tension on the leash. If you keep restraining your dog without knowing how to release tension on the leash, your dog is going to get more umped up and more reactive. You need to teach your dog not to lean into pressure. Most importantly you need to train yourself how to do this. Rule #1 on leash skills is to communicate with tension-release. You always reward the release and reward for pulling.
- Pulling backwards. The most common reaction when a dog is pulling is to pull directly backwards. When you do this what you’re going to get is opposite resistance. Which means that your dog will pull harder and will probably get to stand in two legs. At this point you’ve lost your dog. This is a red flag that your doing it wrong. If you need to pull, always pull to the side, never pull backwards.
- Using corrections and yanking your dog as a punishment for bad behavior after the fact. If your dog is already pulling and going crazy, this is only going to make things worse. True behavior modification is never achieved by correcting behavior after the fact with punishment. Suppressing behavior or emotional responses from your dog is going to lead to other problems. It’s also not the best way to build a solid relationship. Behavior modification is not about correcting behavior, is about not letting behavior to happen in first place.
When using the leash make sure you avoid the above mentioned mistakes.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved December 2022
What does a wagging tail mean? Difference between excited dog and happy dog.
This is one of the most simple concepts which for some reason dog parents struggle more often than not.
What does a wagging tail mean?
A wagging tail means simply excitement. And excitement means excitement.
Let me put it in a different way so you can understand where I´m coming from. Excitement doesn’t mean happiness.
Your dog can be excited insecure, excited nervous, excited dominant, excited anxious, excited aggressive, excited overwhelmed, excited fixated, excited obsessed and of course excited happy. But your dog can also be happy and calm or happy and in control or happy and out of control. This last one usually doesn´t last very long. When your dog gets out of control the happiness usually vanishes soon because he/she will get in trouble.
So again, excitement is excitement and happiness is happiness.
Let’s start with a big missconception in regards of reading your dog´s body language. Wagging tail means excitement not happiness. Your dog can be wagging his or her tail and start an attack or a fight. Your dog can be wagging his or her tail and be fixated or obsessed with something, resulting in self injury, excessive barking or simply pure insanity. And of course your dog can be wagging his or her tail and be happy too. So just know and acknowledge that wagging tail means simply excitement.
Don’t assume that because you see a wagging tail means a dog is friendly or happy.
Besides from preventing fights or aggression, which are a lot of times started because we (humans) didn’t take care of the excitement before the fight, there are other issues and unwanted behaviors that are caused because of uncontrolled excitement. Such as jumping, excessive barking, nipping, pulling on the leash, leash aggression, destructive behavior, nagging, rough playing I could go on.
I see a lot of dog parents or even trainers using food to control their dog´s excitement. For example when jumping on guests or walking their dogs on a leash Here is the thing, food gets your dog excited. Redirecting excitement with food is not getting to the route of the problem. I also see dog parents correcting or punishing their dogs for jumping or pulling on the leash. Excitement is not something to be punished for either.
The only way to control excitement is with calmness. I won´t get into a lot of details here because I’ve covered this in other blogs. Check out: The Secret or Respect and Trust. But I´ll give you a big tip of how this can help you in a more practical way:
Before you start communicating or doing an activity with your pup think of what are you trying to accomplish. Is it an activity that involves your dog to get excited or to get calm. For instance if you are going for a walk on leash you want your pup to be calm not excited. Or if you trying to put your dog in a crate and close it your dog should be calm not excited. Usually I wouldn’t use food in neither of those situations. But if I want my dog to come to me when called I want he or she to get excited and come fast. In this case I would use food, a toy or or praise with excitement and play. So in this case to get your dog excited make sense.
Whatever activity you are doing where you expect your dog to listen to you, you want your dog to become your energy not you becoming your dog´s energy. If you have no control or awareness of your body language and energy your pup won´t listen to you. They simply can’t. The same way you wouldn’t listen or follow the lead of a drunk person. It´s not personal.
This has to do with bonding and communicating not with training and conditioning. The fact that your dog will do things for you because you have a treat in your hand doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is listening to you. Conditioning, training and imprinting behaviors it´s not the same as bonding and communicating. The first one is a method created by humans the second one is created by nature. In the first one you acquire a technique in the second one you acquire awareness.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, December 2017